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...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

life = education = life

Here's an excerpt from the article Hann wrote about in the previous post regarding the work of the Population and Community Development Association's work in building schools in the rural areas of Thailand. The account was written by Jessica Shortall, CEO of Catalyst Strategy Advisors. Jessica is making the trip as one of the first Population Development International fellows, whose task it is to learn about PDA’s work and share that knowledge in their own communities and with others working in social enterprise.

“If you know how life works, you know how to educate.”
- Khun Wichean, headmaster, Lamplaimat Pattana School

Lamplaimat Pattana School (LPS) is calm. This is the first impression I get upon approaching and entering this beautiful village school (grades K – 5). It’s a private school (with startup funding from a wealthy British businessman) with working farm plots, shaded outdoor spaces, rabbits hopping around the grounds, indoor and outdoor plants, and high ceilings. The children, sitting in stockingfeet on the floors of their classrooms, are just so…calm. They laugh, call out answers, and play games, but not in that manic, over-sugared and low-attention-span way.

We soon delve into the complex system that is contributing to this calm atmosphere. School starts every day with a 20-minute meditation, in which the children and their teachers do simple yoga, coordination exercises to focus the mind, and low-brain-wave meditation. The children’s attention is then drawn along throughout the day and the whole semester by a 10-week curriculum centring on a single subject of study. Students decide the subject with their teachers – this year one group is studying fish, another electricity, and a third, clothing. Through this ongoing project students write stories (improving their writing, language, and thinking skills), learn English, do science experiments, study history related to the subject, learn skills (like sewing, for the clothing project), create art and music, and gain digital literacy by doing research through the school’s bank of internet-ready computers. What about testing and government benchmarks, I ask Khun Wichean, the headmaster. “I don’t take government tests seriously,” he replies. “We use authentic assessment here.” At LPS this means the teachers assess students across all categories (what most of us would put into silos and call “subjects” like reading, maths, etc.) in each project. The children do in fact do well on the government tests but this is more of a box to tick than a goal in itself.

Drawing from any thinking it finds useful for its paradigm of life-as-education (from Montessori to Steiner, neohumanist thinking to Eastern philosophy), LPS sees its students not as “boxes we must fill with knowledge”, but as humans who need to decide for themselves which knowledge is important, and who need tools to go and get that knowledge. “Everyone doesn’t have to know the same thing,” he notes. True: that’s not how life, and good old Adam Smith’s specialisation and division of labour, works.

Read the entire account here. You will find at the same link, her experience with the PDA. I studied the PDA for my dissertation and was very inspired by the work of Meechai. Read Jessica's blog posts for a better idea of what they do. You can also the link to PDA's website at the bottom of the sidebar on the right.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Of seeds sown, and seedlings grown

(Kindly pardon the Dr Seuss-esque subject for this post, I was just entertained by a full-length version of one of his scripts earlier in the evening.)

I bought a camera recently, and found that one of the pixels on the LCD was inactive. A technology-enthusiast would call that a hot or dead pixel, which shows up as a bright spot on the LCD screen, regardless of whether an image has been captured by the camera or not. Now, what's one pixel out of 230 000, you say, but the net effect is somewhat similar to a bright-red pimple smack in the middle of the temple of Helen of Troy. (Call this obsession an occupational hazard if you might.)

Nevertheless, I was thoroughly impressed by that particular manufacturer's after-sales service, and their willingness to replace this with a new product (of the same model of course). Thus, Helen of Troy, post-adolescence. This was particularly impressive as company (and product) policy dictates that a unit can be replaced only if there are at least five such hot pixels.


I had a bit of a think about programmes like last year's DMP (Design My Place, an "architecture- and urban-awareness" workshop geared towards upper-secondary and pre-university level students) and more recently, the roaringly successful YUP (Young Urbanist Programme, a similar workshop for primary-school students), and what it might give birth to.

The YUP programme, by virtue of its objectives (or maybe by virtue of its acronym!), is somewhat reminiscent of a programme that some of us might have participated in in primary school, called the Young Scientist's Award. It's the programme where you research on bugs and achieve an Entomology badge, sort out some waste and achieve an Environmentalist badge, and so on. After x number of badges - and therefore, x number of ticks on a checklist - you'd become an eponymous Young Scientist.

