From gas lamps to stunning nightscape

An exhibition on how different cities and people use light has a timeline on Singapore's lighting capabilities through the years

When gas-fuelled street lamps were introduced in Singapore in 1864, lamplighters had to climb the lamp posts to fire them up.

These lights were phased out in the 1950s and replaced with electric ones. Today, Singapore's stunning nightscape is considered one of the best in the world.

The way Singapore has changed through its lighting capabilities is documented in a timeline titled Evolution of Singapore's Nightscape - from 1800 to 2050.

Curated to commemorate SG50, it is displayed on a 14m-long panel and is part of a travelling exhibition, Nightscape 2050.

Making its way from Berlin, the show opens today and runs until Nov 21 at the atrium of the National Design Centre. Admission is free. It will then go to Hong Kong next year before ending in Tokyo.


  • WHERE: National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road

    WHEN: Till Nov 21, 9am to 9pm daily

    ADMISSION: Free 

    INFO: Go to for details

Nightscape 2050 was curated by Lighting Planners Associates, an international lighting specialist celebrating its silver anniversary.

Japanese founder Kaoru Mende started the company in 1990 with an office in Tokyo. It has a Singapore office in Neil Road and is behind the lighting concepts of projects such as Gardens by the Bay and the National Gallery Singapore.

Mr Mende, 65, together with a team from the firm, organised the exhibition to show how different cities and people use light.

The award-winning lighting designer, who wants to donate the timeline panel to an institution here after the show, adds: "We chose 2050 because it's a time in the future that isn't too near, yet it's not that far off to imagine. We're not setting targets to achieve, but rather asking what the possibilities of new technology are."

Another highlight of the show is the Lighting Pavilion, a multimedia installation set in a dark room. It has three segments showing different scenes of light in nature, nightscapes around the world influenced by culture and what light fixtures in homes could look like in 2050.

The firm is also launching its latest monograph, LPA 1990-2015 Tide Of Architectural Lighting, documenting 101 hand-picked works since it started.

There are various talk sessions and visitors can watch on-screen interviews with five design maestros including architects Toyo Ito from Japan and William Lim from Singapore, who share their thoughts about the future.

Visitors can order luminous cocktails at the Light Bar every Friday and Saturday from 6 to 8pm.

Keen to know what younger people think of the future of lighting here, Lighting Planners Associates asked students from local universities to share their ideas in a display as part of a workshop called Imaginative Nightscape 2050 Singapore.

Four fine arts students from the Lasalle College of the Arts dreamt up a futuristic Singapore lit up by bioluminescence - plants which can give off their own light will be used in buildings to reduce power consumption.

While the idea is radical, Mr Mende says: "Young people are more important than the old, working ones. They will make the new culture of lighting and as they think more freely, we can learn from them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline 'From gas lamps to stunning nightscape'. Print Edition | Subscribe