Growing up, I would always revel in the colourful lights and decorations put up along Orchard Road during festive seasons, without knowing who was behind the design of these. This year however, I got the chance to interview Bae Kyungsoo, winner of Wisma Atria’s open call contest in collaboration with LASALLE College of the Arts to design the mall’s magical display for Christmas.
On the day of the interview with Kyungsoo, who is a student in Creative Direction for Fashion at LASALLE, I strolled through Wisma Atria, soaking in the festive decorations and getting familiar with Kyungsoo’s design elements. I was eager to delve into her creative process, especially considering her journey from Korea to study in Singapore. Unravelling the inspiration behind her design was fascinating – it was one more intricate than I had anticipated, bridging past memories and present celebrations. Drawing from Singapore’s unique summery-Christmas atmosphere, she aimed to capture the tropical vibe of our sunny little island and garner wide appeal across age groups.
During Kyungsoo’s research, her discovery of Wisma Atria’s iconic, now-defunct basement aquarium became a pivotal inspiration for her design. The non-Gen Zs amongst us may recall the columnal glass tank against which faces would be pressed, eagerly observing the hundreds of fish housed within until the tank’s closure in 2008. Kyungsoo’s finding sparked her vision of reinterpreting the nostalgic aquarium in a contemporary manner – to craft a dazzling, Instagram-worthy design that transitions seamlessly from day to night while encouraging the older generations to share their personal memories with the younger ones.
Colours were a key consideration for the artist. In her personal creative endeavours, Kyungsoo recurrently returns to the colour blue, centring her exploration of emotions tied to the colour. In her vibrant and expressive paintings, blue serves as a sanctuary – an expansive and tranquil space reminiscent of a calm maternal environment. Kyungsoo extends this thematic choice to her Christmas decorations for Wisma Atria, forefronting blue as the predominant colour to evoke a sense of mystery, spaciousness and dreaminess.
During our conversation, it dawned on me that diving into her work is akin to peeling back the layers of an onion, uncovering depth and symbolism waiting to be discovered. The Christmas decoration isn’t just visually appealing; she carefully incorporates symbolic elements historically associated with wealth and prosperity, such as the whale tail, abundance-representing corals and the unique jewel shape of the Christmas tree. Through symbolism and colour, Kyungsoo hoped to transform the Christmas decor beyond just a visual spectacle, fostering an immersive experience that taps into an emotional resonance associated with the festive season.
Interestingly, many visitors have expressed their enjoyment of the designs despite being unaware of their inspiration. When Kyungsoo reveals the source, the surprise of visitors (myself included) often leads to engaging conversations about their own memories of the Wisma aquarium. It’s both fascinating and rewarding for her to witness the shared joy and nostalgia sparked by this festive installation.
She was thrilled with the positive response to Wisma Atria’s Christmas decorations, particularly the unique blue and pink colour scheme. Unlike the traditional red and green, the vibrant colours evoke a tropical and garden atmosphere inspired by corals, which stand out in Singapore’s seasonless climate. The coincidental matching of Kyungsoo’s design with the street decorations along Orchard Road adds a serendipitous touch.
Before wrapping up, Kyungsoo expresses the hope for families of all generations to enjoy the Christmas decorations. A personal touch reveals that the prize from Wisma Atria allowed her to invite family from Korea to Singapore for the Christmas season, making this festive experience particularly meaningful.
Christmas is always a special time for families to get together and celebrate the joys that come with it. This festive season, Kyungsoo’s decorations for Wisma Atria will be up until the 26th of December and I can’t wait to see where her future endeavours will take her!