Stacked in style for Archifest

Stacked in style for Archifest

The annual Archifest is back for its eighth run and promises to pack in the crowds. Coincidentally, this year's theme is "Crowd".

The home-grown architecture festival, organised by the Singapore Institute of Architects, will be held at the Marina Bay Sands Events Plaza. This year, two pavilions - instead of one like in the past two years - will take centre stage. The event runs for two weeks until Oct 11.

The theme will look at two areas: collective intelligence and community capital. Activities here will examine how projects and ideas come about through a collaborative process, says the festival's committee chairman, Mr Patrick Lee.

"We're looking at areas such as crowd sourcing and funding. It's not about things which are mass-produced but rather the collaborative perspective," he explains.

The heart of the festival, where many events will take place, is the events plaza, where the two pavilions have been built on a 623 sq m site there.

The competition for the pavilion, a crowd favourite, had 28 submissions - the highest number received since the inaugural competition in 2012.

This year, the Archifest Pavilion combines the two winning entries: Fugue 1357, by architect Fong Hoo Cheong of HCF and Associates; and Cloud Arch by architect Kelvin Kan of AgFacadesign and assistant professor Shinya Okuda from the National University of Singapore. Both firms received a $50,000 construction budget.

Fugue 1357 pays homage to the humble kopitiam stool. Stacked high, these red and white stools form an enclosure of sorts. Behind these "walls" lie an exhibition maze, a gathering space for workshops and events and a pop-up cafe by Toby's Estate.

Cloud Arch features two lightweight canopies made of expanded polystyrene, raised 2.8m above ground with seven steel columns and supported by water weights. These billowy canopies frame iconic Singapore structures such as the Esplanade and skyscrapers in the background. Here, there are seating areas and spaces for people to gather.

Mr Lee lauded the two different approaches to designing a pavilion: "Cloud Arch takes a professional approach by exploring new materials - something which architects are always looking into. Meanwhile, Fugue 1357 extracts art out of a simple object which Singaporeans know well."

There will be hands-on workshops such as a concrete-casting lesson taught by local design consultancy Desinere, while The Wholesome Co. will teach people how to start their own mini farms at home.

Israel-born architect Moshe Safdie, who is behind the designs for the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort and upcoming Bishan condominium Sky Habitat, will give a free talk on Oct 2 at the pavilion area about his work and sign books.

Other fringe events include Architecture Walks Singapore, which has participants exploring two neighbourhoods, Kampong Glam and Bras Basah. Visitors can also buy items from local designers at pop-up store Design Greenhouse within the pavilion, curated by online retailer Naiise.

Organisers of the festival, which kicked off yesterday, are expecting about 50,000 visitors this year. Last year, 30,000 turned up.

The previous two editions were held at different venues - The Foothills, at the former River Valley Swimming Pool, in 2012 and at Dhoby Ghaut Green last year.

Organisers are buoyed by the early reception, which saw enthusiastic response even from people abroad.

Festival team director Mervin Tan says: "We've received e-mail from members of the public who appreciate how the festival has evolved over the years. And we have fans from overseas such as the Philippines who write to ask when Archifest will start as they plan to come here specially for it."

Indeed, Singapore Institute of Architects president Theodore Chan hopes the event will draw more than just architects and design professionals. "Over the last three years, we've diversified interest in the programming to include the public, beyond just those in the industry. There's no point preaching to the converted."

natashaz@sph.com.sg

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