Firstly, I would like to say that the planning and organisation of a architecture-themed festival was new to me as it was my first time being festival director. Thankfully, I was supported by Singapore Institute of Architects, by my great team at the office, as well as by numerous partners and collaborators. It was defnitely not a one-person job, but a team effort by many like-minded and keen individuals and institutions that wanted to be a part of this cause.
ON THE THEME
The theme of Archifest 2018 was “Design for Life”, which was sufficiently broad to attract people from all walks of life. It was narrowed down to three subthemes – “Design for People”, “Design for Time” and “Design for Environment” – which made it relatable and simple to understand for the public, bringing people together through specialised interest. This made the festival less intimidating for the nonarchitects, as the theme did not focus on the glitz and glamour of iconic architecture, but on what 99 per cent of people experience on a daily basis.
The “Design for Resilience Talks and Exhibition” fell under the subtheme “Design for Environment”, where we collaborated with Future Cities Laboratory, ETC lab (from Ngee Ann Polytechnic), Chu Hwai and Trecia Lim (both working on their own) to share sustainable architecture solutions for needy and remote areas in the tropics. This was a rare opportunity to gather individuals and institutions that have been doing similar things but haven’t necessarily worked together, to share their efforts in designing for unpredictable natural environments.
The Series of Short Talks by Young Architects was coorganised with the Young Architects League to give the stage to lesser-known younger architects who are often eclipsed by more experienced architects and larger practices. Listening to them talk about their works, the struggles they face, philosophies they hold, and visions for the future metropolis of Singapore, it was evident that the spirit of the event was not about the speakers, but on the impact that design makes. The fact that it was a full house goes to show that people are indeed interested in what younger architects have to say.
The Design for Silver Generation Symposium and Exhibition was the first of its kind for Archifest, where we had a series of people of various backgrounds – designers, architects, decision makers, volunteers, students and end users – contributing their perspectives on responding to the needs of the ageing population, under the subtheme “Design for People”. This is a topic that is not only applicable in Singapore but is increasingly becoming common globally. Singapore University of Technology and Design and Singapore Polytechnic students and researchers worked together to put up the exhibition to share their accumulated knowledge and works.
CLOSE TO HOME
In the light of recent controversial debates on the en bloc sale of iconic postindependence buildings like the Golden Mile and Pearl Bank apartments, the Conservation Dialogue came as an appropriate response to the matter in question under the subtheme of “Design for Time”. Using the dynamic and engaging World Cafe Method, we chose to invite architects, property agents, conservationists and developers to speak and contribute their perspectives in a closed-dialogue session, creating a conducive environment to facilitate the safe and open sharing of opinions. This was designed to pool the expertise of the various parties to formulate a new collective perspective for the future of Singapore, to ensure sustainable communities which respect the legacy of the past.
All things considered, Archifest 2018 generated interest from a wide range of people through its exhibitions, talks and sharing sessions, deliberating over weighty issues but not forgetting fun events for kids, with bake-offs and parties. We are very grateful to the 16 venue partners who hosted us and provided us with event locations all over the island, which helped to greatly increase the reach of the event. Those are some of the reasons why the 12-day long festival welcomed a total of more than 150,000 visitors!
The support we received from partners and contributors was heart-warming to say the least, and was a strong affirmation that we can all take steps in our own capacities to make a positive impact for the good of humanity. To conclude, I believe that all the four months of sleepless nights and intensive preparation work paid off, culminating in this happy and enjoyable festival which has demystified the role of architects and designers, of which I am proud to have been able to oversee.