Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The third kind?

I suppose some of you were still thinking about things like directions and projects after the meeting, as I was. My mind was occupied with what is the one thing that can tie up all our socially-driven objectives, and unite us in a specific single-mindedness in approaching all our projects? What is this thing that will give us a stand in Seletar Airbase project, promote interdisciplinary exchange, relate to all the expeditions, and still make us relevant in the changing society in Singapore/Asian context? And would this really make us what our dear newcomer advocates as the heroic “third kind of architect”?

Social consciousness to me is too vague to be the solution as every other architect claims to be socially conscious. But I couldn’t continue the search, so I jump to the next question, something more personal – what would I like to do? I’m not so keen on talking and holding forum so I think of something hands-on: like expeditions, at least that’s something I’m familiar with and still have passion for. So what about expedition that make our role as architect or designer special? My memory tells me that in fact we become less special as most of the time other people tell you what to do and how to do it. But that could be something special too! It then draws my attention to what NK had just mentioned today and what I’d discussed with Joshua before his dissertation – participatory design. Could this offer us something?

I tried to test it with the above scenarios. It could give us a stand in Seletar Airbase project, as we could advocate not just considering the concerns of the residents, but bringing them into the design team; and not just the residents, but everyone who have an interest in this site should be part of the design process. In this way, we’re truly promoting interdisciplinary exchange. Participatory design should thus go beyond expeditions, and be applied in city such as Singapore, where it is certainly lacking! Of course, there are many of such examples in overseas. But Singapore with its strong governance would require a different model that is appropriate to its political & social context. And it seems all the more relevant in Singapore at this moment when I saw the new *scape design announced by Vivian the Youth Minister on news tonight. How would a participatory design architect evolve and become more relevant than traditional architect in this new context is certainly worth exploring and experimenting.

With a participatory design as the main approach, we could even tie up our different interests in explore, execution, and exchange into a continuous flow. We could research into such design process and the kind of design as a result, then experiment it with our overseas expeditions as well as local design/studio projects. With these results we could then hold exhibitions and exchange views with other professionals and public, and promote even more participation from the people, the industry, the sponsors, and the relevant authorities.

Just my two cents, comments are most welcome.

Friday, November 17, 2006

mAAN international short film competition

Congrats to Xiuqi, Calvin and re:ACT for clinching second place (there was no first place) in this year's mAAN (modern Asian Architecture Network) International Short Film Competition!

XQ, furnish details and perhaps upload the video to youtube? :P

Ito's latest...

...but by no means his last (nor best, as many would opine).

attack of the killer seaweed!

deck the halls... already?

snow(man) patrol

Vivocity. Could've been so much better, if not for poor workmanship, and if only they decided to use higher-grade wall putty. Still, very nice waterfront decks and roof deck. Yokohama it ain't, but it's still a pretty successful public space.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The new IRs

Gehry gone garish?

If this scheme (and Kerzner) does make the cut, I'm trying to fathom how it'd be possible to furnish the entire thing out of glass - while it looks pretty okay in the renders / models, the quality of workmanship in Singapore is certainly going to screw it up! (Down the same road journeyed by the Supreme Court, Vivocity, Alsop's hair-salon implements along Sg River...)

The thought of robotic fish ('Robotanica'?!) does not seem to be a long-term sustainable idea... In ten, twenty years, it'll go down the way of Volcanoland and Asian Village, or even the current Underwater World. In 2020, by the time everyone has Aibos and their marine counterparts within their homes, Gehry's vision of Sentosa would be relegated to a whim and a fancy. And what if the architecture does go out of 'fashion', the same way Saarinen's or Archigram's work went? What we would be left with is a giant greenhouse straight out of a glassblower's trashcan (if workmanship's poor), fungused and ill-maintained.

