Singapore, UNESCO Creative City of Design

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In 2015, Singapore joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) as a City of Design. Since independence, Singapore design has been defined by our spirit of turning constraints into infinite possibilities, against all odds.

Despite many challenges as a nation, from a lack of natural resources to a small economic market, Singapore has written its own playbook in almost every aspect of governance, be it in housing, education, healthcare, water management and transportation, while seeking to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. In these ways, and many more, Singapore is #betterbydesign.

What is the UNESCO Creative Cities Network?

UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development. The UCCN comprises 246 member cities as of 2019, organised into seven creative fields: crafts and folk arts, design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts and music. The 40 Cities of Design includes cities from all over the world, such as Bandung, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Detroit, Dubai, Helsinki, Istanbul, Montreal, Seoul, and Shanghai.

DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) represents Singapore at the UCCN and has built strong relationships with fellow cities committed to uplifting the role of culture, creativity and design innovation to develop sustainable cities of the future.

Why is the designation important and how has it benefited Singapore?

Being a UNESCO Creative City of Design has allowed us to meet many people from around the world, and there are many more opportunities for collaborations between the Singapore design industry and other member cities. This has enabled Singapore to:

  1. Raise our international profile as a thought leader in Design Innovation
  2. Strengthen our partnerships with cities and design-related organisations who share the same beliefs as us
  3. Opened doors for Singapore Designers and the Singapore design industry, giving us international exposure, opportunities to hone our skills, and access to new markets.

For example, our designers got to present their work in other UNESCO Creative Cities of Design such as Detroit, Graz, Puebla, and Seoul, as well as participate in international dialogues in Bandung, Adelaide, Helsinki, Wuhan, Torino, Seoul, and Detroit. We have also learned from fellow cities such as Helsinki on its policies and programmes in design education. Delegates from cities such as Helsinki, Graz, Kortrijk, Geelong, Bandung, and Ambon have also made trips to Singapore, and we shared how we are working towards developing design and building capacity for our design industry.

Activities and updates

Sydney creative Jane Beeke providing a tour of her installation, The Community Thread, one of two projects presented around the National Design Centre during the Singapore Design Week 2019.

From Singapore Design Week 2018 to 2019, Singapore partnered three Australian cities in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network — Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide — to co-create inclusive community design projects that were inspired by music, literature and film. Responding to the theme “In the Neighbourhood”, the collaborations began in 2018 when three Australian creatives — Jennifer Greer Holmes, Jane Beeke and Thuy Nguyen — visited Singapore to present their ideas and meet local creatives. This led to two projects that were presented around the National Design Centre during the Singapore Design Week 2019.

Richard Perez, Director, Director, d.school, Hasso Plattner School of Design, University of Cape Town, representing the city of Cape Town at the UNESCO Creative Cities of Design Public Forum.

In March 2019, Singapore hosted representatives and design experts from 15 Cities of Design at Singapore Design Week, one of Asia's premier design festivals. They participated in its programmes, including the business and design conference Brainstorm Design and the homegrown creative festival Street of Clans, and also met government officials as well as business and design leaders.

The delegates not only learnt first-hand about Singapore’s design initiatives, but also got to showcase their work to the public. During a day-long UNESCO Creative Cities of Design Public Forum, the various cities shared how design played a role over four sessions covering policy, business, education and communications respectively. The well-attended forum sparked many lively discussions. As part of Singapore Design Week, Singapore also presented the urban living stories of all 31 Cities of Design in a special exhibition curated for the International Furniture Fair Singapore in the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

What we do as a City of Design

In December 2019, Singapore submitted its first Membership Monitoring Report as a member of the Network. The report, which is submitted every four years by member cities, documents our efforts over the past four years as a proud City of Design but also our plans in the years ahead. We look forward to our continuing participating in the network: sharing knowledge and learning from others, raising awareness for both design and Singapore Design, as well as building stronger partnerships with this circle of friends from around the world.


Useful Links

UNESCO Creative Cities Network

UNESCO Cities of Design

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