Themed CROWD, Archifest 2014 readies itself to reach out to the masses, those in particular that hold an image of architecture as a foreign, inaccessible realm of design. “Architecture has been known to be hard and unforgiving,” confesses Mervin Tan, this year’s Festival Team Director. Yet, he’s resolved in changing a few perspectives.

As the eighth edition of the festival, planted at Marina Bay Sands from Sept 26 to Oct 11, draws closer to us, we speak to Mervin as he relates architecture to the common folk and shares with us the one design that best exemplifies this year’s theme.

Popspoken: What is architecture to you, personally?

Mervin: Architecture, to me, is about our built environment. It is the creation of hard scape that shapes our experience, habits and culture.

What is the significance of architecture to the masses?

Architecture, although takes the form of large scale buildings, is ultimately targeted at providing for people. Architecture revolves around people’s movements, reactions, needs and eventually shapes design thinking to cater to the need of efficiency, community bonding, the need to interact. It really is an interdependent relationship. As much as architecture is relevant to people, people are also very important to architecture, and this is pretty much what Archifest 2014 is trying to showcase. It is an important relationship as people really are the core of architecture.

Tell us about Archifest’s 2014 theme, CROWD.

CROWD looks at the idea of people power. Whether it is a collective pool of expertise or a voice of the masses, these two directions have very tangible implications in architecture. The field of architecture is looking at the idea of a cross expertise collaboration and even to the extent of including the end users in design conversations prior to the built project. In order to create buildings that are relevant to people, the people must be consulted. Like I always say, to build a farm, get a farmer involved.

What triggered the conceptualisation of this year’s theme?

Architecture has been known to be hard and unforgiving, something not so relatable to the common man. What we tried to do here is to create a bit of accessibility for it, to approach it from an angle that the public is able to view and understand architecture. We want to break it down to tangible ideas where they are able to be involved to make sense for the festival. The notion of people being able to affect change and impact comes through in the process of our conceptualisation for the festival. Eventually, after discussion, we realized that it’s not just about a person experiencing the space, but about people who will together create the experience in the architecture, and therefore sums up as CROWD.

What is one piece of architecture that embodies the theme?

I don’t think there isn’t one that embodies the theme of CROWD. If I had to pick one that pertains to people, I think it would have to be The High Line by Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

The High Line by Diller Scofidio + Renfro / Photo credit: Barry Munger

It is built in the middle of the city elevated above the motor way as a linear park route for people to engage in. Despite being in a highly dense city, this linear strip of park, converted from disused railway tracks is a sanctuary for people in New York. I appreciate also how architecture is able to convert spaces that are no longer relevant into something else. With little moves and no integral change, the structure is able to value add onto its city in a very different way.

Archifest 2014 runs from Sept 26 to Oct 11 at the Marina Bay Sands Event Plaza, Expo & Convention Centre. More information can be found here.

Photo credit: Archifest