Turn food centres into vibrant communal spaces

The exterior of the Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre.
The exterior of the Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The opening of Pasir Ris Central Hawker Centre bodes well for Singapore's hawker scene ('Hipster' hawker centre opens in Pasir Ris; Jan 26). It is encouraging to see many young hawker-preneurs given the chance to pursue their passion in a challenging industry.

While there have been plenty of improvements made to enhance productivity levels at hawker centres - for example, through automated tray returns and the introduction of cashless payment systems - it may be time to rethink the use and layout of a typical hawker centre.

Most hawker centres are designed with space optimisation in mind, and have undeniably been purposed as purely functional spaces.

However, this often leads to uninspiring linear layouts and the unintended consequences of overcrowding, with snaking queues forming in between cramped seating areas.

Hawker centres continue to be a unique mainstay of Singaporean culture.

However, we should also seek to keep them relevant for the younger generation and to attract a different crowd.

One of the ways is to perhaps look into having more open spaces for art installations and performances, or to even hold art classes or "maker spaces" in the evenings when there are fewer patrons.

Hawker centres can also possibly provide areas for quick meetings and business discussions, where people can bounce ideas around and enjoy local food at the same time.

With dynamic and vibrant communal spaces that are enticing for young hawker-preneurs to work in, who knows how many more Michelin-star hawkers we may unearth in future.

Darrell Low Wen Wei

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2018, with the headline 'Turn food centres into vibrant communal spaces'. Print Edition | Subscribe