2022 marked a bold shift for Millenia Walk with the introduction of the MW Creative Neighbourhood, evolving from just a retail space to a community-led destination that champions doing things differently through a heart for curiosity, creativity, and telling stories in unexpected ways.
With Christmas as the first initiative under this new brand direction, we reflected on how we may celebrate the festive season as a ‘creative neighbourhood’ inspiring a meaningful and positive change to the way we approach festivities each year.
Through our creative process and after countless discussions on how we may design the year’s Christmas tree installation, we uncovered a hard truth. Due to Singapore’s limited access to natural resources, we often have to rely on imported pine trees or artificial structures to usher in the Christmas season.
These wonderful installations, while festive, are fleeting, and most result in massive amounts of waste.After a few weeks of tremendous beauty, they usually end up in landfills, creating an endless loop of unnecessary harm to the environment.
This led us to explore and investigate how we may break the cycle with an intentional, local, and nature-inspired Christmas celebration. And so we dared to ask, “What could Singapore’s very own Christmas trees look like?”
Unearthing Stories of the Sawmill
This led us down an unexpected path of exploring our local trees and what happens to them after being salvaged. Through conversations with local wood specialists, we paid a visit to Tat Hin Timber – one of Singapore’s last remaining sawmills at Sungei Kadut, where we unearthed valuable stories and insights about the quality of wood produced by our local trees and the extensive treatment they go through to be repurposed into usable, valuable materials. Inspired by Timber Actually and Tat Hin Timber’s passion for local trees and timber, we knew there was no better time to share their story, in the hopes of inspiring others to foster a greater appreciation and value for this precious local natural resource.
Working closely across various touch points, we carefully considered and crafted each aspect of the overall brand experience to bring the narrative to life in the most holistic and intentional way. We designed a visual system, inspired by cross-sections of logs documented from our trips to the sawmill. The logs were treated with a collagraph print effect but remained true to their form, providing a distinctive look that embodied the core of our initiative. No fairies, elves, snowmen or reindeers, nothing was make-believe. We realised that nothing needed to be.
In celebration of our local trees, and to support our local wood industry, we created a guided discovery trail across various corners of the MW Creative Neighbourhood, encouraging visitors to explore Millenia Walk like they never have before while also learning more about the journey of our local fallen trees after being salvaged. The trail explores six stages of the wood treatment process with Timber Actually, accompanied by interesting vignettes from the sawmill. Trail goers can venture around Millenia Walk to enjoy and engage with local wood in its varying forms, from raw to finished.
The discovery trail culminates with a grand finale at the Great Hall, where visitors are welcomed by the Millenia Walk Seed Tree, collectively made with local (and locally-sourced) knowledge, creativity, craftsmen, communities, and materials.
Measuring around seven metres (more than 22 feet tall) at its peak, the tree installation was constructed with over 800 locally-made, upcycled seating blocks (or 'Seeds') in alternating layers of our local wood species, African Mahogany and Angsana. Each ‘Seed’, weighing around 10 kg, is machine-cut and hand-assembled by Timber Actually and carries a distinct wood grain and colour, making it unique in its own way. Upon close observation, you may spot the tree embellished with pulsating lights that glow with the excitement and life of the crowd, as well as paper ornaments inspired by log shapes — an intentional nod back to the initiative’s visual identity.
Constructed as four cascading islands, the MW Seed Tree provided opportunities for visitors to interact closely with the installation, do some R&R (rest and reflection), meet loved ones, or even take a memorable snapshot for the holidays.
In our effort to adopt an environmentally conscious approach toward waste reduction, we set out to design an installation that works with local, natural resources while ensuring flexibility, longevity, and the potential to have its life extended beyond its festive applications. The simplicity of the structure provided room for it to be meaningfully repurposed across various seasonal campaigns, from Christmas to the Lunar New Year.
Upon the completion of the ‘Christmas with Our Trees’ initiative, each of the 800 ‘Seeds’ was distributed to homes across Singapore, leaving nothing to waste but the screws that held the Millenia Walk Seed Tree installation together.
A labour of love and a culmination of effort across numerous development teams over many months, the ‘Christmas with Our Trees’ initiative is borne from a desire to uplift and celebrate the gifts that our local trees bear us while also progressively challenging how international festive celebrations can be designed with authenticity, impact, and nature in mind. Through this, we hope to sprout a deeper awareness for making more conscious decisions about festive decorations and grow the public's understanding of the importance of nurturing and caring for our local trees. To quote the wise words of Timber Actually, "As circular economies for wood flourish, so will our natural forests".
We are also proud to share that the ‘Christmas with Our Trees’ initiative has been awarded the Singapore Good Design (SG Mark) award for the Sustainable Design category. This would not have been possible without the unwavering trust and hard work of our clients, partners, and collaborators, for which we will always be grateful.