Thursday, October 02, 2008

And while we're at it...

Man + Environment
Archifest Design Forum
16-17 October. Drama Centre, NLB.

Featuring Richard Hassell, Andrew Maynard, Jo Noero, Ken Yeang and more.

More here.

A little bit of publicity...

...for the event organisers.

More at the main Archifest website.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Really Ar? 2 - "So This Is Masterplanning!"

Hi good people,

WE ARE BACK WITH REALLY AR!!!! As you would already know, Really Ar? is Re:act’s design sharing session where we invite designers to talk about their recent projects. This sharing session is open to anyone who might be interested in architecture and design and through this we hope to encourage meaningful discussion of real issues and new ideas! The theme for August’s Really Ar? is “So this masterplanning!” Come find out more this coming Tuesday, 5 Aug 08, 7.30-9.30pm at Night & Day Bar, ( 139 Selegie Road ).

Presenting 3 Speakers:

1. Philip Tan, Surbana

2. Prasoon Kumar, HOK

3. Yu Sern Hong, 5+Design, LA

Special Presentations:

1. Elaine Tan, URA - on AUDE Programme-

2. Chong Keng Hua - on [re:act] Initiatives

We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pecha Kucha Beijing, 18 May 2008

It is barely an hour after the event when I decided to blog about it here, before I forget what this largely unmemorable series of lectures was about.

Pecha Kucha, as the name suggests (you can find the background of how this name came about on the web, I’m pretty sure, as it has been widely publicised..) is chit-chat in japanese. The lectures i just sat through (figure of speech, really, since I was standing the whole time due to the lack of seats *poor planning!*) was simply it - random chit chat. Nothing rigourous. Not even remotely. Not most of it anyway. Most of the speakers (except, maybe Neville Mars and Gregor Hoheisel from Graft) could hardly get past advertising their wares. There was even a Chinese Architectural Magazine Editor who presented “How to become a Famous Architect” during the lecture as one of the guest speakers. You may say, “Hey, I’ve heard something similar circulating on the web!”. Guess what, you probably have! It was something lifted wholly off the net, added to it some low resolution images (probably downloaded randomly from the internet too).. Speaks volumes about the quality of Chinese Architectural Magazines or media.

The Pecha Kucha concept is to allow each speaker 20 seconds for 20 slides. This works out to about 6 minutes and 40 seconds for each speaker. As I mentioned earlier, most speakers could hardly get into their work in depth.. Some speakers had to resort to presenting something totally irrelevant to what they do. For example, a fashion designer started talking about how happy and free spirited Swing (the dance) has made her, and how she would like to bring that to Beijing. Totally free-spirited, I would say, but it wasn’t really why I was there at Pecha Kucha for in the first place.

Some advice for the organisers: While we could probably talk to the presenters in greater depth after the lectures, it would be a good idea to manage the lectures in such a way where some depth is explored during each of the 6 minute 40 seconds. In this way, all those who came for the event could bring something memorable away from the event even when they don’t manage to catch the speaker after the lecture. Perhaps the choice of topics could be more specific, and included in the event listing, so that visitors like us can know beforehand what to expect. I really don’t appreciate standing for more than two hours only to listen to a pirate display her loot as the last speaker.

Next Pecha Kucha in Beijing will take place sometime before the Olympics. Let’s hope it gets better!

Some interesting links:

Extracted on 18 May 2008 from

Thursday, May 15, 2008



In my library account stands the records of books borrowed from the architecture library. It shows the book code which would point the exact location in real space where you can find it. Yet its physical location- the architecture library- is no more.

The librarians extended my loan till June.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Dean and team during this morning's briefing

Briefing today. The leadership team is all about "the show must go on!"
Photos from today. Walked around the building. Accepted the truth. Prayed for hope.



(For the headlines on the event in the Dutch news, click RTL)

I entered the faculty of architecture at 9.10am, got to the 5th level and there was water all over the floor. The lifts were not working so I walked up all five floors. I walked to the tap and got myself a cup of water.