This will not be the Bilbao equivalent of Singapore. Bilbao was the result of a pursuit of a completely new language, of the implementation of a technology previously unseen in the building construction realm. This seems to me a parody of that cause celebre, and I can't help but be reminded, when looking at the renders again, of this:

I have this suspicion (and I'm sure I'm not the only one) that Gehry is in fact critiquing himself with every new project, but ends up rehashing the same thing (in a different material in this case), perhaps because he's comfortable with specific CATIA operations, or perhaps he has become the 'provident' of a brand-name architecture to derive the oohs and the aahs out of mass consumerists. In ending up with what is more or less the same thing, he ends up parodying his previous works, rather than critiquing them. (Side note: Gehry wholeheartedly endorses his personification in the Simpsons, even though the joke really was on him. What a star he is.)

So, yeah, I'm not looking forward to the Kerzner scheme. It's good to have a Gehry in Singapore, yes, but to have it go down the road of the Fosters, Alsops, Itos and even the elegant-but-underwhelming Ban pavilion would be quite a letdown. (It really seems that starchitects just can't get it right in Singapore, but that's another story for another day.)

Oddly, I find myself (heaven forbid!) more skewed to the Michael Graves / Genting International scheme... brings out the layman in me!

What a Grave(s) thing to do, to steal the giant Allesi juicer from Starck!

Could've been much worse, I guess:

Footnote: All images (except the last one) courtesy of their respective owners.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Architecture + Ecology exhibition

Exhibition at URA
"Made in Germany - Architecture + Ecology"
5 to 28 Oct, URA Centre

Germany aspires to develop sustainable architecture - one that goes beyond pure aesthetics to deal also with the impact of architectural projects on all aspects of daily life. This includes the practice of architecture in sensitive response to ecology and the environment.

The exhibition is the first in the series of exhibitions produced by the Goethe-Institut on contemporary German architecture, showcasing German architecture in response to various cultural and socio-political environments. This premiere exhibition in the series deals with ecology, and illustrates the aspirations and innovative achievements in developing sustainable architecture by an emerging generation of German architects.

Nine projects, ranging from a daycare center, and administration tower, a train station to a zero-emissions factory, will be presented at the exhibition. The projects provide an insight to integrating ecological principles into innovative building designs, some of which could be applied to the Singapore context.The exhibition is part of URA’s continuing effort to promote architecture and urban design excellence in Singapore. It is hoped that the architectural approaches presented in this exhibition could spark the interest of local architects and the public, in search of architectural solutions that are responsive to ecological needs.
The public can view the exhibition at the atrium of The URA Centre, from 5 Oct to 28 October 2006. Opening hours are Mon - Fri, 9:00am to 7:00pm; Sat, 9:00am to 5:00pm; closed on Sundays and public holidays. Admission is free.
(excerpted from URA website)

I had a look at this exhibition while in Delft two years ago. It's not terribly snazzy - don't expect to get blown away by wild forms and extreme technologies. Yet, in a true 'German' sense, the architecture on display is highly clinical, almost unpretentious in its pursuit of ecological sustainability. I'd say it's worth a visit.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Kevin Low's lecture webcast

Hi guys, for those amongst us, including myself, who might've missed the very charming Kevin Low guest lecture at NUS, and who might've got bored of Youtube (if that can even happen at all), here's the recorded webcast:

And a listing of webcast lectures over the past two years is as follows:


Saturday, September 30, 2006

upcoming Architecture lectures!

Kerry Hill
"Project Snapshots, 1996 - 2006"
3 Oct, Tuesday
LR423, SDE, NUS. 4 pm

Charles Benton
Professor in Architecture, UC Berkeley
"Sustainable design: building stories"
10 Oct, Tuesday
LR423, SDE, NUS. 4 pm

SIA (Singapore Institute of Architects) Gold Medallist - Tang Guan Bee
"Formless Form"
12 Oct, Thursday
Kenzo Level 2, Gallery Hotel. 7 pm
Registration required (with SIA)

Kelvin Kan
Architectural Designer/Engineer with Arup
"Uncover the Skin of Modern Architecture"
13 oct, Friday
LT13, NUS, 630pm

and... drumroll...

Frank Gehry
"Recent Projects"
16 Oct, Monday
UCC, NUS. 7pm
Registration required (with SIA)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Man builds his own cathedral

99.99999...% of buildings in the world are not built by architects' hands, said Nazrine Seraji, at her recent guest lecture in NUS.

