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Upcycling Magic

Upcycling Magic: New-Old Treasures

A spare bed for a visiting grandmother, a cherished but underused cabinet, a dining table that a family had outgrown — these were among the furniture that Brickland residents had generously contributed towards Project Circular.

Project Circular, born during last year’s CCK Town HaCCKathon, aimed to give discarded furniture a new lease of life through upcycling.

35 pieces of new and chic furniture were created by 39 second-year Ngee Ann Polytechnic design students. Nine of them were showcased by Scanteak and the Polytechnic in March.

Part of the project’s bigger vision is to educate residents and participants about the Circular Economy, where discarded items can be reused to make new products, thereby reducing waste and inspiring responsible consumption.

Over 1 tonne of furniture was collected for this upcycling project, which is a collaboration between Brickland residents, CCK Town Council, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Scanteak, with the support of the CNA Green Plan.

Too Good to Throw 

Many residents donated furniture that their families had outgrown or were left unused. The residents’ most common refrain: They were too good to throw away.

Resident Eric Choong (in orange) supervising the removal of his mahagony shelf.

Resident Eric Choong donated a mahogany open shelf cabinet custom-made in Indonesia. Said the 53-year-old: “We liked it very much but never got around to using it, so I am happy that it will be put to good use in this project.”

Though he did not recognise his old cabinet, which had been reborn into a desk-cum-shelf named DUO, he felt efforts such as Project Circular were worthy pursuits because the more people recycled their unwanted furniture, the fewer trees would have to be cut down to create new products.

Brickland resident Eric Choong (in colourful striped shirt) with Ngee Polytechnic student Samuel Tan (in white shirt) checking out the exhibition.
(From left) Teo Zu Er, Mao Mei, Cheryl Ling and Leow Den Jo, four of the five creators posing with DUO, a desk-cum-shelf which incorporated parts of resident Eric Choong’s mahogany cabinet.
Resident Leow Geng Hui (standing, on left) looking on as volunteers prepare to transport his dining table.

Another resident Leow Geng Hui, 36, who wanted to get a bigger dining table, parted with the dining table he bought when he first moved into his Brickland home.

Resident Tan Taw Ying donated this 7-year-old bed frame.

Resident Tan Taw Ying donated a 7-year-old bed frame. It was originally intended for her mother to use when she visited. However, due to the closure of borders over the Covid-19 pandemic, her mother, who is residing in Johor Bahru, has not been able to come.

“I was planning to give the bed frame to the garang guni (rag and bone man) but thought it would be good if it can be recycled instead,” added the 38-year-old.

Challenging Project to Cut Their Teeth

When the Ngee Ann Polytechnic students first received the donated furniture, they were thrilled at the exciting possibilities that unfolded before them. They were limited only by their imagination and ability to execute their ideas.

Lim Cai Qian’s first thought was “What an exciting project!”. She added: “I had always wondered how I could contribute to sustainability through design. Being able to participate in this project is like a dream come true. I was able to put sustainable design into practice by upcycling donated furniture.”

Lim Cai Qian showing off her Joie de Vivre, a table which can be pulled apart to be used by two persons.

However, as this project was a first for most of the students who had never dismantled old furniture and rebuilt something from scratch before, there was some apprehension on their part.

Tan Kok Khin doubted and worried over his ability to complete his product because he did not have any prior experience or craftsmanship skills.

The students said they were thankful not only to their lecturers but also to the Scanteak team who gave them very useful and practical advice on how they could improve their products.

Tan Kok Khin was inspired to design this HOOP coffee table which doubles up as a fun “goal or hoop” for paper ball tossing games that family and friends can play at home.

For example, Kok Khin struggled with constructing the support for his HOOP table. His designs were simply not strong enough. After consulting the Scanteak team, he learnt to improve the stability by adding inner structures to make his table stronger and more durable.

Student Tan Kok Khin spent more than 100 hours to bring his HOOP coffee table to life.

The tight 4-weeks’ timeline to create the final products was also challenging for the students. So it was with much pride, joy and relief when they saw that their finished products had turned out exactly as they had imagined.

“The project allowed our students to experience first-hand how they could contribute and be part of a circular economy with their design skills and creativity,” said Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Director of School of Design & Environment Mrs Pang-Eng Peck Hong, who added that the school’s objectives had been met.

For those who missed the exhibition, Project Circular will be featured on CNA as part of its Green Plan campaign. Catch the show on television on the Singapore Green Plan – The Green Economy, on 2 May 2022 at 9pm.