After approximately 5 minutes, the alarm sounded. I was still carrying my cup of water while going with the flow of people leaving the building. We were all herded to the carpark- that was when the fire at the 6th floor became visible.

The fire looked small, so at that time people were more struck by wonder than worry. The email sent out by the faculty administration announced that the fire started from a "short circuit caused by a faulty water pipe" at the 6th floor.

The fire could not be controlled and continued to ravage the rest of the building. At approximately 5pm or so, part of the building collapsed. At 5.18pm, D.J. van den Berg, President of the Executive Board, released an email statement saying that "no conclusive statement can be given about the exact cause of the fire". Fortunately there were not casualties in the fire.

This is the closest I've been to a headlines tragedy. With the initial wave of sensationalism worn off, I now feel a sense of loss. Loss for people whose works have gone up in flames. Loss of a place that I had some emotional attachment to. Loss of an entire faculty. As I type this I can still see, from my window, smoke billowing from the destroyed building.

At home home now, I turn to my bible for some key to the event, and chance upon Deuteronomy 5:4 "The Lord talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire." This gives me a sense of awe of how powerful God is. Am also reminded of the verse from 2 Corinthians 4:18 “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” The temporal nature of the material world and its systems is quite often overlooked until it collapses. It has collapsed this time- literally.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


left to right: Salomon Frausto, Sanford Kwinter, Peter Trummer

Sanford Kwinter was in Berlage to launch his 20-years-in-the-making book= Far from Equilibrium. Looking every bit the mad scientist that he was, Kwinter captivated with his sincerity and self-deprecating attitude. If you've ever tried to read his book Architectures of Time, you will realise that everything you've thought was deep and complex writing was really only surface treatment.

The book, written within a 20 year time frame, where much of the essays which were published in the ANY magazine in the 90's, was produced as a reminder that today's culture was a production of the past, whether a past that had happened or not- radical an-amnesia, he calls it.

I crept up to him in the cafeteria and asked for him to sign the book. He was nice to initiate some conversation. Despite my belief that I could make small talk with anyone, the fact that Kwinter listened to everything I said made it a tad intimidating, yet surprisingly refreshing.

I pored over his book and was pleasantly surprised at various fun things in it- change in font size, secret essays hidden within flaps. Good buy.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Pecha Kucha Beijing 2008

Thanks Jan for the cover! Pecha Kucha Beijing will be held on May 18, 2008 for those who are interested.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Friend Ren Horng Yee, who presented at Pecha Kucha, with me and Ilmar, my classmate

View from the front row

Lesley Moore

Pecha Kucha in Rotterdam! There I was, yesterday night. (Yoda like...)

Having been to Rojak's and having been very impressed with jing's photograph's and boo jun feng's the changi murals, i must say pecha kucha rotterdam came across as quite a disappointment.

The evening had a foreboding start, and went on with a sequence of designers/artists who were either not able or not keen to share their work in a passionate and meaningful way. Some designers were downright bad. The selection of presenters could have been more stringent.

All was not gloom and doom however. The evening had its nice bits that overall, made the night worth it. The casual dutch atmosphere (as you can see in the photo) was one thing I thoroughly enjoyed. You can't find a more "bo chap" attitude in Singapore. The Rojak session that I attended was super-charged in quite a heady manner, what with the hosts making innuendos throughout the session; Pecha Kucha Rotterdam on the other hand felt like a really casual gathering of people with two less-than-competent-but-still-heartwarming hosts speaking in their second language, English.

The saving grace of the night was-besides my good friend Ren Horng Yee's presentation of his final project, and no this is not just a disclaimer- the works of a two-person design firm Lesley Moore. It puzzled me for some time where the name came from, since their names were not Lesley and Moore. The name of the firm is actually a pun on the phrase "Less is More"! They told me that Goethe was the one who first said it, so let's remember that, and not attribute it solely to Mies.

