A Series of Encounters

Interview by Caitlin de Laure
Photographs courtesy of Randy Chan

The staggering task of presenting Singapore’s contemporary creative culture to the world was placed on the shoulders of Randy Chan, Principal Architect of Zarch Collaboratives. With an impressive collection of accolades under his belt, a recent one being the President’s Design Award in 2013, the SG:IO showcase has been in capable hands.

Randy spares some time to speak about this monumental SG:IO event: what motivated his creative decisions, the intricacies of the exhibition, and how it is meant to encourage a greater degree of creative exchange among these communities.

A series of encounters zarch collaboratives

Building as a Body, a design for The Substation that was named Design of the Year at the President’s Design Award 2012.

Please tell us about yourself. For example, what do you get up to when you’re not being the Principal Architect at Zarch Collaboratives?

Outside architecture, I try to keep myself immersed in the scene. I’m a part-time tutor in the NUS Department of Architecture, something I feel keeps me relevant, and I’m also on Wild Rice’s Board of Directors—theatre is always a happy diversion and Wild Rice is consistently putting out quality work.

There seems to be a general impulse among creatives, especially those featured in SG:IO, to blur the lines between a specific discipline—architecture in your case—and art.

Art and design disciplines are increasingly convergent, and it’s good, for me, to see architecture not as a solitary “genre” of art, but very much influenced by other practices like graphic design, film or even music. As practitioners, it’s easy to confine ourselves to the ivory towers of our disciplines, but we need to start looking at our craft through different lenses.

For me, architecture, like art, holds a mirror to society. It allows us to know ourselves better and to make our lives more meaningful. But we’ve got to learn not to be so hung up over the boundaries of our craft. We worked on SG:IO with this in mind, that the creative scene can be made accessible, and that the audience should be free to appreciate what they see without the lofty impositions of capital-A Art.

A series of encounters kampong chantek

Kampong Chantek, a two-storey house designed around a central courtyard to allow light and air to filter into the premises.

Could you share how being the Creative Director for this SG:IO showcase was different from any other project you’ve undertaken?

This has definitely been a more complex job just by its nature as a travelling show. There’s no template to follow, no single site condition or context to easily fit within. Zarch has been involved in past World Expo shows, but SG:IO is a completely different ballgame from a pavilion that sits in a single location for six months. SG:IO as a creative platform was also a challenging aspect as I had to think of how to put a show together across disciplines, working on a more ground up framework than most of my other projects.

Read more in The U Press N˚10 (Singapore edition).