Alfresco, solar-powered dining on the rooftop

How Do You Lunch is a series of alfresco experiences held on the rooftop of the National Design Centre, which is powered by solar panels. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM
How Do You Lunch is a series of alfresco experiences held on the rooftop of the National Design Centre, which is powered by solar panels. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

A rooftop event aims to encourage office workers to learn about sustainable city living

Ms Stella Gwee has a lofty ambition - to redesign the lunch experience in the city.

"When you ask people to have lunch outdoors, they'd probably go, 'siao ah, so hot'," says the 37-year-old. "Siao" is Hokkien for crazy.

Still, she is hoping to lure office workers away from the air-conditioned comfort of shopping centres in the city with How Do You Lunch, a series of alfresco experiences held on the rooftop of the National Design Centre in Middle Road.

Serving food from neighbouring eateries such as Artistry Cafe in Jalan Pinang and Ujong at Raffles Hotel, some sessions will also be educational, teaching diners how to make tea with fresh herbs, for example.

The programme is part of Transitional___02 (read: transitional space two), which takes place till Sunday and aims to encourage sustainable city living.

Ms Gwee, director of urban consultancy Shophouse & Co, and her colleague, Mr Adib Jalal, are curators for the event.

To fight the heat, the centre's roof has been fitted with 30 solar panels - simultaneously providing shelter and power. The organisers believe this is the first solar-powered event of its kind here.

A green wall by urban farming champions, Edible Gardens, with herbs such as rosemary and basil, further cools the space.

And if all else fails, there are fans. Solar-powered, of course.

Even the furniture is "green" - seats are made of re-purposed rubber tyres retrieved from a motor company. The tyres have also been used to fashion a rustic version of hopscotch for kids.

Indeed, the organisers are not just paying lip service to the sustainable theme. With the solar panels, they hope to achieve a net zero energy public space - one in which the energy it consumes is equal to the energy it creates.

Someone who is familiar with this concept is Mr Jason Pomeroy, whose architecture consultancy, Pomeroy Studio, is a co-collaborator of the event.

"With increasing urbanisation, there is a reduction of spaces that we can socially interact in and green open spaces to inhabit," says the 40-year-old.

Transitional___02 is a way to test the theories in his recent book, Skycourts & Skygardens, in which he proposes that rooftop green spaces become an alternative social space in modern cities. A related exhibition is concurrently being held in the centre. For Shophouse & Co, the event is a way to bring creative communities together to inject life to existing spaces in Singapore.

The inaugural edition of the event was held in an empty warehouse in King George's Avenue in June, attracting a crowd of about 600 every weekend.

For this second edition, besides the weekday lunch series, there will be other programmes such as a pop-up bar every Friday and Saturday night by Reyka Vodka, a liquor made from geothermal heat.

Music lovers can check out Playing For Change Day on Saturday, which will feature acoustic performances organised together with social enterprise OOOM.

The event is part of a global initiative to bring music into the lives of young people. There are also green art installations peppered through the space. For example, designers LightCollab have fashioned a charming installation made from stringed plastic bags used to pack curries.

For the duo at Shophouse & Co, Transitional___02 is no ordinary pop-up, but a bigger effort to show the potential of spaces in the city.

Says Mr Adib, 31: "It's not just a pop-up and a 'pop-down' and then never pop-up again. We're all coming together to tell a bigger story."

nabilahs@sph.com.sg