I was already immediately impressed by the fact that they do the layout of Mark magazine. They spoke about a series of really respectable works- a font inspired by escher's multidimensional staircase, a huge digital clock that was lit up in an analog fashion by friends turning the fluorescent lights on and off, a stencil typography that was formed by two basic shapes. A fantastic piece of work was a short clip they did for Dave Clark called White Noise. The concept is white powder exploding and arranging to form text, the white substance being an allusion to the white noise we see on screen. Conceptually very fierce!

Had a discussion with Ilmar during the break. I asked him what makes Dutch design Dutch. He observed that Dutch design has 3 characteristics:

1. Couldn't-care-less attitude
2. You have to make a joke out of everything
3. There has to be some subliminal message in the design
4. No sense of aesthetics (my addition)

I find these points really befitting Dutch designers.

The day ended with a nice chat with Karin and Alex from Lesley Moore.

Netherlands 1.06pm, signing out!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Really Ar? Again?

Hot on the heels (well, if you're looking at time in the more drawn-out scale of things) of the first Really Ar?, a pecha-kucha inspired showcase of thematically-relevant projects, comes the second session.

Really Ar? Again?

Held in an informal setting, in which we invite a few people with interesting ideas to present to an audience of young architects, the objective of the Really Ar? sessions is to promote exchange of good ideas.

This will be our second such event. (The first Really Ar was held at the end of January this year, and attracted about 40-50 people.) We hope to hold the second on 19th June this year, a Thursday evening

Our format is to have three speakers present for 15 minutes each, after which there will a Q&A session. Each presentation is hoped to be presented in a succinct manner - a single project, or a single idea, with an emphasis on the thought processes behind the product.

Theme and Call for Speakers

We are looking for speakers to present interesting designs, built and unbuilt. We are looking for ideas that are intelligent, fresh and distinctive. The projects need not be large in scale, but hopefully groundbreaking and radical in some way.

The theme for Really Ar? Again? is 'Masterplanning'. We chose this theme as many Singaporean and Singapore-based firms have been invited to do grand masterplans for other countries, but ironically, aren't given the same autonomy to plan their own home country. As such, few people really see the fruit of their labour.

If you would like to share your firm's work, or your personal ideas, work and research, do drop us a line. Suggestions on other topics are much welcome for future Really Ar? sessions.
One more thing - fancy poster coming soon.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Frank Gehry asks "Then what?"

Who would know that an interview with Frank Gehry could be so entertaining? I like what he says about the Architect having to bring something of this own to the table in terms of aesthetics. He also speaks about collaboration, and I thought what was interesting from that was the people the person that he chose to collaborate with. While we often talk about collaboration with the community, with people from different disciplines, what was intriguing about this collaboration was it was between 2 brilliant people. I hope that motivates us to be brilliant at what we do. I believe, only then, can collaboration reach its fullest potential. Ganbante!

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Brick house, London 2001-2005
First time I would ever brag that I like a brick house.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Big Brother's REALLY watching.

This comes about a month behind, but here's a sneak peak at what Rem Koolhaas has "architectured" for an island in Dubai that aspires to be... well, Manhattan.

Image courtesy of The New York Times; you can read the article here.

The round building... no, object... has been likened to the Death Star, which featured rather prominently in Star Wars (I have no idea which episode):

Looks more like a giant eyeball watching over the city to me... Can you say "Here's looking at you, kid"?

Well, make your own judgement.

Lebbeus Woods, architecture theorist and artist extraordinaire, has. (I say this because I'm a big fan of his drawings, many of which are very post-apocalyptic, for lack of a better description.) Read his blog entry, Delirious Dubai, here.

His blog's a very good read actually - ideas abound, and comments and criticisms of these ideas abound.

He says this of Dubai:

"...built up rapidly over the past few years on the wealth gotten from the world’s greed for oil—and more recently as an unregulated sanctuary for cash—it has no depth of history or indigenous culture, no complexity, no conflicts, no questions about itself, no doubts, in short, nothing to stand in the way of its being shaped into the ultimate neo-liberal Utopia."

