A Letter From The Founder
18th March 1988, Blair Plain Conservation Area
I grew up in a shophouse – I think that’s where Figment began.
She was a black-and-white, Peranakan-style shophouse that barely accommodated our traditional, three-generation Chinese household, stuffed to the brim not just with people, but with a variety of hoarded antiques and artworks that my parents had hauled back from their travels around the world. In another life, she had been a home for the concubines of a wealthy Chinese merchant, deep in a red-light district that embraced hostess bars, brothels and other vices.
The shophouses stood in stark contrast to the cookie-cutter condos and serviced apartments, to the standardised colour schemes and franchise restaurants. But soulless skyscrapers swarmed the Singapore skyline and demolished more and more shophouses in their wake. Singapore was suffering from an identity crisis as a sprawling construction site. As a young man, when I returned from my studies abroad in Boston, I couldn’t recognize my home. I felt lost in my own country.
I guess it was just a matter of time before I discovered that an enterprising tenant had converted my childhood shophouse home into an ‘efficient’ dormitory with multiple partitions before subletting the rooms. I terminated the lease, handpicked local creatives to craft interiors that matched the shophouse’s stunning exterior, and presented it to the local community as Figment’s first ever Boutique Home, Canvas House.
I’d always thought shophouses were the perfect spaces for a thriving creative community – the homes themselves had so much character. Just imagine being greeted by their handcrafted facades on your way back home, an assemblage of ornate Islamic eaves, European corinthian pillars, and Chinese stuccoes of mythical animals. To me, the shophouse is the quintessential Singaporean work of art, capable of inspiring and guiding the way we live today and in the future.
At Figment, we’re definitely house-proud, and we want to share what we do with the world. We strive to use our handpicked shophouses as a platform for cultural expression. We champion local creatives as our cultural ‘construction workers’. We uncover the histories of our spaces to build a strong sense of place, making them into homes, not just houses. We do all this with you, our members, in mind.
We were never looking to add another swanky new skyscraper to our skyline. Neither were we trying to maximize profits by packing 150 strangers into a building. All we want is to share with you our vision to reimagine our homes as the heart of our neighbourhoods, with art, design and architecture. The professionals have termed this process ‘creative placemaking’. But what it means is simply a profound sense of belonging to both place and community, for you, for everyone. We believe the time is right for this, and we hope you’ll join us.