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Spirit In The Air
The pavilion designed by DP Architects for Archifest 2016 was a spirited breath of fresh air that flowed through the Central Business District.
The winning design of this year’s Archifest Pavilion Design Competition was an entry by DP Architects, titled the RGB Pavilion. Over the Raffles Place lawn, broad swathes of safety netting appear line-hung—all overlapping colours and diaphanous softness; its exertion was as a bold yet gentle presence amid a grey surround of CBD buildings. These curtains formed, at once, a venue and a banner for the festival.
Archifest 2016 seeks to weigh in on the state of Singapore’s built environment and to breathe new life into it.
2016 marks a milestone for Archifest as the annual festival founded by Singapore Institute of Architects celebrates its tenth anniversary. This year’s festival was co-organised with Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects and carried the theme, “Exhale”, defined as such in an issued statement, “…‘Exhale’ challenges the rapidity and density of activities that define our pace of life. When we exhale completely and let our breath rediscover its own rhythm, we enable ourselves to inhabit the city refreshed. Archifest 2016 seeks to weigh in on the state of Singapore’s built environment and to breathe new life into it.”
At the event ‘This Photogenic Artefact: A Colourful Talk on Designing Our Spatial Experience’, pavilion lead designer and Associate Director at DP Architects Ang Guo Zi, used the analogy of colouring the void to explain the concept:
“We noticed the way people move through the space–they are constantly looking down at their phones, [they don’t] look up. They don’t realise that there is a huge air space above, simply because it is invisible, it has no form, and it is inaccessible. We wanted to bring into this space something that was already here—the volume of the space. You can see the lawn defined by skyscrapers around us. It is very different from being in an open field. We really wanted to capture the space and the way we capture space is to colour it. Putting colour in a void is like putting coloured gas in a bottle.”
Simon Berry of Illuminate Lighting Design also explored the idea of ‘breath’ through the pavilion lighting design. The idea was to bring “the common breath” into the building by having light simulate the passage of air. This was best appreciated inside the pavilion, within whose structural scaffolds—a skeleton appearing as a cage or a ribcage—light, simulating air, passed up and down, having the effect of a volume increase and decrease; the breath coming in, the lungs empty again. It’s a structure that has life.
Overall, the execution of the pavilion concept was clever with its apt use of construction materials, meaningful to the structure’s temporal and architectural nature; but what was ultimately inspiring was its spirit—the nature of which is invisible, but existent and essential—not unlike air. This was inspiring and brought to mind the ‘spirit’ that Louis Kahn identified:
“A great building, in my opinion, must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed, and in the end must be unmeasurable. The only way you can build, the only way you can get the building into being, is through the measurable. You must follow the laws of nature and use quantities of brick, methods of construction, and engineering. But in the end, when the building becomes part of living, it evokes unmeasurable qualities, and the spirit of its existence takes over.
Architecture has existence, but it has no presence. Only a work of architecture has presence, and a work of architecture is presented as an offering to architecture. A work is made in the urging sounds of industry, and, when the dust settles, the pyramid, echoing Silence, gives the sun its shadow.”