And of Koolhaas' proposal, he asks:

What, for example, are the space-organization possibilities of networks of information exchange, rather than streets? What are the architectural design possibilities of synthetics, rather than steel or concrete building frames typical of high-rise construction? What are the possibilities for increasing choices in non-hierarchically organized urban spaces, rather than classical, Cartesian systems? And so on—the list of new possibilities is long.

It's with quite a bit of irony to me, that Koolhaas, who, fifteen years ago, so heavily criticised Singapore in the highly-exalted bumper book S, M, L, XL for being a tabula rasa haven for being almost exactly what Dubai is today, is pandering to and relishing in the bland tastes that these very tabula rasa scenarios emanate... and dare I imagine, cashing in in the process.
Woods has this to say, in closing:
"Or maybe he believes, true to his post-Modernist roots, that the past offers the best model for the future ... Or maybe he simply doesn’t have a vision for the future. ... The world’s attention is focused on Dubai, and on Koolhaas and other architecture stars, and because—like it or not—what they do is taken as a model for the future, even when it is, how shall I say, not nearly good enough."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The ArchRecord Interview: Sir Peter Cook, Page 2 | Features | Architectural Record

The ArchRecord Interview: Sir Peter Cook, Page 2 | Features | Architectural Record: "But the architect at best has a wonderful mandate to create and dabble in almost anything. And I hope it will long be so. As long as you can say, “Look, the person sitting behind me is actually much more interested in sociology, and the guy sitting in front of me is into studying hedgehogs, and they both have something to offer architecture,” it’s a wonderful mandate for indulgence and speculation and creativity, if you make it so."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Burj Too Far...

...or too high, for that matter.

A Saudi billionaire prince is keen on giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "joining the mile high club", if this is anything to go by.

Yes, a mile-high building. Dwarfing the under-construction Burj Dubai (585 m high) and a good two-thirds taller the upcoming Burj Mubarak in Kuwait (1001 m)... Might we have to coin the term spacescraper soon?

Well it seems to me like tall buildings in the Middle East is very much a burj-eoning trend.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

And the Pritzker goes to...

Monsieur Jean Nouvel. Here's an article about it (courtesy The Independent, UK):

Jean Nouvel looks like a villain from a James Bond movie. He is large. He is completely bald. He always wears black, except in the summer, when he always
wears white. He is celebrated for his rages but also for his generosity and his
long friendships, even with his rivals.

Yesterday, Nouvel, 62, the French architect who has designed some of the most memorable buildings in the world in the past 20 years, won the Pritzker prize – the Nobel of architecture. It was a poke in the eye for his many critics. It was a riposte to those who believe that all modern buildings look the same. Famously, no two Jean Nouvel buildings look alike.

He looks quite a bit like Lim Kay Siu if you ask me (see last picture)! That aside, Fivefootway has this to say about Nouvel's award, in the context of the larger picture, with a slight dash of cynicism and a serving of wit.

Me, it hasn't quite sunk in yet, but here are some images for a bit of that instant gratification.

A nice bald shave and a dapper black suit for whoever guesses the names for the three projects above correctly! (Images courtesy of rightful owners.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Singapore 1:1 Exhibition at the URA

Had a chance to attend the Singapore 1:1 Forum last week, held in conjunction with the Singapore 1:1 Island exhibition at the URA Gallery, the second in what I hope is a (longer) series of exhibits on architecture in Singapore. The first was Singapore 1:1 City two years ago. The exhibition documents key architectural highlights in Singapore, chronologised into 'ages', from the 1960s til today.

Moderated by Larry Ng, director of the Architecture and Urban Design Excellence (AUDE) programme at the URA, the forum was given its kick-off by Dr Wong Yunn Chii, the curator of the exhibition, who spoke on the processes behind curating the exhibition, and the mode of selection of its theme (and projects). In so doing, the audience was given a live commentary-cum-critique on many of the selected exhibited schemes, which felt like a Brief History of Modern Singapore Architecture 101 (in a most positive way, of course). It was enlightening, as it was my first time listening to a talk on curatorial thought processes, and on viewing the exhibition after the forum, it lended additional credence to the exhibition itself. The photography for some of these projects was pretty impressive as well.

