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.