Living Cities

Text by Lim Sio Hui
Photographs courtesy of Zarch Collaboratives & Office of Architecture

Randy Chan, Zarch Collaboratives (Singapore)

Please introduce Zarch Collaboratives to our NYC readers.

Zarch Collaboratives is an architectural firm which takes on a progressive multidisciplinary approach in our work. I am curious and I love the idea of involving people to exchange ideas and do creative work together. Our work includes landscape, urban planning, curation, large scale stage scenography, architecture and interiors. In that sense, my architecture practice is not just within the discipline of architecture but also inspired by many other things, such as film, music, art, literature.

What drives your work?

It is the relentless search for spatial narratives—the practices of everyday life—and the satisfaction of having the ideas realized in actual built form. We are fortunate that we have different genres of work whether it is a house, a landscape masterplan or working on a stage set or commissioned art; we never take these work oppotunities for granted. It is about cultivating an interest in the arts and meeting creative people. We used to have a bar and gallery in between our practice so that we could meet people and get a pulse of the creative scene.

living cities zarch collaboratives randy chan

If you could live in one of your designs, which would you choose, and why?

I am fortunate to be living in one right now. It is an experimental house which puts sustainable design to practice: it responds to nature and it is about how we try to do more with less and harness what is given. I have a bio pool on the second level which collects rainwater and doubles as a pool: it is amazing to see how it creates its own ecosystem as we have many natural visitors—bats, kingfishers, forest frogs, lizards, dragonflies and butterflies. The house is fully naturally ventilated with no windows and the floors are spilt level to encourage cross ventilation.

Aniket Shahane, Office of Architecture (New York City)

Please introduce Office of Architecture to our Singapore readers.

Office of Architecture is an architecture practice founded in 2012 by Aniket Shahane. We work on real and imaginary projects, often wondering if there is much difference between the two. We use our commissioned projects to speculate and hope that our speculative projects become commissions.

living cities aniket shahane office of architecture

What drives your work?

One of our main interests is our city. And I’m not referring to a romantic notion of a majestic New York. I’m much more interested in the gritty, scrappy, messy New York—a place where buildings and people fight for space everyday, producing instances of unplanned beauty and intelligence. It’s best illustrated in our City Document project, which is an ongoing photographic log of this struggle. It is a collection of small, fleeting, and improvised acts of ownership that overlap with so many of the fundamental qualities which define architecture: space, light, materiality, movement, time. They are a reminder for us that architecture can also be an artful form of improvisation and that reality and imagination need not be mutually exclusive.

If you could live in one of your designs, which would you choose, and why?

I would love to inhabit one of our public space projects such as the Boston City Hall Plaza project or the Portland Proscenium for several reasons. Both projects question the role of architecture in cities: how much architecture do you really need to make a great space? Both projects play with the idea that an underused urban space can be prodded into something that is vibrant and active fairly quickly by doing relatively little. The Boston project proposes using a rocking chair—actually a thousand rocking chairs—to activate the large empty plaza. The Portland project uses a series of large exterior grade patio curtains to heighten the spatial qualities of the underside of a highway, while accommodating a variety of different activities.

Read more in The U Press N˚1 (New York edition).