Mr Arthur Aw of Jurong Town Corporation later gave his insight on his eight or so years of working at the Jurong Town Hall, itself a Brutalist-styled design from 1969 (by Architects Team 3) which still commands much awe, if audience response was anything to go by. A quote from Mr Aw: "If someone joined JTC, in the old building (Jurong Town Hall), I would have got to know him within three months. Now, if someone joins JTC, in the new building (Jurong Summit), it would take me a year to get to know him."

This simple comment brings forth further, deeper questions of modern office-space typologies, and is a silent criticism on developers' quests to go for taller, lower-footprint skyscrapers. The latter little more than fulfilling efficiency, and, in the case of Jurong Summit, are probably far less of an architectural marker in time, than buildings designed to make their presence felt - Jurong Town Hall would be a case in point.

Ms Rohani Baharin from CPG Airports then gave a detailed talk on everyone's favourite airport - Changi, documenting the progress it's made since the opening of Terminal 1 back in the 1970s. This was a very refreshing point of view - one uses or views an airport on a very microscopic level, compared to the people who are actually planning it, everything from its masterplanning to its infrastructure to the little architectural details that contribute to the airport being runaway best-in-the-world for several years running. (Nugget of interesting information: There are baggage carousels running underground from terminal to terminal, below the existing MRT line!)

The audience was treated to a video of the conceptualisation process behind T3 as well, with details of the now-famous skylighting flaps, and the green walls and large expanses of curtain-wall glass. Ms Baharin's talk ended off with optimistic hope for T4, which has now been confirmed to be in the pipeline.

Mr Tan Kok Hiang of Forum Architects gave an enlightening talk on the thoughts and design processes behind three of his projects - the Henderson Community Centre, the Assyafaah Mosque (model pictured above) and the new entrance for the Singapore Science Centre. Cultural significance and relevance lend themselves to Forum's projects, and these show up in details, both highly microscopic - for instance, in the Arabesque screens of the Mosque - and macroscopic, in the primordial Fibonacci Sequence system that guides the new landscaped plaza leading to the Science Centre. It left the audience with the feeling that architecture indeed innovates, and is meant to innovate, while serving more fundamental demands of space, form-making and client/programmatic demands.

The forum concluded with a colourful Q&A session, in which the speakers furthered their respective talks with commentaries on the future of architecture and architectural innovation in Singapore, while keeping true to what we've held proud thus far - efficient and "pleasant" design. This is a timely shot in the arm as we are seeking a myriad set of answers to the perennial "So, what's next?" question, in the context of local architecture.

All in all, it was a talk that neatly wrapped up the Singapore 1:1 Island exhibition, itself a neat set-up. I bought the concomitant book - even with slight reservations on its graphic design - as I know it will become a handy historical document on how far Singapore architecture has come, as it is itself a history-documenting book.

The Singapore 1:1 Exhibition has been extended til April 11th, and can be viewed during the URA's opening hours.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A game of Go

What has a game of Go to do with Architecture, one might ask. For those familiar with the chess game of Go (Weiqi), one will relate to the principles of STRATEGY, PATIENCE, FAR-SIGHTEDNESS, ETHICS.

But, there is more. Let me share this rare moment of personal relevation.
I was re-watching one of the ending episodes of Hikaru No Go anime (about the Weiqi chess game) when one particular part of the anime touched me so much, it actually made me tear.

A quick introduction before I elaborate. This anime is about this boy who learnt the weiqi game and became very passionate. However he experienced a setback(his mentor left the world) and decided to quit the professional world of Go. But a sudden turn of events made him realise his undying love for the game and the support from his "friends/comrades" in the world of Go. He decided to return to the Go matches after a prolonged break. Upon his return, one of the master instructors who has been following the boy's development made a brief but deep comment to another instructor:
(here's the exchange of words between the 2 instructors, A & B)

A >> Friend, do you know that Go is a two player game? B >> Of course I know that A >> No, you don't A >> You can't play Go by yourself .... B >> I said I know that A >> No, you don't. You need two people .... A masterful game cannot happen with just one genius. Right, friend? You need two people with equal genius. Two....... When you have two, you can finally take a step towards the divine move.

