In its second year in Singapore, WAF offers the tantalising prospect of strange bedfellows and compelling cross-fertilisations, says Paul Finch
What do Zaha Hadid’s latest parametric incursion in Azerbaijan and Robert Stern’s George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum have in common? Both are shortlisted in the Culture category of this year’s World Architectural Festival. If nothing else, WAF delights in its capacity to host strange architectural bedfellows.
Launched in 2008, with the active participation and support of the AR as international media partner, the intention was to create an inclusive event where architects could gather annually almost as a renewal of their interest in and love for architecture itself. Unlike international real estate events, where inevitably designers are bit-part players, WAF is a place where architects and architecture are the heart of the matter.
Architects shortlisted for the awards present their designs in quick-fire sessions in a dozen crit rooms run simultaneously for the first two days of the festival. Category winners then have to re-present to ‘super-juries’ on the final day, creating a sense of drama. Crucially, all presentations are in front of delegates and international juries, providing an opportunity to see great architects from around the world (50-plus countries are usually represented) presenting high-quality design.
However, since the first year there has also been a more formal thematic conference programme running alongside. This year the subject is ‘Value and Values’, exploring how architecture manifests value in various ways, and the philosophical or political values that underlie the profession’s activities and world-view. Keynote speakers are Charles Jencks, Dietmar Eberle and Sou Fujimoto, who will be accompanied by a widevariety of other pundits and panellists.
INSIDE has its own talks, including one on ‘Designing for Delight’ by provocateur-turned-international-treasure Nigel Coates, and its own separate interiors awards programme. All this takes place in the same venue as WAF, and delegates to either event can attend both, marking a potent cross fertilisation of architecture and interior design.
Other aspects of the festival include a student charrette, featuring eight schools from Europe and Asia exploring the implications of increasing elderly populations, an exhibition of architectural photography accompanying an awards programme run by Arcaid, and the customary stands of exhibitors and sponsors.
Every entry is exhibited at the Festival, arranged around the perimeter of the exhibition halls. More to the point, each hall has its own bar, the result of a design competition; social and networking events include a PechaKucha organised by the ubiquitous Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham, and a final night Gala Dinner where overall awards for Future Projects, Landscape, Interiors and Completed Buildings will be presented.
Predicting the Building of the Year winner is always fascinating; last year Wilkinson Eyre’s Gardens By The Bay pavilions in Singapore were an obviously popular choice, though it was not a home town decision, with only one Singaporean on the five-person super-jury.
Previous winners include Grafton Architects, Peter Rich, Zaha Hadid and Enric Ruiz-Geli, so the spirit of the event is globally and architecturally pluralist in the best AR sense. Robert Stern’s appearance to defend George W Bush renews a relationship which began in 2008 when he chaired the first super-jury.
Other shortlisted firms include established Europeans, such as Behnisch Architekten, Mecanoo and 3XN, and newcomers from Asia, like Vo Trong Nghia from Vietnam who won two categories last year, and local heroes WOHA. As Singapore is characterised by its vibrant fusion of different cultures, so WAF has something delectable for every taste.
WORLD ARCHITECTURE FESTIVAL
Venue: Marina Bay Sands
Dates: 2nd to 4th October