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Singapore from an insider: Joel Sampson of HASSELL

As an Aussie expat living in Singapore, we get a designer’s insights into what the tiny, humid island has on offer ahead of the 2018 INDE.Awards.

Singapore from an insider: Joel Sampson of HASSELL

Aleesha Callahan


May 25th, 2018

Joel Sampson is a Senior Associate at HASSELL’s Singapore office, here he shares his experience of being a Melburnian who found himself settling in one of Asia’s hotspots.

IndesignLive: What brought you to Singapore?

Joel Sampson: Around three years ago I was quietly minding my own business, working at HASSELL between the Sydney and Melbourne studios on a large property group in Barangaroo, when my mentor, Matthew Blain, casually asked if I wanted to work in Singapore for six weeks on an international IT company campus. Six weeks sounded ideal to me – enough time to work on something fun, but long enough to enjoy some local Singapore culture and get some work on my tan.

Now it’s three years later and I’m still here! I was lucky enough to work in both the Melbourne and Sydney HASSELL studios for over seven years before moving to Singapore, so I ‘ve been able to bring key project experience from Australia into the market here. Currently, I’m the design lead on Arup’s new workplace in Fraser’s tower, as well as a Japanese cosmetic company.

What’s something unexpected about living in Singapore?

Every traveller knows about Singapore and its airport at Changi – the size and convenience of it. What I didn’t realise about Singapore is what that actually means in terms of travel around South East Asia. Having been based in Australia for the past 10 years, I was resigned to the fact that it takes sometimes five hours to fly over the extent of the country.

As a rule now in Singapore, I try to make sure I get away at least once a month, but sometimes even more than that. I have been able to explore some amazing parts of this region the past few years but what makes it better is always flying back into Changi. Last week coming back from Jakarta for the weekend, it took me 30 minutes from plane touchdown to open the front door of my apartment – travel is made so easy here!

Changi Jewel is a new addition at Singapore’s airport, designed by Safdie Architects, it’s set to open in 2018.

What is your favourite space or place and why?

One of my favourite go-to bars in Singapore is Spiffy Dapper – a little gin bar located on the second floor of an old shophouse in Amoy street, Telok Ayer.

It is dark and moody, and very grungy by Singapore standards. Don’t be deterred by the dingy dark staircase to get in… and hopefully you can find the entrance from the street level as there are no visible signs! The bartenders will dazzle you with an interesting menu but they are always up for a challenge to try rare types of alcohol (I once had a friend who told them his favourite drink was lavender gin with dark chocolate, which they managed to provide!)

What are some of the inside local tips?

Having been a total foodie in Melbourne for years before moving to Singapore, I have been totally surprised by the amazing food and beverage offerings here – make sure that your first visit is to one of the many hawker centres. Singaporeans pride themselves on amazing food so don’t forget to try Char kway teow, rojak or pepper crab (to name a few) at any of the street side hawker centres.

And if you get stuck for a place to eat – talk to one of the uncles in any taxi you catch. They have thousands of recommendations for food that you have never heard of, in places you would never imagine. For example – “the hawker centre at the end of Joo Chiat place – the un-airconditioned one – has the best pepper crab on the island.”

Anything else that may surprise and delight designers about Singapore?

I love the tropical heat in Singapore – and I love the jungle. However, I am always surprised why I am not being eaten alive by mosquitoes and bugs across the island while enjoying the jungle. Try hanging outdoors in any of the restaurants in Dempsey Hill – not a single bite from any bug while hanging out in a converted army barracks surrounded by jungle – I love it!

PS.Cafe at Dempsey Hill.

PS.Cafe at Dempsey Hill.

Joel was the project lead on The Working Capitol in Singapore, a new kind of co-sharing office. 

Join us for the 2018 INDE.Award Gala in Singapore, which is being hosted at the JW Marriot on 22 June.

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