I would like to paraphrase this:

Friend, do you know that Architecture is a multi-player game?
You can't play Architecture by yourself ... You need many people. A masterful stroke, a meaningful design, an impactful outreach to humanity through architecture .... cannot happen with just one genius.
Right friend? You need many people, many with passion, intellect, will and drive. Many people playing the game .... when you have all these people, you can finally take a step towards the divine move.

I am not sure how clear I am able to express this. Maybe it is already something several of you have felt. Maybe it's just a naive thought of my own. Nevertheless, it has struck a chord within me and ... .... very few things in the world can actually make me tear...

The Modern Day Architect

Life as an architect/ architecture student can get pretty daunting sometimes. Here's something that I hope would bring a smile to your face amidst all those unimaginable datelines.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Young Urbanist Programme Season 1

This is an article written by Lyn-Anne, the Managing Editor of Five Foot Way Magazine on the recent YUP. She did such a good job, we thought you should not miss it. Find out more about Five Foot Way Magazine here.

The Young Urbanist Programme [YUP] held on Monday 10th March 2008, was a 1-day workshop initiated by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and executed in collaboration with [re:act] and held at the URA Centre. It was an enrichment programme for primary school students during their school holiday and was attended by 30 P5 students from Radin Mas Primary School and River Valley Primary School. [re:act] was engaged by URA to plan, organize and facilitate the workshop, as well as to curate the exhibition. Through problem-based urban activities, the programme aimed to instill creativity and sensitivity in our future generation, while giving them a taste of being an architect or urban designer for a day.

The objectives of YUP were to raise awareness and educate students on the importance of a well-designed built environment, as well as to introduce simple Urban Design (UD) and planning concepts, so as to build up an urban design-conscious culture from young.

Matthew Chong, a teacher at River Valley Primary School, said it was important for the students to learn about their environment at a young age so they would be aware of their surroundings and be careful in the way they live.

The programme also hoped to encourage students to nurture a keen sense of observation and interest in their built environment and to inspire students to think, design and plan as architects and planners through a design exercise and presentation session. Using URA’s City Gallery as an aid to introduce Singapore’s urban planning & design and coupled with games to add interest to the learning, the workshop was intensive, fast-paced, energetic and creative.

Armed with the YUP Activity Booklet produced by URA, the students were broken up into teams of 5, each led by a facilitator and a teacher. They went on an outdoor site study in the vicinity of the URA Centre and returned to an art and craft session on model-making, site-planning and designing to simulate the real work of architects and urban planners. The students were all in laughter as they cut out pieces of cardboard windows and dabbed their Styrofoam trees with glue.

Claire McColl of Radin Mas Primary School said she learnt how to be creative with cardboard and plastic bottles and also how to work in a team.

The tasks given to the students helped to reinforce their learning and understanding of the built environment.

Teo Hui Ting, a student of River Valley Primary School, said that through the workshop, she finally understood how hard it was to plan and build a city.

At the end of the workshop, students got to present their findings and designs to professional planners and architects. Parents of these students were also invited to sit in the presentation to give encouragement and support to their children. As such, the workshop reached out not only to students, but also to teachers and parents.

Chong Keng Hua, of [re:act], said they are in talks with URA to organize more of such programmes and they hope to include students from polytechnics, ITEs and even parents in future workshops.

FFW was at the workshop and we noticed that even though there were chaotic moments at times (kids will be kids), the students were genuinely serious about making their models as realistic as possible and almost did not flinch when they presented their works to the professionals at URA. This collaborative initiative by [re:act] and URA was a rousing success and everyone involved left with a greater appreciation of our city’s architects and urban planners and new friendships.