Perhaps that's because constructing a building from scratch seems like such a mammoth endeavour. Something best left to the pro builders who know how to drive cranes, operate piling machines, recruit armies of workers from remote Bangladesh, to whom dropping millions of dollars on buying material is peanuts. Could we really build anything apart from the occasional wooden structure in a remote village somewhere?

Even as we speak, Don Justo, a devout old Spanish farmer, continues to meticulously toiling on his own cathedral. He has no plans, "only in his own head". His workers are his six nephews. He has no crane, he uses pulleys. He has no engineer, legal permission, funding, or support from the church. Most of his materials are recycled or excess from construction companies. Amazingly, the Romanesque-style cathedral is taking shape.

This is no little country church. It's got an 8000sqm footprint and is 40m high, with a dome like St Peter's in Rome.

Check here for the inspiring story and pix:

Don Justo's Self Built Cathedral

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Crossing Boundary

Just presented a paper in a conference with two of my friends (Ju-lin & Hanying). Interestingly it was not an architectural conference, but one on Tourism. It gathered researchers of various disciplines – mostly anthropologists, sociologist, geographers, and occasional mass comm researchers, to address the issue of rising tourists “Of Asian Origin” and “Rethink Tourism in Contemporary Asia”. Although we’re only one of the two delegates from architecture (the other one was a Prof from University of Philippines, who presented 3 beautiful islands), to my surprise many of the papers do talk about architecture. One local delegate even use the design of new Majestic Hotel as an example of new boutique hotel to illustrate how heroic/nostalgic “colonialism” was brought back to life (in a positive sense) through amalgamation of “post-modernism” and “globalization” (isn’t this what archi theorists talk about?). Sadly, none of these presentations made reference to any designers/architects involved, but merely reviewing the constructs without attempting to understand the mind of the constructors. Nevertheless, what strikes me is the relevance of architecture in other disciplines, especially today when boundaries converge. It's time to break away from our own little circle and start talking to other people. Well, think I'll join more non-architectural events in future.

Among the non-architects

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The world's hottest profession

HOLLYWOOD-- Late-breaking news: the architect is not in the proverbial bottle, as previously believed, but long since popped the cork and is making it big on the silver screen.

An article in the San Francisco Chronicle details how Hollywood can't get enough of architecture. They adore the manliness of the profession, the gorgeous drawings, and the heroic architect-types who are artistic, driven and oh, so passionate...

Excerpted below but modesty forbids me from reproducing the choicest quotes from the article. Read it here.

The perception of architects as cool is evident in "There's Something About Mary," when Matt Dillon pretends to be one in an attempt to impress Cameron Diaz....

"There are very, very few professions that still have a ring of heroism about them, and architecture is one of the few that does...And it's one of the last manly professions -- you are building something outdoors." [says film historian Robert Osborne]

"Passion for your work does carry over to a passion in real life," says John Powers, a practicing architect for 35 years... The notion of them as catnip to women appears often on celluloid.

"Architecture and the act of building have a lot of metaphorical power. Building something good seems admirable in itself, beyond what it pays as work. Architecture also has a bit of the common touch, which is important for a movie hero."

Friday, September 08, 2006

Running from Sci Arc

This is the funniest thing. I did not choose to go to Sci Arc because of their approach. Now Sci Arc is coming to me- Michael Speaks is coming to TU Delft! And this whole Design Intelligence thing is coming to TU as well. (courtesy of Sci Arc, OMA etc) Achtung!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Monday, August 28, 2006

Review: The purpose of details

Just thought I'd add a couple of thoughts on the "forum" at SP, "the Purpose of Details". Was very heartened by the presence of students and staff from not just Sing Poly where it was held, but NUS as well, with our tutors and practitioners attending as well.

In a way it was sort of reminiscent of the lectures in Berlage Institute, attended by students from TU Delft, some of which came at a cost (but always with beer or wine involved! :P) For now, I'd more than make do with coffee and hokkien mee as refreshments though, but that's another story altogether.