What these programmes have done is that they inculcate a seed (possibly more, depending on their response to various conditions) of interest and participation in architecture and urbanism (I use the term rather loosely here) in this case. There are, the cases of DMP and YUP, projected plans of continuing and sowing similar seeds (how's that for a Seussian alliteration?) in a larger pool of schools, across multiple levels of education preceding higher learning (at this point, primary, secondary and pre-university students have already been involved). More sites in Singapore would be covered, concomitant with more ideas, greater ideas, and unbridled visions of what the city could be - perhaps even more unbridled at primary-school level than at pre-university level, but that's a discussion in another room.

In essence, the seeds are thrown over a larger hinterland, with one constituent area being responsible for - or accountable towards - another.

Yet, with the passing of the programme, though, what becomes of the participating students? The sowing of seeds (I apologise for the poor metaphor in the earlier paragraphs which has been taken up to this point) over a larger area might (and likely) lead to a lapse of attention, a lack of nurturing, in the previous seeds which have just begun to grow. While having an interest in architecture and urbanism (again, don't philosophise too much on the word in the context of this blog entry) inculcated in them by having participated in the workshop, it might be very soon before the interest gets superseded by the more daily demands of having to survive the many other obstacles of pre-planned academia - the PSLE, O and A Levels, plus the multiple variations of secondary and pre-university baccalaurates and integrated programs that could well snuff out that interest in architecture. Case in point - I might have participated in that young scientist award programme, but it didn't make me a scientist.

While I'm definitely not arguing that every (current or future) DMP and/or YUP participant should aspire to become an architect at some point, what I'm championing is the nurturing of the now-seedlings that have been planted in them. The idea is to be able to engage previous workshop participants at a higher level of involvements in future workshops, and this can be two-prong:

1. To engage the participants of the previous workshops as facilitators - and eventual veterans - of future workshops.

2. To enable them to participate in workshops that are now more in-depth, and thus engage their thinking and creativity (for lack of a better synonym!) at a level that is now in tune with their maturity, and

(Point number 2 would work out when there are workshops that sufficiently bridge the various levels of formal education, but given the current infrastructure, a YUP participant at primary-school level could well benefit from the DMP programme when he/she is at the upper secondary/pre-university level.)

Now all that rant above simply elaborates on this - the long-term vision for these workshops could include the possibility of inculcating a long-standing commitment with various schools and curricula, beginning as an "attache programme" to the existing curriculum, and possibly assuming greater involvement in formal curriculum in the future. That is to say, good "after-service service", for the sake of bringing this point of the discussion back to the initial thought about the good follow-up service rendered in the replacement camera scenario.

Which leads to the next point.

How would a structure like this fit, and feed back, into a larger, longer canvas? How would the curriculum host programmes such as DMP and YUP if they are taken into the long haul, and thus involving greater labour, more resource and higher levels of commitment by the personnel of participating schools?

Taken several steps further, wouldn't it be ideal if the students, through these programmes, have direct involvement in the spaces that they learn in, and/or the softer aspects of their curriculum (akin to what students of certain liberal-arts universities might relate to)?

A conversation with Tay Kheng Soon, at some point in a very enjoyable semester last year, one highly successful - and one can only hope is contagious - example came up. Kheng Soon was closely involved with the planning of one such school together with Mechai Viravaidya - Thailand's Condom King might ring a louder bell - the latter having launched the now-renowned Cabbages and Condoms chain of restaurants and resorts. That school is the Lamplaimat Pattana School in Thailand (see a write-up of it here, by Catalyst in Thailand), and for the sake of brevity (and trust in you having read that Catalyst article), the students across six primary-level grades are genuinely involved in their learning spaces and curricula. Some students have even set up their own radio station, broadcast to students of the school alone. (How many of us would even think of doing that at any point in our lives? We are taught to "pass with flying colours", except that those colours come from a very limited palette.)

The administrators have administered, and remarkably, stopped at that. They have allowed for room to grow, without any semblance of an overbearing hand in controlling the child's destiny, so to speak. They have facilitated, and in that process, nurtured the growing seed.


Programmes such as YUP and DMP could be that which tills the land, at the very first step of that long-drawn, and often endless, process of learning.