FFW applauds the efforts of [re:act] to introduce art and design to students at such a young age and we are looking forward to more of such inspiring initiatives.

Lyn-Anne is the managing editor of FFW and she loves photography and film-making.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Penguin Effect

No profound philosophical or architectural debate here, but I thought this was a rather straight-forward and easy-to-understand clip from National Geographic which demonstrate on strategies that architects use in building small spaces. It does bring out certain issues for further thought though. I was just thinking, Japan's really tight space constraints has resulted in many innovative solutions. The refinement of these solutions result in architecture that is often efficient, clever and almost appear effort-less. The Japanese designers have managed to take something challenging and turn them into opportunities. That is certainly something we can learn from in Singapore.

So far, our space constraints have mainly led us to the same typology of HDB blocks year after year. As competition for space increases, the only thing that has really changed, is the HDB block growing higher and expanding laterally into a screen. Time for a re-think? More like overdue. Why should landed property only be for semi-detached houses and the like? Would it work to have a cluster of Penguin Houses, which though small, make it affordable for more people who want an alternative to high-rise living? It's all about creativity and offering choices, no? Which brings me to another interesting thought. Notice how penguins who live in some of the coldest, harshest environments still manage to look mighty gentlemanly and sophisticated in their simple but almost designer-like black and white suit ensemble? Now, that's some creative designing for you!

Friday, March 21, 2008


I was at MVRDV today!

OMA, check.
UN studio, check.
MVRDV, check.



Gustav Terragni, Danteum, 1938

I am listening to a radio commercial about beautiful homes and rolling pastures, the homes designed by architect john shurre. Now there is something disdainful about architects being in commercials, and the word architect spoken by non-architects. I ponder on my feeling of disdain and I've come to think that outside the architecture world, the word architect is equivalent to the word decorator, one who panders to the needs of client and developer. Who in the world would think architects are intellectuals/avant gardes/social reformers? No one, except architects themselves.

There is something distasteful - and sad - about that.

Pessimist me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Theo Jansen lectured in TU Delft last Thursday. Just a brief introduction for those who do not know him, he is a kinetic sculpture artist who builds wind powered walking "creatures" from wire ducts. He is a true-blue showman whose stage presence has already been tirelessly rehearsed- jokes from a Dutchman which are actually funny!

One cannot help but marvel at the extent the movement of these creatures makes one think of real animals. When the wind blows at the animals, it starts off a series of movements within the creature's complex joints that gives the illusion of walking. And it is this act of walking (which Jansen explains as an evolution of the wheel), stopping, and reacting to water, which makes these creatures so compellingly alive.

16 years of perfecting this art. I wonder if my short-lived interests will cut short my quest for excellence...back to the drawing board...

Lucid Dreaming Redux... Parallel Universes, Parallel Projects?

While I was reading up on Philip K Dick (on Wikipedia, I must admit), and on recollecting some of the themes of films that have been adapted from his work, it occurred to me that a recurring theme in his work are that of parallel universes and simulacra. These tend to become plot vehicles and/or set pieces for the antihero characters in his novels... say, the possibility of viewing "parallel scenario of the future" which allows prospective criminals to be apprehended before the crime is actually committed, in "Minority Report"; or multiple identities, and therefore multiple trajectories of life, courtesy of a mind-altering drug, in "A Scanner Darkly".

(On the same page, for a truly trippy experience, rent "Altered States" which starred a younger and more follicled Ed Harris.)

I couldn't help but notice that Sern Hong's "Pirated City" thesis project bore themes that reverberated with the above. The constant link-up of his projects between Los Angeles and Singapore - and even the mechanics of the execution of the projects (Jawn's and Sern Hong's collaborative "Verticity" being one of them) - is somewhat akin to drawing a line in an attempt to connect those parallel simulacra (in this case, the time-space trajectory in LA and that in Singapore, or visions of which). I might be pushing it here - and it's likely that Sern Hong drew from similar sources - but what we might be looking at is a treasure-trove of material that can be drawn from, and which are still being drawn from, three decades after Dick's seminal work. (No pun or innuendo intended at all.)

