The Future of Us Exhibition : An Insider Guide

Launched on 1 December 2015, The Future of Us exhibition is a multi-sensory and experiential showcase of the ideas and possibilities for our little red dot by the year 2030 and beyond.

I have the privilege of working on this national exhibition as a producer for a number of items within it and hope that this blog post can offer an insight into the invisible intent behind some of the exhibits as well as the challenges we faced to make your visit to the exhibition more flavourful.

I will also share tips so that you get the most out of your experience at the exhibition.

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Vertical panoramic shot of the Symphony of the City dome at The Future of Us exhibition. Share your photos with the hashtags #FutureSG #SGfuture #TheFutureOfUs!

When I first heard the brief for The Future of Us, my eyes widened at how forward thinking the creative direction is. Then my eyes rolled to the back of my head thinking about how challenging it would be to achieve what the client envisioned.

The creative direction, first of all, called for the exhibition to be innovative and panel-less where visitors are not swallowed by a labyrinth of panelled information and things to read, but an experiential journey into the future.

Secondly, this exhibition is to be all-inclusive. From the exhibition’s spatial design that applies barrier-free access principles to include families with prams and visitors on wheelchairs to content elements that included people of all races, ages, languages, and profiles. By profiles, the client meant people with tattoos, single parents, same-sex coupling, underprivileged persons, and citizens with a disability. The Future of Us aims to leave no one unrepresented. This spirit of inclusiveness forms the foundation on which to truly appreciate the exhibition with.

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The Future of Us exhibition is located within the compound of Gardens by the Bay (access via Bayfront MRT Station Exit B). It is open daily from 1 Dec 2015 to 8 Mar 2016, 9am – 9pm. Admission is free but ticket reservation is encouraged. Reserve your ticket at http://www.thefutureofus.sg.

The premise for the exhibition to be innovative, panel-less and all-inclusive guided the exhibition’s design as well as drove many of us who worked on the project to the asylum.

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Kee seow (‘up crazy’) at The Future of Us project site.

Pico Singapore is the chief designer, consultant and builder for The Future of Us exhibition in collaboration with an ensemble of award-winning film, light and sound directors as well as creative agencies.

The Architecture – 4 Domes, 7 Zones

From conceptualisation to design to build to opening, the realisation of The Future of Us exhibition took about a year and involved over 100 governmental agencies, private entities, non-profit establishments, schools and public contributions. The exhibition structure consists of 4 massive domes that anchor an exhibitory experience that spans 7 zones.

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A lattice roof designed by students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) forms a porous skin that wraps around the domes.

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Doesn’t it feel like Star Wars?

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As the sun shines through the lattice, a patterned shadow that shifts with the sun’s position dresses up the domes and ground.

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Visit The Future of Us exhibition in the late afternoon and you just might catch the setting sun peeping through the lattice.

The Experience

As mentioned, the exhibition consists of 7 seamless zones and here’s a quick summary of what they are :

1 – The Future Express… welcome and holding area

2 – Theatre of Generations (Dome 1)… massive projection film

3 – Symphony of the City (Dome 2)… immersive LED show

4 – Home Tomorrow (Dome 3)… interactive exhibits showcase

5 – Blue Skies (Dome 4)… contribution of wishes and hopes

6 – The Lion… playground with all-inclusive equipment

7 – The Marketplace… future products and conversation space

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After admission at the Arrival Plaza area, you will come to The Future Express at the exhibition’s entrance. You’ll spend about half an hour here before entering Dome 1. There are no toilets in this holding area so my advise is to go before coming here if it is urgent. Else, it will be quite a walk to toilet facilities located near the SG50 car park. After entering Dome 1, there are toilet facilities within the exhibition space.

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The photos in this blog post were taken prior to the exhibition’s opening so some of the spaces, such as this welcome area, look different after finishing touches were added.

The Future Express

Connecting the past to the future, The Future Express takes the approach of imagined local newspaper headlines that pay tribute to 3 different time periods – 1965, 2015 and 2030.

Presented as 3 installations that correspond with each time period, the simulated front pages of The Future Express newspaper lets you get a glimpse of lifestyles in the 1960s, feel the Singapore spirit through spontaneous events that happened in 2015, and anticipate the possibilities of 2030.

