If you are wondering what DATUM is about, it’s this conference in KL where a handful of semi-famous architects speak out about their works. Held in KLCC, it actually felt more like a food conference cos I seriously think we ate more there than do anything else. I must say their organisation isn’t very, erm, organised, but who blames them it has quite a huge turnout! (and if you want to get in free next year we know how shhhh…)
Anyway, I must commend them for bringing in a really diverse, albeit regional, mix of individuals to speak. Topic: “Design Energy”, but who ever really cares about these ambiguously overarching topics? So here we bring you the insights into the good, the bad, and the lucky.
Kickstarting the conference, with a bang no less, is the one who struck gold(oil) in Dubai [thestar]. Predictably, the only one in the whole conference who brought 3 ultra large LCD screens/projectors in specially just to show 2 six-minute videos about 2 outrageously humonggigantic designs in Dubai while playing orchestral dramatic Star Wars-esque music at earpiercing dB levels featuring nothing less than sweeping zooms, rollercoaster pans of a sensational CGI model, and ending off with surprise, fireworks! [UAEInteract] We thought we just saw a trailer for an archiporn show.
Talk about “arriving in style”. Well the thing I got back, at least, is an insider’s view of Dubai. You know how much you hear about Dubai, the images that they bombard you with, and suddenly here you get to hear a person who was personally involved in the place-making of this city and telling his tales about clinching his deals a little naively – it’s almost like listening to someone recounting an experience with the aliens.
Well, what to say, homegrown Mr. Mok spoke to us about his seminal works 33Robin and National Museum of Singapore, and then some more with the newly completed Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School.
I listen with particular interest to the school, how he works within tight space and budget constraints to add an additional hall wing, improvising with cheap materials (corrugated metal) and creative juxtaposition to achieve nice effects. I believe that good work usually stem from constraints, so you can see his logic for freeing the ground way, having light corridors etc.
Lillian Tay is another Malaysian architectress, whose presented work centres on the theme of de-materialisation, anti-monumentalism and the like. So its appropriate that her presentation is mostly about designs in Putrajaya, the mosqueland behemoth of Malaysia.
Unfortunately she did not make a lasting impression, except for these:
Malaysian buildings have to contain 80% of local materials?
One design (unbuilt) that showed a factory which uses ice as cladding. Its facade has pockets to collect water which freezes during winter and de-materialises for the rest of the year. Cool stuff.
Now this guy is interesting. You might think an engineer is boring, but not with this guy. His presentation about how his career began at Arup and its progression was continuously spiced up with jokes and lively banter. I’ve been particularly interested with success stories nowadays and the varied ways to get to that success point. His was a mix of luck, risk-taking (singlehandedly moving to Japan to head a project as a graduate!) and a huge backing (Rem).
The last part was about CCTV [Slide in BusinessWeek], something which I’ve been hearing over and over, but today with new discoveries on how it was conceived between the brokeback partnership of OMA and Arup – as much as they seem larger-than-life in the buildings or the media, in actuality they are still like the students that we are: last-minute inspirations, dashing to meet the deadline, smartly cutting redundant corners, team effort and good management. But no ego here.
Dare I say it, highlight of the DATUM ends on the first day?! He appeared in KL with an atmosphere unlike the meteoric status that the West has conferred upon him. [SANAA in Designboom]
His presentation consists of many works, including the Naoshima Museum, Moriyama House under the Nishizawa Office, as well as the Toledo Museum [artbabee's Flickr] and Kanazawa Museum [Museum link] under SANAA. Like the photos, his/their aesthetic consists of pristine white shapes with seamless tectonics, articulated only by colourful occupants and furniture. You can hear about his Tokyo house in this exclusive video here!
I think he could have gone further if not for translation difficulties. Oh anyhow, as much as the alluring simplicity of his architecture can seduce people easily, I wonder if its too airy-fairy and disengaged from the real world. Sniggers behind me saying that its “not contextual”. Perhaps accepted in Japanese culture but I’m too sure abroad. It’s a revelation to feel that it became stale, after seeing slides and slides of the same aesthetic. I guess it works better as a singular image/work.
(Moriyama House Presentation)
in a free state of mind.