Pirated City

Bleak cities in various stages of dystopia, which in this day and age could just well be defined as those which pride digital media exchange over the power of physical architecture, as backdrops of Philip Dick's protagonists - "Bladerunner" being the best example, mirroring Los Angeles in dystopia) - could've also led to that thought...

Blade Runner

Reading that Dick drew upon Carl Jung's theories and hypotheses was something very enlightening (and slightly goosebump-raising) as well, as his "collective unconscious" theory was something substantially referenced in my M.Arch thesis. This may be a bit of a far reach, but the whole rhizome idea which premises the thesis project - whether biological or Deleuzian - bases itself on multiple entities which function independently, and are almost mutually exclusive save for their source. One could (in a state of lucidity, probably) allude this to parallel space-time universes which begin from the same event, or multiple personalities originating from the same person, each personality functioning and behaving differently and taking completely different trajectories.

The Deleuzian Rhizome (or its unfathered variant) in the flesh!

And as Hollywood draws upon these great works on existentialism and the multiple self from yesteryear, so too do architecture students in various states of delirium, and boy, isn't that a whole lot of fun. For if space and time keep going in an endless continuum, and if we think there are multiple "space-time" entities, then it would follow that there will always be parallel universes from which our imagination (and architecture ideas!) can be drawn.

Lucid Dreaming

Picked up a couple of books which are proving to be a rather interesting read - "Flow" and "Creativity", both by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (that was not a typographical error!), on the recommendation of Ronald, our very own archijournalist. Csikszentmihalyi was the former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. (Interesting that he's the father of one of the associate professors of the MIT Media Labs as well.)

"Flow" documents the state of concentration so focused that it amounts to absolute absorption in an activity, and that in essence leads to pleasure, typified by "an exhilirating feeling of transcendence" over one's sense of time and one's emotional problems.

That is to say, the level of pleasurability of any activity is directly variable with how much "flow" one attains, and the theory goes that this flow can actually be controlled, by "setting ourselves challenges - tasks that are neither too difficult nor too simple for our abilities".

Now, if this already sounds like a self-help book to you ("How to Lose a Guy/Girl in Ten Days", "How to be in Touch with your Inner Self", "Feng Shui by Lillian Too" - is there even a "Feng Shui by Lillian Wan"? - or the ilk), it probably is. However, much in the book is referenced to - and derived from - two decades of psychological research, and in reading it, the book does suggest ways of tuning yourself into that state of concentration and consciousness. Translate all that into something that motivates, and you get a bestseller.

And then some...

I'm barely done with the first, but the second, "Creativity", which bases itself on the Flow Theory, is starting to get interesting as well. While the first book dealt with maintaining optimal levels of satisfaction in whatever activity, thus becoming productive at it, the second deals with channeling that productivity into transcendence - i.e., being innovative. With it, more theories on the psychology of discovery and invention come into the picture.

On another note, this is also worth a catch - "A Scanner Darkly", based on the compelling (if grammatically-ambiguous) 1977 novel of the same name by Philip K Dick. Bad choice of a pen-name notwithstanding, Dick has written books which have been translated into some of the most avant garde films ever - 1984's "Blade Runner" which needs little introduction, and 2002's "Minority Report". ("Total Recall" fell somewhere in between, but wasn't quite as tasteful.)

Anyhow, even if not for the existentialist blabber, the animation technique for 'Scanner' is equally compelling:

It's a technique called "interpolated rotoscoping" (more details in the link above), which lends it a rather lucid quality (to me at least), reminiscent of A-ha's 1984 music video for "Take on Me" (more laboriously produced), and more recently, Richard Linklater's "Waking Life" in 2001:

And I've realised that in order to make an existentialist film, one would need the following things, in order of priority: cutting-edge animation software, Ethan Hawke, Wynona Rider and Robert Downey Jr.

As for the books, I'll post something slightly more useful when I'm through (and through) with them...