Dakota Daydreams: Environment Design Student Wins Spatial Design Awards

Darien Wu’s days in secondary school as a Normal Academic student from Bedok View Secondary had been one marked with daydreams and doodles. Today, the daydreams and the doodles form the core of a young designer who swept gold for the Best Design Showcase at the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects (SILA) Awards 2016 and the silver at the Spatial Design (SPADE) Awards 2016.

Not only did the final-year Environment Design student’s proposal to reinvent and conserve the ageing estate of Dakota Crescent win the approval of the architectural design community, it was also included in a proposal to the government for solutions to conserve Dakota Crescent.

Darien’s design understands the importance of the emotional connection between a space and its users. Central to his design is the sensitive attention he paid to the community and the stories and lives that intertwine with the gracefully ageing estate.  Darien spent close to two and a half months studying Dakota Crescent, not just as a physical residential space but as a hub of social activity. In speaking with the residents and listening to their stories, he was able to feel nostalgia for a long gone era, one of the earliest flatted housing in Singapore and understand how this connected with the lives of the residents.

“I paid special attention to how the residents of Dakota Crescent grew with their natural habitat. These people were mostly from the kampong prior to their stay in these flats and their friendliness and warming up to one another resonated with the vibrant nature of the space. I very much wanted to preserve that spirit of the space,” he said.

Keeping this in mind, Darien’s design included a common elevated corridor linking the entire neighbourhood. This organic meandering deck provides connecting paths at different levels where people can view the entire area. So important it was to keep the organic feel that Darien often revisited the space to ensure that his proposed designs did not restrict the growth of trees and compromise the shape of the grass boundaries.

Darien’s work in Environment Design has provided him the opportunity to mix playfulness with experimentation. Today, this journey in design that began years with a boy’s dreamy doodling now finds a meaningful milestone in a ‘live’ project that may well impact for better, one of Singapore’s oldest neighbourhoods.