Comments, refutations and anything in between are very much welcome. ;)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ongoing Exhibitions at URA

Here's a bit of publicity for URA - definitely worth taking a look, especially since there're three of them, all under one roof!

How to Get There

The URA Centre, 45 Maxwell Road

Nearest MRT Station: Tanjong Pagar

Singapore 1:1 ISLAND

16 November 2007 - 11 April 2008

Singapore has been likened to a 1:1 scale, life-sized gallery ofarchitecture and urban design. "Singapore 1:1 Island" highlightsSingapore's architectural and urban design uniqueness through a selectionof architectural projects completed island-wide, outside of the citycentre, over the past four decades. For more information on the exhibition,please visit

President's Design Award 2007

15 February 2008 - 11 April 2008

The President's Design Award is Singapore's most prestigious award for itsdesigners and designs. It recognises the significant achievements andcontributions of the nation's design talents. The Award entered its secondcycle in 2007 and was conferred on seven Designers of the Year and sevenDesigns of the Year. This exhibition showcases the works of the 2007 AwardWinners. For more information on the President's Design Award, please visit

The National Art Gallery of Singapore

7 March 2008 - 28 March 2008

The National Art Gallery of Singapore (working title) is a new visual arts institution which will contribute to building Singapore as a regional and international hub for visual arts. To seek the best design concepts for theNational Art Gallery, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts (MICA), in association with the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA), launched a two-stage architectural design competition in Februarylast year. This exhibition showcases the three winning entries. For more information on the National Art Gallery, please visit http://www.national%20artgallery.%20sg/

The exhibitions are open Monday - Friday, 9am to 7pm; Saturday, 9am to 5pmand are close on Public Holidays. Admission is free.

Lego Architecture

What do you get when you bring a group of architects together, throw them a pile of white lego bricks and ask them to just have fun and engage spontaneously with the materials? Loads of creativity!

The Building Asia Brick By Brick project done in collaboration between Andrew Maerkle of Art AsiaPacific and Wei Wei Shannon of People’s Architecture seeked to to promote awareness of architectural preservation in Asia where much urban development occurs at the expense of historically significant or unique buildings. In raising awareness, the project hoped to get people to look at their environments critically.

I was personally quite impressed with the end results of many of the projects. It just proves that we can certainly come up with more creative alternatives to the heavy-handed tear down and rebuild approach that many developing countries are taking, in the name of economic growth. I also noticed that the goals of the Building Asia Brick By Brick project was very much similar to what we do in re:act! Perhaps we could get Lego to sponsor the next Design My Place or YUP project? That would be great wouldn't it?

Read more here

Friday, March 14, 2008

Young Urbanist Programme (YUP)

Fun, great, cool, creative, interesting, crazy, scary, brain wrecking, spectacular, challenging, the best, excellent, shiok, record breaking, oh my gosh… This was how the primary 5 students had described the pilot YUP workshop completed on Monday, 10 Mar 08. Held at URA Centre, the workshop was attended by 31 participants from Radin Mas and River Valley Primary School. The programme was really packed – it was like the 3-day Design My Place workshop (for JC students) compressed into 1 day! But somehow, it was still magically manageable.

Enjoy the photos!

Friday, March 07, 2008


corten stairs

corten sculpture

corten steel and rusting compliments phenomenological ideas of time, impermanence and emotions. if anyone is familiar with the telok ayer stairs of WOHA, climbing up and down a phenomenological object for two years, some say, may take away some of its aura and bring it back to the reality of everyday. thinking back, i actually enjoyed climbing up and down that circular corten stairway. it was a place to stop and chat (it echoed a lot in the stairwell), the lights were soft, and every step you take goes bong-bong-bong-bong.

phenomenological everyday.

sigh, nostagia descends.

anyway, read the article "In Praise of Rust: Technics and Poetics of the Ferrous Patina" by Cheah Kok Ming in Singapore Architects 242. It is a well researched article with many examples of corten use in various ways. one of my favourite examples in his article is Gigon-Guyer's signal box in Z├╝rich (Stellwerk Vorbahnhof) which is, ironically, NOT made out of corten but concrete with iron oxide pigments.

a rare well-written article in a magazine. i pored over it assiduously.