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The Future Express simulates a printing press with imagined headlining topics that capture our past, encapsulate our present and captivate our future.

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Front page news that come with “moving” headline images that are essentially video clips about where we were, what makes us, us, and where are we heading. Watch the clips at the exhibition for some really uplifting moments.

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After exploring The Future Express area, you will be guided to pass through this corridor to enter the first dome that houses the Theatre of Generations.

Theatre of Generations

Better hold on to your jaw as you enter the Theatre of Generations for the massive 360-degree half dome projection is bound to leave you awestruck.

Theatre of Generations explores the underlying values that power our strive for success through 4 characters in the year 2030 and how their aspirations are linked to their grandparents’ generation from 1965. The dreams and struggles of these characters are first mooted in this 5-minute film and as you move from zone to zone, if you look closely, you’ll notice that what the characters set out to achieve slowly takes shape along the way.

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The 4 main characters in the Theatre of Generations film are (from left to right) – Joseph, a Eurasian social worker; Yi Xin, a wheel-chair bound Chinese designer; Faizal, a Malay cycling enthusiast and entrepreneur; and Ravina, an Indian horticulturist.

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The film begins in the year 2030 with the 4 characters seeking a breakthrough to realize their dreams and goes on a reverse time-lapse to 1965 to draw a parallel with the aspirations and challenges their grandparents faced. And it is through values such as working together regardless of our race, language or religion; openness; having a stake in our communities and home; and the can-do spirit that have Singapore made… and will continue to be our pillars of success into the future.

What are the challenges faced by the different generations of Singapore citizens? Find out at the Theatre of Generations.

While you can’t miss what’s going on in the film with such a huge screen, there is a sweet spot to stand to best enjoy this larger-than-life experience and that is to the sides near the entrance of the theatre.

Symphony of the City

This immersive dome is where you get transported into the possible living environments of the future through a 4-minute show unfolding across a huge 270-degree wraparound LED screen that is 35 metres long! Another visual spectacle in this dome is a model with projection mapping that allows elements from the show to spill over into 3D form.

The Symphony of the City explores exciting ideas and developmental possibilities on a macro level in future Singapore. Some of these ideas are far-fetched and may or may not materialise, some are already at the stage of test-bedding for potential mass adoption (eg. autonomous vehicles), while some are already in the process of being realised (eg. expanded MRT network, enhanced greenery, round-island cycling network, advanced water quality testing robots in the shape of a swan, etc).

The show provides a glimpse of what life could be like as future infrastructural developments open up more choices for us to set our desired pace of life.

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Look out for these intro boards at the beginning of various exhibition zones for a synopsis of what you’re about to experience.

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As you walk through the different zones, you’ll notice a thread of text that weaves through the exhibition. This is the Thread of Us and it is made up of hopes and wishes contributed by Singapore citizens from all walks of life in 4 languages. In the Symphony of the City dome, the thread takes the form of a techno wave that undulates across the LED screens.

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The show follows Ravina, Yi Xin, Faizal and Joseph as they went about their daily lives in the year 2030.

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The storytelling takes a 3D form when designs of future public housing are mapped onto objects on the projection model. Producing the Symphony of the City show has been very challenging because of the huge screen size and the need to coordinate the show and projection sequences.

Contents are very rich at the Symphony of the City and it can be a lot to digest. The best place to take it all in is to stand just behind the row of cushion seats. Standing provides a better experience as you can see more of what’s going on at the projection model as compared to sitting down.

Home Tomorrow

While Symphony of the City looks at the possible macro developments in Singapore, Home Tomorrow offers you a peep into the micro level technological innovations and evolution in ideologies that could impact the way we live, learn, work, care and defend in the future.

There are a number of interactive exhibits in this zone which you can explore to find out more about the future of learning and different pathways to success, how smart homes can potentially enable us to better care for our love ones, possible concepts in creating a more sustainable living environment, urban farming, multi-tiered living, and many more.

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Does this look like a computer generated graphic? Well, it’s not. It is actually a photo!

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The graphic wall encircling the Home Tomorrow dome often gets neglected but take a closer look and discover the little nuggets of future living.

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Peep into possible future lifestyles through the windows of the tower blocks.

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Get your eyes and hands busy at Home Tomorrow with a bevy of interactive multimedia exhibits.

