Launch of Hygge and A Familiar Forest 

Hygge was officially opened by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) President Professor Subra Suresh on 21 January 2021. In conjunction with the official opening of the new space, NTU Museum also presented the inaugural exhibition, A Familiar Forest by environmental artist Zen Teh. The exhibition was part of National Arts Council’s Singapore Art Week 2021 from 22 January 2021 to 30 January 2021 and is open to public for a year till 20 January 2022.  

Innovative spaces at NTU Library  

NTU Library aims to go beyond providing academic and research support by collaborating across University departments to offer spaces for innovative experiential services to meet the wellbeing needs of the NTU community. 

Through studying user feedback and observing behaviour on the popularity of the Library’s space amongst users over the years, the Library noted the rapidly changing needs of users and has reflected this through how the spaces at its flagship library, Lee Wee Nam Library (LWNL) have changed over time. From shelves of books and tables to collaborative booths and discussion pods, NTU Library has configured various spaces to serve different groups of users with different needs. 

In alignment with NTU 2025 strategic plan, which includes the strengthening of wellbeing and support capabilities, NTU Library set out to infuse physical spaces with inspirational avenues to trigger fresh perspectives and experiences through collaborative wellbeing projects. An idea came about to convert 315mof space at LWNL’s Quiet Zone into a space that caters to wellbeing. The aim was to deliver the wellbeing concept through a space that encourages self-contemplation, relaxation, and self-care.  

The idea and concept behind Hygge 

The 2018 Sodexo University Trends Report highlighted increased academic and social pressure as a key trend shaping the student body. Recommendations include providing more self-care skills and support for overall wellbeing. 

The Singapore Mental Health Study 2016 (conducted by the Institute of Mental Health) found that young adults (aged between 18 and 34) are at highest risk of suffering from mental disorders – key stressors include academic pressures, broken relationships, and cyberbullying, among others. On a more encouraging note, a comparison between the 2016 study and its 2010 edition has shown that those willing to seek help are doing so earlier. 

There are many spaces in NTU for collaboration, talks, studying, sports, and recreation but it was noted that there was none for quiet, purposeful, non-studying, contemplation and self-care activities.  

These trends presented an opening for NTU Library to anticipate user needs by offering spaces for innovative experiential services that cater to improving the overall wellbeing of the NTU community. 

The meaning of Hygge and the design of the space 

In line with the unique naming convention of spaces at LWNL, this space was named Hygge, a Danish word for wellbeing, which refers to factors contributing to everyday happiness such as cosiness, absence of annoyance and taking pleasure from the presence of soothing things. The Danes are consistently ranked “happiest” in the world and attributed it to their embrace of “Hygge”. 

The unique design of the space encourages self-expression, self-reflection, and self-care through the experience of calmness and tranquillity. A resting mind in its natural state of awareness, free of bias and judgment helps lower stress levels, reduce anxiety, decrease negative feelings, and sharpen focus, which can help to improve overall wellbeing. A reading corner, nook, was also conceptualised for the space to provide self-care resources including informational guides on practising mindfulness.   

 The Hygge Manifesto 

When designing the space, the famous Hygge manifesto was applied in various aspects. One way was to turn the lights down, creating an atmosphere for users to rest and take a break from gadgets. Another way to achieve Hygge was to provide comfort through cosy bean bags, nature related furniture and making it a no-shoes zone.  

A Familiar Forest

NTU Library forged a collaboration with NTU Museum to complement Hygge with the connection of art, nature and humanity’s mental wellbeing.  

A Familiar Forest by environmental artist Zen Teh is a multi-sensory art and science exhibition set in an urban construct. Zen replicated the tranquillity of the forest at night through a spatial photographic experience with artificial soundscape and concocted scent. The immersive and meditative journey in Hygge was recreated with 34 multi-layered drapes, ambient light, sounds and an aromatic scent concoction by Dr Ching Jianhong, a scientist at Duke-NUS. 

Zen’s work was inspired by scientific research that has established a close correlation between human wellness and our proximity with nature. Her interdisciplinary collaboration with Dr Ching ruminates upon environmental conservation and the medical therapeutic effects of the forest. 

Prior registration is required for members of the public who wish to visit the exhibition. Please contact NTU Library at library@ntu.edu.sg for more information. 

Contributed by:
Thavamalar Mohan
Communication & Outreach
NTU Library