Archifest 2018

Nov - Dec 2018

Archifest 2018

by Carissa Kwok

December 28, 2018

The Architecture and Building Services (ABS) 2018 series was graced by guest of honour Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance, Singapore. The three-day show (2 to 4 October 2018) at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay, Singapore, presented six key architectural and building services exhibitions and 14 industry conferences, and was attended by more than 10,300 visitors, conference delegates and industry professionals in the architectural and building services sectors from over 46 countries.

The event was a timely exposition in view of the Industry Transformation Programme that places a special focus on the built environment. With “the economic centre of gravity shifting to Asia, which will result in rapid urbanisation and more demand for infrastructure and buildings”, Minister Heng suggested at the joint opening ceremony of SIA Conference, ArchXpo 2018 and iFaME 2018 (International Facility Management Expo) three areas to create leverage to make Singapore an even more liveable city: good urban design, productivity and innovation.

He concluded, “To continue building Singapore into a Green, highly liveable and smart city, our stakeholders in our design and built environment and facilities management must come together and collaborate. I am glad to see that the three areas of leverage are reflected in the themes of your conferences today—Design for Life: People, Time, Environment, as well as Embracing Innovation, Leveraging Technology.”

For the full speech of Minister Heng Swee Keat, please visit

In its 12th year running, the main theme Design for Life was explored in Archifest 2018 at the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) Conference, a platform to highlight architecture that advocates for better living environments through transformative design solutions in projects and multidisciplinary collaborations. The event generated an exchange of ideas and ideologies from experts and thought leaders worldwide through presentations and panel discussions at the one-day forum.

Borja Ferrater (founding partner architect of Office of Architecture in Barcelona (OAB)) opened the session as keynote speaker. As a multi-awardwinning architect and designer—a FAD (Spain’s national award) prize winner in the category of Ephemeral Architecture together with Carlos Ferrater for the exhibition in Madrid—he shared about their projects that used the four main pillars as foundation: landscape, systems, light and materiality.

“The hidden pillar of architecture is time. Architecture is like wine, the older it gets, the better it is. In this example, architecture was the structure of this botanical park, and the plants were the ornaments. But with time, this situation reverses—the plants become the real structure of the park. Sometimes in architecture, it’s good to do as less as possible, to disappear.”

“We have to understand that we are not like a franchise, where we go to different cities in the world and land with our ‘spaceship’ to just do something preconceived. Our role as architects who work internationally is that we are the guests—we are here to give added-value. But the main people are the locals. So for instance, when we work in different places, we always work with the local architect from day one; we design together. Like in different cuisines, we can create a fusion by respecting each other’s origins. The client is the most important factor; it’s a trip you make together with them.”

“Architecture is a thing about layers, almost like a Turkish carpet. We need to adapt to the typography as much as possible, as sensitively as possible,” Ferrater shared.

Design for Life was a theme that broadly encompassed the architect’s vision to respond to the true needs of humanity. It is necessary for design to give back to the community and enrich human life as a whole. This main theme was elaborated in three sub-themes: Design for People, Design for Time and Design for Environment.

Design for People promoted better well-being. Much of the spotlight of architecture has been shone on iconic projects, while day-to-day architecture takes a back seat. Community engagement in the design-stage also has the potential for far-reaching effects, creating spaces that promote people’s health and happiness.

Dam Vu from KIENTRUC O, Vietnam, kicked off this session by sharing about user-centric designs such as House 304, Chuon Chuon Kim Kindergarten and the T House, where the projects encourage interactions with the architecture, blur the inside-outside boundaries, and establish connectivity between the property, the neighbourhood and the community, while still maintaining privacy. Other speakers included Victor Lee (Plystudio Architects, Singapore) and Realrich Sjarief (R A W Architecture, Indonesia).

Design for Time addressed the lifespan of building design. The preservation of Modern architecture is likened to a time capsule of the past. However, conscious effort has to be made to maintain buildings in their current state to slow down the process of deterioration. Designing for the long-haul also requires a new kind of architecture which is in constant evolution over time, and is not just static until it is demolished.

Colin Seah (founder and director, Ministry of Design, Singapore) commented, “There are some buildings that we want to perhaps maintain as part of our architecture legacy, where we can experience the old as it was. I think there is value in that too. But there should just be a hybrid, where we can have a whole slew of possibilities; I think the city and urban fabric will be much richer, if we did that.”