Blue Skies

This is the 4th domed experience and you can share your hopes, dreams and wishes for Singapore digitally here. Whatever your aspirations are, you are not alone in your dreams.

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The sky’s the limit for our aspirations for Singapore.

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You can select a category and write or draw your message.

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Your completed message is cast onto the circular screen above. There are viewers at the side of the dome where you can see what other contributors have written.

The Lion

Dreams will remain as dreams without action. At The Lion playground, you can go on a swing or move fitness equipments in the zone to generate kinetic energy that powers the roar of the lion.

The Lion playground is a metaphor that the success of Singapore depends on every citizen playing a part and taking lead to collectively power our achievements in all aspects for the future.

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If you notice, the design of The Lion sculpture is done by the 2030 character Yi Xin, who is a wheelchair bound designer. From having a dream about creating an inclusive playground in Theatre of Generations to working on her dream in Symphony of the City to the realisation of her design in The Lion, subtle plotlines are planted throughout the exhibition as part of an overarching storyline. Try identifying the underlying stories for the other 3 characters – Faizal, Joseph and Ravina.

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Look out for a surprise at The Lion zone. Hint : It floats.

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Swingapore galore!

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A unique feature of The Lion playground is the inclusion of swing seats that allow people with disabilities to enjoy a fun ride.

After having some fun swinging at The Lion, head on over to The Marketplace for a glimpse of future products that could appear on our shelves. Conversations with various agencies about future ideas, demonstrations and talks are also held there.

Stay for the Night

At sundown, The Future of Us reveals a different side as the lattice and domes get painted with a splash of colourful lights.

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White and steely during the day…

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… all ready to party at night.

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Light confetti on the lattice.

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The future has landed.

The Future of Us is not a governmental masterplan exhibition but a consolidation of visions that the various ministries as well as everyday Singaporeans have for the days ahead. The future is not only about our built environment, the hardware, but more importantly, the software, the human element behind every improvement and transformation.

I have read several Facebook feedback that some of the ideas presented in the exhibition are impossible and that compassion is lacking in our future aspirations. Yes, some of the ideas are far-fetched, just as putting man on the moon or in the sky was seemingly impossible before 1969. As for the missing human quotient, they are there but not very apparent. During the production of contents in the various domes, our client constantly reminded us to not neglect the ‘soul’ that drives our progress. It is something that the client cannot force, but hope for, that graciousness and empathy can be as much a part of our social fabric as it is in the acquisition of prosperity.

If you look closely at the Theatre of Generations and Symphony of the City shows, you will see an abled citizen helping a blind person, someone giving up a seat to another who needs it more, urban farming for community benefit, social work that can reach more needy persons, and other socially empathetic aspects that will hopefully be the heart that our future is built around.

It is great that the Facebook feedbacks mentioned that because it showed that that’s what people care about and want. And if we all want a more caring society, we can get there :o)

Behind-the-Scene

During our production of the exhibition, the epic exhibitory techniques that presented unprecedented challenges aside, the dilemma was always how not to over promise while delivering real possibilities for the future. Although this is not a government masterplan / blueprint kind of exhibition but a presentation of collective dreams, we were cautious not to produce a fantasy.

So after tossing around several ideas to find the right pitch of future-ness for the exhibition, the creative consensus agreed on a style between the fantastical Tomorrowland and the local realism of 2025, a Mediacorp Channel 5 TV drama series that everybody didn’t watch.

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Green screen video shoots were our blank pages to create future scenes for almost 70% of show contents in The Future of Us exhibition.

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From green screens to green-scapes, the future of Singapore is going to be very green. We endured the outdoor burn but alas, this scene of us using various personal mobility devices at Marina Bay East was cut from the Symphony of the City show and there goes my dream to be Singapore’s next uncle idol.

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My skulls and bones polo-tee probably wasn’t very auspicious to be worn on site while the exhibition was still undergoing construction but I was eager to see the progress of Home Tomorrow because it was the dome that gave the team the most headaches.

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We survived the hard work of yesterday to bring you The Future of Us! We are only the tip of the iceberg that made the exhibition happen. I hope you would, or had, enjoyed the exhibition and may we continue to build our magnificent city into an endearing home that is affordable, gracious, caring and inclusive for all!

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