The "Purpose of Detals forum", however, was a misnomer, on two counts:
1. It wasn't a forum, but a series of guest lectures. (This isn't necessarily a bad thing.)
2. Only one out of the three speakers really went into the poetics and logistics behind the details of his works, all of which are, in the words of Colin Seah, hair-raising. That's really saying something, for someone who's bald. (Sorry, Colin, had to take a jab at that! ;))

Yet, a highly enlightening series of lectures, each speaker himself meriting an entire guest lecture session of his own.

Kevin Low's work is simply amazing. Probably one of the best lectures I've been to, on account of learning, being entertained and completely understanding what he was talking about, helped greatly by his flawless English and exquisite drawings and photographs.

Good news: Kevin will be conducting the Year 3 Tropical Workshop at NUS. (Those lucky children! ;)) What's great about this is that Tropical Workshop conductors typically give public guest lectures. I'll definitely push for this to happen, in my capacity under TAS, as everyone deserves to see and hear what he has to show. It's that good.

Will post updates on this space regarding where and when the lecture will be. Most likely it'll be at one of the LRs at the Archi Dept, which is small, but arrangements can be made for it to be cast live in another Lecture Room.

On another note, Nazrine Seraki from Atelier Seraji will be giving a lecture on 30 August 2006 at LR 425, NUS Architecture, at 3 pm. More details can be seen here:

Hihgly recommended.

I'll leave you with some images of the Purpose of Details forum.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A look at the revamped Singapore History Museum

Some pix of the revamp of the dusty National Museum, done by W Architects I think. It's pretty sensitively done and you barely notice the new extension from the front.

The museum by night

Sunken corridor between the two blocks

The facade of the old block, facing the new.

The brick wall in the screening room, meant to be reminiscent of the red-brick old National Library

Detail of the bricks-- apparently the holes are for acoustic material

Friday, July 28, 2006

Toyo Ito would not be pleased

London, 2002:

Tanjong Pagar, 2006:

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Koolhaas blows a bubble


"...His pavilion is bigger, bolder and more expensive than any of its predecessors....Its roof is a giant, helium-filled, translucent canopy, which will rise and fall depending on weather conditions. When it is cold and windy, it will lie low; but on fine days, the cables holding it down will be loosened, and its bulbous form will rise like a balloon, higher than the gallery is essentially a joyous extravagance that stretches the definition of built form a little further."

Check out a time-lapse photo of the inflation thereof!

Read more here. More pictures here .

Saturday, July 15, 2006

AA projects review + Cooper Union show + NUS arch show

This might save you a few bucks from buying the AA Projects Review soft-cover:

Nifty web design, images a tad too small to really appreciate the work - comes off as a fancy pictureshow, and looks just about the same thing to any Projects Review from the past. (Dare I say I like the past Projects Reviews much better.)

Some images of work from Cooper Union's arch school below - hadn't seen much of their stuff since one of the early Education of an Architect books - so dropped by their end-of-year show a few weeks ago:

Some nice work, if not for the fact that everyone's models were in monotone wood, looked like every single project was done by the same person! (I love wood models though.)

Putting things in perspective (kinda), here're some images of work from the NUS arch show:

Will we ever get something that bridges between high concept and buildability, yet breaks new ground and is socially-conscious?

building blocks!

pyramide du louvre
apple store, nyc

serpentine pavilion, london
looks like architecture's returned to its geometrical roots!

Report: Let’s Tap – Architect in A Bottle

Report: Let’s Tap – Architect in A Bottle Reported by: Soh Lin Li

Can architects mould a nation?

This question never occurred in my mind till it was brought up during the Up Close & Personal pre-session of the Forum: Architect in A Bottle held on the afternoon of 10th June in the Imagination Room, just hours before the actual Forum, held in at the Level 5 Courtyard.

The forum was organized by the ReallyArchitecture [re:act], comprising architectural students, professionals and individuals interested in architecture. The aim of the forum was to encourage exchange and greater discourse between the architectural community and folks from all walks of life to create a greater awareness of the role of architecture in the everyday. It was to be a heated forum in more ways than one, amidst the beautiful backdrop of the Courtyard, nicely decorated with white roses blending with the lush foliage. Made complete with beautiful mood music and warm lighting, the courtyard was packed with 167 attendees, waiting in turn to ask the panel about the influence of architecture in their lives.

