Architecture Appreciation at SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road

Popped into 99 Beach Road, where SingaPlural 2015 was being held, for a session on Architecture appreciation.

Architecture Appreciation Session, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeThe speaker gave the same pointers about appreciating buildings as this article:

  • understand the historical context – the history of the building, and the purpose for which it was built, its place in that time frame, the community or society into which it was introduced;
  • appreciate the innovators – understand how certain architects bucked the trend and set building design on a new course;
  • get a sense of scale – scale of a building influences human psychology; how we feel using the place;
  • get a sense of space – look at the void between the walls as well. Colours, materials, lighting/natural light, help to evoke certain emotions;
  • get into the details – the best architects pay attention to detail. “God is in the detail” said Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It demonstrates that the building is a piece of art;
  • understand its meaning – the emotions that the building evokes, its relationship with society

Having just done a training session on Bible reading that morning, I was amused how most things in the world can only be appreciated when one understands the various contexts in which these things were placed (literature, art, science, music, philosophy, politics, Scripture, etc).

What made the presentation more useful than just reading the article off the screen were the visuals put up by the speaker as he talked through the relevant aesthetic features.

Sense of scale
Albert Speer’s Reich Chancellery that he knocked up for Hitler in just a year was designed to make people feel small, but somehow cause the short Adolf to loom larger than life. The not-for-human scale at St. Peter’s Basilica was to induce another kind of worship – that of God.

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican by P.Landy, Wikimedia

In contrast, the human-scale repetitive architecture in Haji Lane in Singapore, and Laneway in Melbourne, give a feeling of warmth and cosiness.

Sense of Space
Using colours, Luis Barragán’s buildings (Casa Gilardi, Casa estudio) give a sense of warmth and energy.

While Peter Zumthor’s Haldenstein, in concrete and neutral colours showcase the nature outside and exert a calming effect, which, the speaker said expressed itself in his work. (I suppose it is a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing since arguably, he could have designed his own house to suit his character, so it wouldn’t necessarily be the house itself influencing his work…)

The Details
The little details in Carlo Scarpa’s Fondazione Querini-Stampala – the shape of the doors, the flow of the water – were beautifully proportioned. Oh look at those “floating stairs” in the Olivetti headquarters:

via skibinskipedia

*photos that aren’t mine were used under a Creative Commons licence