Monday, May 21, 2007

Architecture City Exhibition @ Vivocity, 24 to 28 May

Hi all! (i.e. EVERYONE and anyone at all who might be interested in Architecture, and who will be in Singapore from May 24th to 28th!)
The annual Architecture City Exhibition is on! It is held from May 24th to 28th, at Vivocity (click on above image for details of where exactly). Concurrently, the Internal Exhibition is held at NUS Architecture itself, from 24th May all the way til 4th June.

My thesis project will be featured as well, so do go down and take a look! =P
Here's a little write-up that I did for the publicity of the event. Questions posed by this year's TAS committee.
1) How would you describe this year's exhibition and what makes it different from last year's?

The first thing that probably strikes me is the venue of this year's set-up at Vivocity. The selection of Vivocity, to me, is one that bears a semblance of an allegory - that new, budding ideas, from Singapore's premier university, no less - are hatching within the belly of (what may or may not be seen as) an architectural masterpiece from Toyo Ito, himself a genius of an architect.

We have yet to see the outcome of this year's exhibition, but having looked at the preparations, it certainly seems to be a step in the right direction - well-evolved from last year's. Having co-organised the exhibition last year, Project'n at Marina Square, I can feel the pain that the organising team this year must have gone through thus far. If anything, that's reason enough for anyone at all - at least, anyone with any ounce of interest in architecture and/or design - to visit the exhibition!

Naturally, the injection of fresh ideas and the change in display mechanisms would set the backdrop for an exhibition that I hope would be more engaging than ever before, especially for public viewers. The idea, perhaps, is not to do an exhibition that is perfect, but rather one that generates excitement, imagination and plants the seed for greater ideas in the exhibitions to come. This certainly applies to the exhibits themselves as well - visions of architecture from youth, who themselves are raw, unpolished and full of zest (and naivete!).

Well, I for one am certainly anticipating it.


2) What role does this exhibition have in affecting the average Singaporean's view of architecture?

The large crowds that last year's exhibition drew - if that's anything to go by at all - were certainly made aware of the wealth of talent, craft and intellect (or dare I say, lack thereof, depending on who was viewing the exhibition!) behind the various student projects on display.

At some level, it certainly changes the perception of architecture as a trade that's meant for the upper crust, a chichi pursuit, so to speak. Exhibitions such as these have brought architecture to the hoi polloi, the very people for whom architecture is meant.

This has been some sort of a running theme in the city exhibitions of the past few years. I recall one in which the exhibits were actually plastered onto hoardings for what is now the Coffee Club along Orchard Road - how's that for bringing architecture to the people! While unpolished, I guess it made people subconsciously aware of the work that goes on behind the insular ivory walls of the University. The following year's, People Architecture at Paragon, carried on the theme of "architecture for the people", and that certainly rubbed off on the exhibition that my committee organised last year, Project'n, which identified with the (architectural) hopes and dreams of that particular crop of students.

The Bohemian-ness of "harbouring hopes and dreams for the betterment of people" is what we
architects/architecture students thrive on. Even if that means we're wildly deluded, at least we're making meaningful drawings and fancy models out of it.

And curiously, the inherent chichiness of the graphics and fancy models is the very thing that the average consumerist Singaporean would appreciate! Oh, the irony.

3) There are opinions that siting an architectural exhibition in a shopping complex reduces architecture to a consumer product; degrading it into nothing but styles and trends. What are your thoughts on the siting of the City Exhibition?
Unfortunately, it might be construed as such. However, the siting of the exhibition in a shopping centre is more to catch the large traffic flow along the circulation channels rather than to sell architecture as a consumer product, I feel. Yet, no one can deny that style and trend are inseparable bedfellows of architecture, whether that really is a good thing, or not.

We are, in some strange way, selling our ideas and visions of architecture to the masses (at least, as far as the Vivocity "invisible populace" goes), albeit not for money. If the visitors look hard enough, they'll realise that there's much within and behind these ideas.

I do think what makes the architecture exhibition a bit more consumerist in nature is not just in its siting, but its being in tandem with the industrial design exhibition. Now, those guys really are designing consumer products! (And boy, do they do it well.) Hopefully, the architecture exhibit can be the little conscience, the little Jiminy Cricket that tells the viewer that, hey, the vast majority these projects were borne out of an awareness for a certain social condition, responding towards a certain social malaise... that they are - and I say it once again - for the people.

4) The most obvious question regarding any exhibition is the selection of exhibits. Could you describe and give your views on the selection process and criterion?

Well, I can't really say much to this, as I don't quite know what goes on behind the selection processes. It is probably widely assumed that the top projects from each year gets selected - and there's a whole gamut of variables, and maybe a whole other set of criteria, behind that.

What exactly deems a project a "top" project? I have no idea. Perhaps it has to be in line with the theme of the exhibition. (Although Concept:Reality is a broad enough theme to encompass any hypothetical architectural project!) Perhaps it has to be visually captivating. Or perhaps it has to lobby for world peace.

What I also know, again from behind the scenes of last year's exhibition, is that given more
exhibition floor area, a wider range of projects would have been exhibited. That's the sad result of having to pay a hefty rent for the floor space that we do get....

5) If you had to predict the future of Singapore architecture based on this exhibition, what would the future be?

I haven't actually seen the undergraduate works that are to be exhibited, but from my impression of the graduate thesis projects, each harbours the greater wish for design sophistication and social consciousness in architecture. Having been to several schools of architecture in Asia, Europe and America, I would concur that the NUS projects are actually of a rather high quality. Surprise, surprise.

I'm not saying this out of ego or loyalty or delusion, it really is the case. What might be lacking, however, is the free-spiritedness and the rogue quality that you might find in the average European/American student. Singapore students - and Singapore architecture - tends to follow norms and styles (although they often do quite a sophisticated job out of it!).

What is heartening is that this is beginning to change, for the better. Many of the thesis projects are nothing like you've seen before - they've rubbed themselves off of the "NUS style of projects" - and are beginning to show signs of that rogueness and carefree (yet wary) abandon.

And while the future of Singapore architecture may, on land, only go as far as 699 square kilometres would allow, it also means that the only way that it will go is up.

I'll post some preview images of some of the work that will be exhibited in due time!