The panel was made up of Dr Edward Ng, Dr Johannes Widodo and Mr Chu Lik Ren. Dr Edward Ng is an Architecture Professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and an environmental consultant offering expert services to organizations and governments. His design works have been exhibited in the UK, Germany, Hong Kong and Singapore. Recently his “A Bridge Too Far” project received a “highly commended” recognition from AR, and it also won the 2006 HKIA Project Outside HK Award. Dr Johannes Widodo is an Architecture lecturer with a joint appointment as Research Leader in Asian Cities Cluster to Asia Research Institute (ARI) at the National University of Singapore. His area of specialization includes architecture, urban history and morphology of Southeast Asian cities, Asian modernity, and heritage conservation. Mr Chu Lik Ren is an Architecture lecturer at the Singapore Polytechnic. In 2004, he was one of the 20 young architects featured in URA’s “20 Under 45” exhibition.

Mr Colin Seah, who is the principal architect of the Ministry of Design, Singapore, moderated the panel discussion and Ms Gee Miaw Miin, Manager of Lee Kong Chian Reference Library, opened the session. The forum covered issues such as the re-definition of the architect’s roles, the influence of commercialization on architectural designs, HDB as the biggest community architect in Singapore, and community projects. Issues related to the Exhibition: Let’s Tap, such as the definition of space we want to live in, and reviving the memories and histories of architecture being abandoned by its inhabitants were discussed at the forum too.

The exhibitors of the Exhibition: Let’s Tap, which ran from the 3rd to 17th June at the level 8 Promenade, were also invited to the Pre-Session of the Forum, held in a Up Close and Personal round-table discussion format with the panelists. The objective of this round-table discussion was to provide a platform for interested parties to interact with the speakers on a more intimate level. Members of the Singapore Institute of Architects were invited for this intimate interaction and special guests included Pioneer Architect Mr Tay Kheng Soon, who is the Adjunct Professor of Architecture at the National University of Singapore. Mr Gene Tan, Deputy Director of INVENT, facilitated the session. The session kicked off with a discussion on the architecture of the National Library Building, and views were bandied around amongst the participants. One of the points raised was that the blueprint of the building should be documented and archived in NLB’s collections, including the architectural drawings of the other libraries.

The evolution of library buildings and usages were discussed and many felt that libraries these days have become more user-centric than books-centric. Some participants also felt that the design of the National Library has to address issues of being a research centre and a public space, albeit with Singaporean attributes. Finally the question was thrown to the floor: Do architects think that they can change the world or shape a nation? Just like the great poets in past epochs who generated emotional content crucial to the formation of a nation, the shared sentiment was that the architect does have a role in the making of a place, a nation.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


We've come to the finale...
shots from the last day.

Kudos everyone!

We've come a long way...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Late in the night- let's TAP!

It's 2.13am now, and I have not completed my video for the exhibit! Launch is later today, and boxes of rubbish are still lying around our exhibition area.
Negativities (is there such a word?) aside, things are going pretty smoothly, albeit a little late.

So far the exhibition is looking good. Thanks so much to all the helpers who came to help- Zitao, Aaron, Eileen, Kengsan, Xintian, Li Han, Stacy, Phang, Ong Yeun, Sin Mei, Yanting, etc. Without you guys we would not have made it. This leads me to muse on the importance of friendship. What would make one stay up so late in the night just to set up "dinasour bone" like structure? Friendship. Paste muji files together with scotch tape? Friendship. A friend comes in to help when one is in need. A big thanks Y'all!

Kudos too to Ngai Keong who has nary a 40 blinks in the last two days of setup. His unceasing energy is THE reason we've finished the structure! GOing back to the dinasour bones, that's what the librarian staff have called the thing- dinasour. Bluescope calls it the centipede, and someone commented it looks like a gym.

Come drop by to see for yourself!