13 SEP 2022

So You Think You Know Little India? 

If you are planning to visit Little India from 16 September to 9 October, don’t be surprised to see a new observatory tower that has been erected along Serangoon Road in an area lined with shophouses.  

Ascend the tower and you’ll see the area in a new light from a macro perspective, witnessing the commerce, buzz and communities that make up this enclave.  

Expect to make discoveries like this and more in the neighbourhood through the Re-Route Festival. A celebration of placemaking curated by Plus Collaboratives, the festival aims to dig beneath the surface and spotlight its unique heritage using design.  

“Little India has a rich history and is an integral part of Singapore’s culture. It is a very interesting place to us, with all the hustle and bustle,” says Mervin Tan, Creative Director of Plus Collaboratives and Director of the festival.  

“We want to use Re-Route as a platform to investigate how space, place and sentiments evolve over time. The central idea is to divert people away from their usual routes to explore it with a new perspective and come away with fresh discoveries.”  

Activations and Interventions

The activations are clustered around three historical areas Serangoon Road, Race Course Road and New World Amusement Park – where Plus Collaboratives has created installations and curated experiences to be enjoyed. 

“Taste interesting snacks along the way, try out unique menus created by local food businesses specially for the festival or simply to soak in the atmosphere,” Tan shares.  

Underpinning Re-Route are five pillars inspired by design principles Tan and his team have been exposed to while getting their architecture education.  

  1. Gather: People are the ones that give a place its unique vibe, which includes sounds and even food. Re-Route will gather these distinctive traits and reintroduce them using design. 
  2. Sounds and Voices: Sometimes, hearing a different voice will give a different perspective, which is why Re-Route Festival explores audio means to interpret and communicate what Little India is.  
  3. Built Form: Architecture, the physicality and tactility of the space around it, is what makes a site special. 
  4. Movement: The routes people take give a place context, but if a different route of the same site is explored, the narratives may be different. 
  5. History: Knowing where you came from is very important to the idea of becoming familiar with a place.  

Discoveries and Takeaways

In considering these pillars, a story core is created around each key location that Re-Route features. 

For instance, one perspective the lookout tower along Serangoon Road offers is how as one of the earliest streets built in Singapore, it was a link between town settlements and Serangoon harbour, resulting in a variety of trades like brick kilns and rattan work being established there. 

To Tan, Re-Route is more than just about exploring Little India – he also hopes it inspires visitors to detour from their usual routes in their own districts and see them through a different pair of lenses.  

“We want people to recognise places past their face value and look at their inherent qualities because only then can we appreciate them and in turn appreciate their real value,” he adds.