Mapping out Singapore

Mapping out Singapore

SINGAPORE - You might have read that British artist Stephen Wiltshire was in town recently to draw a detailed cityscape of Singapore.

But young home-grown artist Lee Xin Li, 26, also draws maps of astounding detail.

His most breathtaking work is his own version of the Singapore map, which intricately showcases Singapore's attractions, including the little islands.

Since the National University of Singapore architecture student uploaded it onto Facebook and his blog last month, the map has won fans.

Mr Lee, who said he has been fascinated with maps since he was a boy, explained how the map came about: "When a friend saw my sketches, he challenged me to draw one of Singapore.

"At first, I wondered if there was anything interesting to draw about Singapore. But as I started drawing, I realised I didn't have space for everything," Mr Lee said.

He started drawing the map, which is not drawn to scale, from the least likely location.

"I started drawing Pulau Tekong first because I was an instructor there during my National Service days. Tekong turned out to be strangely huge in the end," he chuckled.


He did extensive research, reading up on the country's geography and history.

For instance, Pulau Biola looks like the body of a violin and he confessed: "I did not know that the island with Raffles Lighthouse is called Pulau Satumu."

The map also contains iconic buildings that no longer stand today, such as the National Theatre and Great World Amusement Park.

Some features also have a personal meaning to Mr Lee, who grew up in Jurong East.

He said: "I included the Queenstown Cinema because I would always admire the hand-painted movie posters there on the way back from school as a child."


Apart from the Singapore map, Mr Lee, who has never had formal drawing lessons, has also drawn commissioned maps for heritage trails such as Changi, Kampong Glam and Little India for Learning and Development Resources.

These have been used by the National Cadet Corps.

His work has also been used by The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Tourism Board for their "Rediscover Singapore" campaign.

Mr Lee, who also designed badges that are included in this year's National Day Parade funpack, said that drawing the map helped him rediscover Singapore.

"There is a lot more history going on in Singapore than just the past 49 years. People who have seen the map realise there is so much more in Singapore," he said.

He is heartened by the response and said: "I feel encouraged that people are taking notice of my map.

"I am also glad people want to discover more about Singapore's rich history and culture, because that is the intention of the map."

This article was first published on July 28, 2014.
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