A number of the five shortlisted Founders Memorial designs have drawn comparisons to toilet appliances online. The unsavoury comparisons come after the Government sought feedback on which design it should go with for the Founders’ Memorial it is building.
Plans to build a Founders’ Memorial was announced a mere three months after the nation’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew passed away in March 2015. At the time, the authorities seemed to position the memorial as though it would pay tribute to many historical figures, including but not solely focused on Lee Kuan Yew, who shaped Singapore.
Curiously, Lee Kuan Yew was the only figure who was explicitly identified in a statement on MCCY’s website, that provided an idea as to what Singaporeans can expect from the memorial.
Besides indicating that the aim of the Founders’ Memorial is “to commemorate the values and ideals of our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and his team who founded independent Singapore,” MCCY states that many Singaporeans support the idea of such a memorial:
“Many Singaporeans support the idea of a Founders’ Memorial to commemorate the values and ideals of our founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, and his team who founded independent Singapore. Singaporeans young and old expressed hope that the memorial will help current and future generations to cherish and live by such values and ideals. Most importantly, the Memorial will tell the extraordinary story of Singapore, written by ordinary Singaporeans.”
The Government then asked Singaporeans to select one out of five design ideas for the memorial. Revealing that it received close to 200 architectural design submissions from around the world, the committee in-charge of the project said that a jury has shortlisted five design ideas for the project.
Seeking Singaporeans’ help in choosing a design for the memorial, the committee said: “Your feedback will be a critical component of the jury’s evaluation in choosing the winning design, which will be announced in 2020.”
Some of the designs have drawn comparisons to toilet appliances online. Design D, which is proposed by Johnson Pilton Walker + RDC Architects, drew the most criticism for its resemblance to a toilet bowl from a bird’s eye view perspective:
Design C, by DP Architects, has drawn comparisons to a washroom basin with its shape as well as the hole-shaped feature in the centre:
Design B, proposed by Cox Architecture + architects61, has invited comparisons to a typical washroom door handle:
Earlier, netizens pointed out that plans to build a Founders’ Memorial that seems to be centred on the late Lee Kuan Yew’s values and ideals are contrary to his well-known aversion to monuments of himself.
In April 2015, a month after his father’s passing, Singapore’s current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that his father did not care for monuments. He had said in Parliament: “Mr Lee made it very clear throughout his life that he did not need and did not want any monument… Mr Lee was very careful never to allow a personality cult to grow around him, much less to encourage one himself.”
That same month, Lee Kuan Yew’s second child and only daughter Lee Wei Ling wrote in an article in the Straits Times: “…I was baffled by the news that our MPs were suggesting naming various structures or institutions after Papa.
“Papa had worked hard to prevent any personality cult from growing around him. It would most certainly go against what he would want and what he stood for in life, such as service to Singapore and Singaporeans, because that was the right thing to do, without any ulterior motive, least of all self-promotion.”
She added: “The best response to Papa’s passing is to honour the spirit of what he stood for, which is the welfare of Singaporeans. There is much that we can all work towards for this purpose.
“Similarly, to fuss over Papa’s personal objects or portrait defeats the purpose that he had strived for so diligently in life, which was the welfare of Singaporeans.”
Interestingly, the Government commissioned a committee to look into developing a Founders’ Memorial two months after Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Wei Ling noted their father’s dislike for monuments, in June 2015.