Moving Out



I’m slowly but surely moving everything here and future posts to my own domain, This is to help me maintain a better portfolio. See you over there!


new NTUCLabour unions have always been the symbol for grassroots activity so it was no surprise that when NTUC re-branded itself last year, it rallied around a new logo and tagline, “NTUC for U”. 

From a visual perspective, the logo is very intriguing because it literally contains more than one “U” depending on how you look at it. And this is a deliberately done to encompass what the union stands for:

  1. The small U that stands for working people of all collars, ages and nationalities in Singapore, and their families. 
  2. The big U that stands for the Labour Movement, made up of our affiliated unions and associations, social enterprises, staff, members and partners. 
  3. The invisible U that stands beside working people and their families at work, live and play, to help them earn a better living and live a better life.

Moreover, as compared to the old logo designed by architect William Lim in 1971, it is much more versatile to accommodate the wide range of services that NTUC provides as seen here:


In fact, the best testimony of this can be seen at NTUC Centre building at Marina Boulevard at night where the logo on the side of the building is lighted up and constantly changes like a chameleon.

The new logo definitely reflects a sign of the times and is very much part of the Singapore ideology as it wants to be “progressive”, “dynamic” and “forward-looking”. Contrast this to what Lim was attempting to symbolise in 1971:

  • NTUC logo 485C Eight cogs of a wheel, representing: 
    • national solidarity and well-being
    • dignity of labour
    • brotherhood of workers
    • industrial peace with justice
    • modernisation of the Labour Movement
    • progress of labour
    • cooperation of labour
    • co-equal in the tripartite partnership of labour, government and management in the social, economic and political advancement of Singapore.
  • A spanner, portraying hopes and aspirations of the working class.
  • Octagon shape, portraying multi-racialism in Singapore.

What use to dominate the old logo was the the “hopes and aspirations of the working class”, but in today’s logo the worker has been relegated to a “small U”. And just like how the “U” in the logo has smoothened out from the old to the new, the values the logo symbolise have also blunted and, in a way, fallen more in line with the government. There is almost a deliberate attempt to sound broad and vague so that it can be everything and nothing all at the same time and the chameleon-traits of the new logo serves this purpose very well.

Symbolism aside, I think this logo was very well-designed to suit the current values of NTUC, it’s core message stands out strong and it is flexible enough to suit a wide-range of purposes, but I can’t seem to say the same about the union that it represents.

I was walking to the MRT station yesterday when another man came up to me to ask for a dollar for his lunch. It’s the fourth time this month that someone has come up to me on the streets to ask for money and it, perhaps, is a sign of these bad times.

It got me thinking again about the remarks that the chairman of the Orchard Road Business Association made in a Straits Times interview on Monday about clearing the streets off beggars, flyer distributors and street buskers because they were unsightly. Today, someone wrote back in Life supporting the chairman’s point-of-view. 

As in my letter to the forum, I feel that these people are missing the point. They seem more concerned with the image of Orchard Road or their own interests than why these people are out on the streets doing what they do. Would any one of us enjoy putting ourselves out there begging people for money? Or enduring the terrible weather and dirty looks giving out flyers? Perhaps, even the street busker prefers to perform to crowds in a nice amphitheater. It’s so easy to talk about “clearing them” but where do they go after that?


The other argument in this issue is why is our public space increasingly encroached by the interests of commercial entities. Personally, I think it’s bad enough that the park next to Orchard MRT has become another shopping mall. I’m sure the Filipinos who used to picnic there feel the same way too. Today, they try to do the same around Lucky Plaza and this is what happens:


Indeed, the shopping mall has every right to exert their claims to the space they own, but who then is fighting for the public’s space? With every inch increasingly taken over by the state (should they be doing more for the public?) and commercial entities, it’s no wonder people feel there is not enough space in Singapore. But, let’s not be too pessimistic about things, here’s something I came across recently:

It would be churlish to suggest that Singaporeans are not happy to comply with such imperatives. That public space is policed, surveyed, homogenised and corporatised is part of the pay-off for living in a safe, clean and reasonably affluent environment: and people subert it in their own way. Any new pavement not respecting the most direct route from A to B will go unused, while a more practical path is worn in the grass within days. The lack of public seating  is compensated for by the inveterate co-option of stairs; and sub-cultural groups, from breakdancers and skateboarders to picnicking Filipino maids, effortlessly seek out and appropriate architectural features that meet their needs. In addition, one only needs scratch the surface to realise that people are unwilling to take Singapore’s social spaces at face value. More arresting even than the corporate feng shui that determines the design of some of its most significant developments (such as Suntec City), the island is teeming with altars, positioned everywhere from the foot of great trees and the space beneath flyovers, to ledges in otherwise pristine shopping malls. During the Hungry Ghost Festival in August, when offerings are left by the roadside, Chinese opera performance and pop concerts (ge tai) are held on temporary stages to entertain the ghosts. It is at times like these that one is reminded most powerfully that, however policed and privatised public space may appear to be in Singapore, it is never entirely dominated or possessed: from inter-personal negotiations and ad-hoc improvisations, to the overlaying of the physical space with other worlds — and other inhabitants — space in Singapore is multiple,contested, and highly charged.

Paul Rae in At Large in a Small Town: Theatrical and Civil Space in the Works of The Necessary Stage (2004)

It sounds exactly like what my FYP, Reclaim Land: The fight for space in Singapore, is all about, and I’ve actually linked the relevant pages to the quote.