The Chinatown Chinese New Year (CNY) Street Light-Up committee for the Year of the Rabbit 2023 was designed by a team of 13 students. 

Led by Corliss Tay (ASD) and Phua Rui Yi Sarah (ASD), the team consisted of Bethea Wong Zi Yi (Freshmore), Brayden Tang Jia Jun (Freshmore), Celeste Ng Xin Yuan (ESD), Gan Bei Ru (Freshmore), Georgia Tan Hui Yi (ASD), Hayley Ho Wei Li (ASD), James Tan Shi An (Freshmore), Jee Chen Lin (ASD), Lim Peiying (ASD), Lucas Goh Chen Ray (Freshmore), and Oh Yu Fang (Freshmore). The team was assisted by student coordinator Kong Mei Jia (ASD) and guided by Dr Zheng Kai, Faculty Fellow in the Architecture and Sustainable Design Pillar and coordinated through the Office of Student Life. 

On 3rd January 2023, the team attended the Chinatown CNY Official Light-Up & Opening Ceremony, which was held at Kreta Ayer Square. Dressed in our SUTD red tees, the team congregated at the opening ceremony to catch the official Light-Up.

SUTD has been involved in designing the centrepiece, overhangs, and photo spots for the Chinatown CNY Light-Up for the last 12 years. This year of the rabbit for CNY 2023 is a milestone for us as it signifies that SUTD has completed designing a full Chinese zodiac cycle. This Light-Up ceremony was special because it felt like the first full scale CNY event since the pandemic, which had toned down the CNY festivities for the last two years. It was truly a rush of joy for our SUTDents to be part of this ceremony for numerous reasons.

Before the event began, we had the privilege of being interviewed by Lianhe Zaobao. Here is the link to the article:

Lim Pei Ying (22), a third-year student who was part of the design team, said that the lighting decorations are divided into four scenes, including the harvest season in the farmland, purchasing Chinese New Year goodies at the night bazaar, spring cleaning and reunion with the family, reflecting people’s preparations for the New Year. “We hope to present the feeling of anticipation and excitement for the New Year.” She also said that the rabbits’ eyes were the most difficult to design, because the eyes are the soul, and there is a fine line between cute and scary.

Another student, Brayden Tang (22), born in the Year of the Rabbit, felt it was very meaningful for him to be part of the design team. He said that every Chinese New Year, his parents would take him to the Chinese New Year bazaar and view the light-up. “Seeing the public taking photos of the light decorations that I designed with smiles on their faces, I think it is very meaningful and cool.”

The event kick-started with a token presentation to the supporters and sponsors of the Chinatown CNY Light-Up 2023. SUTD was presented with a token of appreciation for our contribution to the Light-Up. Dr Zheng Kai received the token of appreciation on behalf of SUTD from the Minister for Communications and Information & Second Minister for Home Affairs, Josephine Teo. 

This was followed by heartwarming speeches from Minister Josephine Teo and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Lawrence Wong, where they wished everyone a healthy and prosperous year ahead. With that, the ceremony proceeded with captivating performances. It began with some Chinese Dance, followed by Lion Dance and Wushu. The Lion Dance was particularly eye-catching with two of the six lions modified into rabbits, very fitting for this Chinese New Year. There was also an Er Hu performance by Mediacorp Artiste, Ayden Sng, and a stunning vocal performance from local performing arts group Peranakan Sayang. The ceremony ended with a bang as firecrackers went off. It was truly a lively and lovely end to the ceremony.

While the event was extremely enjoyable for us, we were most excited to see our creations light up the town! The pivotal part of the ceremony began with the Ministers and invited guests lining up at the front of the stage where there were large carrot-shaped pieces wedged in the animated box before them. At the end of the countdown, we held our breaths as they pulled the “carrots” out of the box and triggered the lightning of all our creations in Chinatown. We watched our lanterns glow brightly and basked in the joy of seeing the public capture it with their phones.

After the ceremony, we made our way towards Eu Tong Sen Street to view the lit up lanterns. We made our way to the Garden Bridge to get a bird’s eye view of the overhangs and centrepiece and to see our photo spots up close. We got to see our designs lighting up the commuters’ faces first-hand. We revelled in seeing the public’s excitement over the centrepiece, going up to the traffic junction to admire it and snap pictures with it. It brought us great satisfaction to have our designs well-received. While taking group shots with our designs, we even encountered a local YouTuber, Singapore City Walks, who included us in his video here:

James: It was heartening and exciting to see months of effort finally realised, being able to witness our drawings become full-scaled sculptures that, once lit up, managed to buzz up the festive atmosphere in Chinatown with the assortment of colours and cheerful rabbits.

Lucas: As overhangs are suspended in the air, I thought of various imageries which would make sense floating off the ground and settled on fireworks. I believe that the combination of the repeated fireworks imagery and colourful firework rays expanding outwards would give one the sense of being in a fireworks festival. To tie in with the main lantern design where rabbits were hard at work preparing for CNY, I added small details of rabbits helping each other climb up the poles to hang decorations. This would fit in thematically with the lanterns and not make the overhangs appear out of place. 

Yu Fang: I was initially quite anxious about how my digital design would translate to the physical 3D lanterns. There were many things I had to keep in mind, such as how the photo spots would be interacted with, their locations, and how intricate the lanterns could be fabricated. However, the end result was pretty satisfactory and it was thrilling to see families pose and take pictures with the designs.

Overall, working in the Chinatown CNY Light-Up Student Committee was a rewarding experience. There were certainly many self-doubts and stressful moments, as there will be in all design processes, but having a team to rely on and work with made it more enjoyable. As expected, we received some comments for our designs, but we appreciated the public’s feedback along with their compliments. To have our own designs ideated, refined, and realised in full-scale within a few months was an unforgettable experience, and one that we are very grateful for. For designers to see their works appreciated by their target audience is a gratifying experience, and this nine-months process was truly worthwhile in the end. We wish everyone a Hoppy Chinese New Year!

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