In Singapore, architectural practice WOHA has started a movement called Totems for the 21st Century, together with founding partners bioSEA, Systmz and GWS Living Art.
Looking at the totem as an object located at the intersection of the human domain and the natural domain, Totems for the 21st Century are designed to make something beautiful as a focus for our emotions and embody our commitment to the protection of the natural world that supports us. Totems are precious and crafted, made with knowledge and passion. Making a totem is a process which directs our energies to healing the planet.
WOHA’s first totem, located in their office in the centre of the city, was designed for the Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus. It is a native bird that is declining in Singapore due to modernisation – its favourite nesting spots in the city are up in eaves of the old Chinese tiles of the shophouses – and while these buildings are conserved, they are being repaired and sealed up and their access points have disappeared. So while it is not an exciting, rare or exotic bird, WOHA thought it was a good target, as it can still be found in the area, in small numbers, and wondered if its population will increase if provided with good homes.