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.