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SPRMRKT As The ‘Third Place’

Parable Studio combines multiple creative disciplines to create a thoughtful and inspiring space for visitors to the new SPRMRKT at Robertson Quay.

SPRMRKT As The ‘Third Place’

Originally established in 2012 within the CBD, SPRMRKT is a one-of-a-kind ‘supermarket’ that brings together art, food and retail under one roof. The second and latest outlet, located by the Singapore River at Robertson Quay, is aptly housed by the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) – one of Singapore’s oldest and most favoured places for locals and foreigners alike to visit for contemporary prints generated out of artists-in-residence programmes.

Comprising two levels, SPRMRKT Daily at level one has a casual indoor and outdoor dining space, coupled with a retail area indoors, and is set to become a place within the neighbourhood for simple, well-cooked meals and to discover artisanal projects. On the second level, SPRMRKT Kitchen & Bar provides a more rounded dining experience, and hence, carries a more refined atmosphere.

The design and branding of the space was led by Parable Studio – a Singapore-based practice founded by experience design director Ken Yuktasevi and creative director Mark De Winne. The studio combines the fields of branding, architecture, interiors, art and typography to inform every project with humanistic experiences, as seen in other F&B projects, such as the two outlets of Grain Traders and Plentyfull in Millenia Walk.

Parable conceptualised SPRMRKT as the ‘Third Place’, based on the ideology that the place is neither a home nor a workplace, but one that facilitates social interactions that are precious to the community. “The client is passionate about giving people a chance to experience the magic of compelling art, food and retail in their everyday. We loved that thought,” says Ken, adding, “The function of the spaces came together, first and foremost, around a strategy for how people would experience the entire building and SPRMRKT as a brand.”

The team also collaborated with old friend Natalie Louey of Geyer to find balance between the dining and retail experiences, “making the space feel ‘gallery’ enough that it served as a great retail experience and ‘cosy’ enough so that eating can happen.” This was partly achieved through lighting techniques that allowed the draw of each element to stand out naturally. “Pastries and food is an easy and approachable thing to draw customers in, so we made sure [that] we put these things up front so they can be seen by passersby, but then compelling retail is something that will make people ‘linger’ — so we put this in a place that can be glanced upon while you were waiting for a coffee or [when] eating in the space,” he adds.

The space is informed by a palette of pastel pink, light army green and brass for its ability to warm up a space gracefully as it ages over time. The majority of the furniture pieces were customised – apart from the original Louis Poulsen pendant lamps on the second floor. On the ground floor, the concept of ‘framing’ is prominently expressed within frame motifs. This was also extended to branding elements. “We realised what [art, food and retail] had in common was that the impact of these things on the audience depended on the way the artist, chef or designer framed their perspective of them,” says Ken. The team also lovingly translated the history of the building, charm of the vicinity and the iconic river into intricate graphics that were printed on menus and awnings as a tribute to the neighbourhood.

“When we create, we see [the process] like a film, where Parable is the director and we get to work with the most amazing cast and filmmakers out there. We may lead the project and story, but there is so much overlap of the disciplines and the way we inform and create together,” says Mark and Ken, who believe that sometimes, the solution lies in working with the right ‘cast members’. One such ‘member’ of this project is Studio Oooze, who interpreted the SPRMRKT experience through engaging artworks that are hung within the space.

“The story we’re interested in is not so much a brand story but is instead rooted in questions like ‘What are the end users missing in their story?’, ‘What is the story that the owner is trying to tell?’ and ‘How can we help it actually mean something good to the world?’. We like to help different owners express their unique story and build relationships with their customers to create new stories together. That’s certainly something that we’ve discovered since starting Parable,” the pair concludes.

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