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Published: February 9th 2020
no more geek paradise
I like the small, out of the way, quirky museums. Sure, when in Chicago I drop by the Chicago Institute of Art which is wonderful, but Tokyo’s Museum of Tobacco and Salt, now that’s an experience.
I had read about the Funan Digital Life mall being torn down and replaced with a “lifestyle” mall, and I wanted to see it. On my way there, I realized that the Civil Defense Heritage Gallery was right across the street. I figured that merited a look, but first the mall.
The Funan Digital Life mall was a landmark in Singapore for several decades. It was six floors of electronic stores, selling all manner of computers, cameras, cellphones, appliances and consumer electronics. It was geek paradise. I had my doubts about it being torn down and rebuilt as a “lifestyle” mall.
I’ve never quite understood the term “lifestyle mall.” Does it mean that I can go to the mall and say “My life is a little boring right now; I’d like to try being a pirate”? Or, “Organic farmers are hip right now, can you sell me that life?” But I digress. The mall is now called Funan Lyf,
a cutesy name that I think is supposed to imply that it is hip, modern, and cool.
Funan Lyf is definitely different. No longer geek paradise, it now includes co-living spaces, and an indoor cycling track that weaves through the mall. (Indoor cycling is only allowed between 7 am and 10 am, before the mall opens.) The roof is an outdoor gathering space, with grass, flowering plants, lounge chairs and a barbecue. It is telling that there are almost as many fashion stores here as there are electronics stores, and there are more places to eat in the mall than both types of stores combined. I looked around for a bit, went up to the roof, had a coffee, and left. The Civil Defense Heritage Gallery
The Civil Defense Heritage Gallery is in Singapore’s oldest surviving fire station, and is distinguished by alternating bands of red and white brick. Some call this style of architecture “blood and bandages,” some call it “life and death,” (the white representing death, while the red stands for life) but whatever you call it, it is certainly eye-catching.
The fire station is still active, with the original building housing
the Heritage Gallery and a newer building behind it serving as one of the current fire stations. The museum features old fire trucks, and photos of the early days of the brigade. The Fire Service was folded into the Civil Defense Forces in 1989, and the second floor has some exhibits about the work the Civil Defense Force does other than fighting fires.
One of the things I learned was that Singapore has an active K-9 search and rescue team. In addition to being used in Singapore, the dog teams have occasionally been deployed to other countries, like Thailand and Japan. I met one of the dog trainers, and he was justifiably proud of his students. The Red Dot Design Museum
The Red Dot Design Museum is one of my absolutely favorite places in Singapore; I always see something I hadn’t seen before, and the exhibits change often.
Some of the more practical designs this time around included a backpack with an incorporated rain hood, and a lamp that looks like an ordinary leather bound book until you open it, at which points it turns into a pleated table lamp. Very, very cool.
There is also a cheeky sense of humor behind some of these designs. One design for an articulated robot end effector came with an explanatory video. In demonstrating its flexibility and ability to manipulate small items, it showed the robot arm completing an online form. Everything went fine until it came to the end where the CAPTCHA asks you to check a box to prove you are human. The robot pauses, looks dejected, (well, as dejected as an end effector can look) and then confidently picks up the stylus and checks the box, certain that no one will be able to tell the difference. The Story of the Red Dot
On many world maps Singapore is depicted by a red dot at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula. The term "little red dot" gained currency after the former Indonesian President B. J. Habibie was regarded as having criticized Singapore in an article published in the Asian Wall Street Journal in August 1998. It was reported that Habibie had remarked that he did not have the feeling that Singapore was a friend, and had pointed to a map, saying: "It's O.K. with me, but there are 211
million people . All the green is Indonesia. And that red dot is Singapore."
Since then, Singaporeans have adopted the term “Little Red Dot” as a point of pride, highlighting the achievements of Singapore despite its small size. Possibly Useful Information:
· The closest MRT stations to both Funan Lyfe and the Civil Defense Heritage Gallery are City Hall on the North-South line, as well as the East-West line. Alternately, you can take the North-East line to Clarke Quay and walk over the Coleman Bridge.
· Admission to The Civil Defense Heritage Gallery is free, but it is closed on Mondays.
· The closest MRT station to the Red Dot Design Museum is Bayfront on the Circle line as well as the Downtown line. One of the exits from this station will also lead you directly to the Shoppes at Marina Bay.
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