Presenting on the ongoing restoration project of Metropolitan Theatre in Manila, Gerard Lico (heritage architect and professor, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines) highlighted, “There was a positive response in the participation of the youths, an increase in the value of the building and a sense of ownership. To ensure viability, conservation efforts should engage every sector, particularly the youths, as they will be the generation to inherit that heritage. The youth comprises the largest portion of our population and are in the position to create a large influence, especially in the time of social media, so heritage must be Instagram-able and Facebook-worthy. The case of the Metropolitan Theatre emphasises that active restoration of the social structure of heritage must be done hand in hand with the restoration of its physical structure.”

Lico concluded his segment with this statement, “Architecture is all too often imagined as if buildings do not and should not change, but change they do, and have always done.”

Teo Yee Chin (principal, Red Bean Architects, Singapore) shared, “Any worthy old buildings cannot be considered in isolation, but must necessarily be supported by how the neighbouring developments are perceived. It is upto us, intelligent architects and planners, to really stitch them together, to observe them and see how to make sense of them. Because how many more times can we erase and start again?”

Teo wrapped up the session with the following, “How we act in the period we are in now—between conservation of our modern landmarks and adopting tactics of adaptive reuse to bring out character of distinct fabrics while stitching the city together post tabula rasa, post speculative real estate—will define our city and us.”

Design for Environment was about enhancing the life of our planet, flora and fauna. The excessive use of plastic in Singapore and the rest of the world has taken a tow on the ecosystem and accelerated global warming. Architects now have the responsibility to conceive and initiate ways to promote sustainability by devising smart solutions to reduce strain on the environment and to use materials prudently.

Markus Roselieb, Chiangmai Life Architects, Thailand, started the session by emphasising about “successful architecture”. “We think that if someone hires us to create a home, then that should be a space where you want to be, where you don’t think that the pastures on the other side is greener. This is a home that we have designed for a family in Chiang Mai. People come to me and say, ‘Is this a resort?’ As if only resorts provide a space where we can relax and be happy. Beautiful spaces can actually be affordable. For us, it starts with the material.”

Roselieb spoke at length about the benefits of bamboo as a natural, durable material that is able to withstand the test of environmental factors like corrosion. “If we put bamboo in a salt solution, it is actually preserved. Bamboo is a lightweight tube that is reinforced; it has a higher tensile strength than steel. It can imitate steel architecture.”

He elaborated on the stigma of using bamboo as a material, “In its early days, bamboo is full of sugar. But over the years, the fibre content increases, the sugar content goes down. So if we choose a four-, five- or six-yearold bamboo as a construction material, instead of a one- or two-year-old bamboo, we have a whole different ball game. But bamboo is a type of grass, so the young shoots grow on the outside. And the human being is inherently lazy, so when they harvest it, they cut down the ones on the outside. And then they wonder why the ‘sugar house’ that they are building is falling over their heads within a year or two. Because this has happened for generations, there is an image problem. So the moment I say bamboo, people think that this is one of those small resort huts that will fall [in time]. The problem is not with the material, the problem lies with the ignorance of human.”

Doan Thanh Ha, H&P Architects, Vietnam, presented their project Toigetation, a low-cost, environmentally friendly toilet constructed by local manpower using local materials for a school. This project has won the FuturArc Green Leadership Award in the Socially-inclusive Development category in 2016. Read more about the project in FuturArc May-Jun 2016 issue, or see their presentation panels for the competition here: index.cfm/competitions/2016-fgla-winner-vietnam4/.

He underlined the importance of involving the local community in the construction process of buildings and using simple materials found locally such as bamboo (Blooming Bamboo Home and BES Pavilion: www.futurarc. com/index.cfm/projects/2015-jan-to-jun/2015-jan-feb-bb-bes/), as well as building with respect to the country’s weather in the Re-ainbow project, where Vietnam is prone to storms and floods. One of their more recent projects, AgriNesture, which is completed in 2018, hopes to tackle the issue of the loss of agricultural land due to rapid industrialisation and urbanisation.

The 2018 SIA Conference held 45 talks and eight exhibitions. For more information, please visit

Under the ABS 2018 umbrella, ArchXpo 2018, iFaME 2018, LED & Light Asia 2018, Safety and Security Asia 2018, Fire & Disaster Asia 2018 as well as Work Safe Asia 2018 formed a comprehensive and integrated platform for building needs in Singapore and the region. The showcases appealed to key players from all facets of the industry including architects, builders, contractors, developers, engineers, facility managers, government agencies, housing developers and interior designers. A total of 239 exhibitors from 15 countries took part in all six exhibitions.

Throughout the three days, ABS 2018 became a learning hub to delegates from the multifaceted built environment industries. The show hosted a total of 14 conferences, workshops and master classes that were fronted by industry experts who addressed new challenges and developments impacting Singapore’s ever-changing built environment. ArchXpo 2019 will take place from 1 to 3 October 2019 at Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.

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