If there is one thing spending mornings on packed public transport, and devoting our public holidays to navigating through crowded shopping malls, have taught us, it is that space constraints are major problem in Singapore. So much so that this issue is the main talking point for the Singapore Pavilion at the ongoing 16th Venice Architecture Biennale, which ends 25 November in the Italian city.
One of the 63 national pavilions at this year’s prestigious architecture biennale –curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara — the Singapore Pavilion marks the country’s sixth showcase at the Venice Architecture Biennale since 2004.
The aim of the Singapore Pavilion is to tackle and highlight the ways Singapore-based architects, urban planners and place-makers have creatively found ways to create functional spaces that help enhance everyday life for Singaporeans.
The exhibition is curated by the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in collaboration with the National University of Singapore’s Department of Architecture (NUS). Called No More Free Space, it features 12 Singapore-based projects that are inspired by nature and make the most out of space constraints.
One of the projects, Lucky Shophouse, has Chang Architects turning a century-old bookstore into a residential project in Joo Chiat. To tackle space limitations, the architecture firm transformed the concrete backyard into a single-storey extension and a garden, offering breathing spaces and green spaces for the tenant, Arvind, and his family.
Another example is the Southern Ridges by RSP Architects Planners & Engineers Pte Ltd, IJP Architects, and Look Architects, which highlights how five parks and gardens in the southern part of Singapore are connected by picturesque bridges and pathways. The result? A 10-kilometre stretch of green open spaces where visitors can enjoy the best panoramic views of the city, harbour and the Southern Islands.
“As the bridge is curved, when people walk along the bridge, they see a different part of the city every moment, at every point. On the convex side, it reaches out to the sea on the south, whereas on the concave side, it embraces the city, so that as you walk, you see the city skyline – the old Housing Development Board flats, the port, the Central Business District, and all these happen in the midst of a natural environment on these southern ridges,” said design director Lawrence Ler about the now-iconic design of the Henderson Waves.
“This is the kind of experience that we wanted to create for the people when they walk along this bridge. It’s a constantly changing experience, that shifts with the time of the day and also the time of the year. Shadows and light play a lot in this design as well. It’s also amazing that the bridge connects the ecology of both sides, and that allows not just people, but animals, and other life forms to go through,” Ler added.
Another highlight at the Singapore Pavilion is its centrepiece of an immersive installation comprising an ethereal cloud made of two skilfully handcrafted acrylic pyramids gently suspended from the ceiling of the Sale d’Armi building in the Arsenale area of Venice. The sculpture was designed by curators Wu Yen Yen from GAD and interior designer Jason Lim, and handcrafted mostly by students from SUTD and NUS.
The end result is a beautiful multi-sensory projection of lights, sounds and images of Singapore, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in the spaces within the cloud to enjoy the installation.
“Singapore is one of the world’s most liveable cities, an outcome of integrated and long-term planning, with priority placed on good architecture and urban design. The articulation of good design in our spaces not only sparks imagination but can also evoke wonder and turn spaces from the functional and utilitarian into a delightful community asset,” said Larry Ng, Group Director of Architecture and Urban Design Excellence at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and Co-Commissioner of the Singapore Pavilion. “The Singapore Pavilion this year showcases creative brilliance in the design of our public and private spaces.”
While attending the Venice Architecture Biennale is an experience most architecture lovers should indulge in at least once in their lives, fret not if you can’t make it down to the show this year. You can soon check out the immersive projection right here in Singapore, when it’s restaged in 2019.