LOPELAB founder and director Lorenzo Petrillo has always had a passion for re-thinking public spaces. He started his career in Italy designing for esterni, an agency that develops cultural projects for public spaces including the Public Design Festival. Since his move to Singapore in 2010, Lorenzo has worked tirelessly to rekindle the Singaporean kampong spirit amidst the distractions of the digital age. He and his LOPELAB team have organised eight Urban Ventures events to date and will be hosting the Urban Design Festival coming up this March. We had a chat with him to find out more about his dedication to making cities around the world more human-centric.
Urban Journey: Tell us the inspiration behind Lopelab? How did growing up in Milan inspire what you are doing today?
Lorenzo Petrillo: From a young age growing up in an urban environment I thirsted for something out of the ordinary rather than blocks and blocks of concrete, where people are constantly going in and out just for the dollar. For a city with such a rich history, people were losing the purpose of life. That’s why I joined esterni, a group of creatives with the mission of transforming public spaces in Milan into places for people to socialise and express themselves through arts and cultural activities.
UJ: How has Urban Design changed over the years and where do you see the future of it going?
LP: Urban Design has slowly improved over the past decades, mainly in Northern Europe and a few cities around the world. The big change, I mean when cities will finally be designed around citizens instead of cars, has yet to come. In the emerging markets we have a great opportunity to design cities (almost) from scratch, and in these cases it will be much easier to build human-centric cities.
UJ: Have people been open to the human-centric approach you are taking?
LP: Everybody loves and agrees with the human-centric approach and the feedback is always great. But to really change the status quo it requires a communal effort and active support from everyone.
UJ: How did the Urban Design Festival come to fruition and what can we expect at this year’s edition?
LP: Singapore UDF is the latest step of this journey that started four years ago and it is continuously growing because every year we push the bar a step further. This year is the biggest and most amazing one because we are bringing the conversation into an unusual urban venue, a multi-storey carpark. The message is very strong because we are really changing the rules and the habits. Highlights of this years festival include:
Rooftop Roller Disco
Urban Design Innovation Talks featuring over 30 Industry Leaders
Wellness Workshops by UnderArmour
Live Performances by Local Musicians & Drag Queens
Mouthwatering F&B from W Hotel, Little Creatures, Hendricks, & more!
UJ: What’s been your most rewarding project you have worked on to date and why?
LP: Every project we do is a little tile in making the pathway to our future human-centric cities and every tile counts. That being said, some tiles are bigger than others.
The first one in terms of time has been Arts in Your Neighbourhood, a project commissioned twice by National Arts Council to bring the concept behind Urban Ventures into the heartland of Singapore. This has allowed us to get in touch and spread the message to a completely different audience.
The second one and closest to my heart is the first edition of UDF, when we finally brought experts from all around the world and showed amazing projects and solutions for better living. We were finally able to make very clear that we are not street party organisers but we have a clear vision and mission in mind.
UJ: What does community mean to you?
LP: Community is basically a sense of belonging and different individuals sharing similar interests, opinions and taste.
Community is about helping and supporting each other, socializing and sharing experiences and knowledge.
What community really means for me is also a physical connection; I’m addicted to the magic energy generated by a group of people who come together. That is something very human that online communities cannot generate.
UJ: Which city in your eyes has the best crossover between the community and public spaces?
LP: Amsterdam and in general cities in the north of Europe because they have a strong and deep understanding of the importance of public spaces.
UJ: What is the dream you have for Singapore in terms of a city and how it works with the community?
LP: My dream for Singapore is to become a more flexible city, more open to change and novelty, more curious and also more generous when it comes to supporting ground-up initiatives.
UJ: What has been the biggest challenge thus far in doing what you’ve been doing? How about rewarding?
LP: Everyone wants to participate in our projects and they really enjoy them. But they require a lot of time and effort to make them happen, so we need more participation from the people who want these kinds of initiatives as well as companies, brands, and associations interested in what we are doing. And of course, money is always the biggest challenge.
The best reward always comes from our public, our community, and our supporters. Their feedback, their compliments, as well as seeing so many people happy and enthusiastically participating in our projects makes all the efforts and stress disappear in one second.
UJ: Something we ask all of our Urban Insiders: name your top 3 spots to eat and drink in Singapore.
Don’t miss Urban Design Festival happening on 15 – 17 March. Get your tickets now!