Here’s your guide to Singapore Archifest 2020 SIA Conference

September 10, 2020



Denny Mata

As the Singapore Archifest 2020 returns in a thread of offline and online formats island-wide, the SIA Conference will kick off the festival with a series of talks from 28 Sep to 30, exploring three sub-themes: Radical Indigenism, Design Empowerment, and Empathic Interventions. These focuses will look at and provide an open forum for conversations on the context, process, and impact of design on ecology, humanity, and the urban environment in Singapore and around the world.

2007 Aga Khan Award for Architecture recipient Anna Heringer, founder of Studio Anna Heringer, will initiate the conversation with “Architecture is a Tool to Improve Lives.” Speaking alongside Heringer are 12 esteemed design and architecture experts from Singapore and its neighbors in Asia and across the world. Among the speakers are Prasoon Kumar of Singapore-based BillionBricks, Vo Trong Nghia of Vietnamese firm VTN Architects, Daliana Suryawinata and Florian Heinzelmann of Rotterdam and Bandung Indonesia firm SHAU, and William Ti, Jr. from Manila-based WTA Architecture and Design Studio. Each of the SIA Conference speakers will present different aspects of how they have been improving the quality of life through creative activism and ground-up initiatives.

Below is an easy guide to Singapore Archifest 2020 SIA Conference.

Day 1: Radical Indigenism

The first day of the SIA Conference convenes Anna Heringer of Studio Anna Heringer, Xu Tiantian of DnA_Design and Architecture, Vo Trong Nghia of VTN Architects, and Prasoon Kumar od BillionBricks to focus on the context of design. The sub-theme, Radical Indigenism, recently coined by environmentalist designer Julia Watson, will discuss local issues, indigenous culture, and wisdom, materiality, ecological sustainability.

Anna Heringer
Studio Anna Heringer, Germany

‘Architecture is a Tool to Improve Lives’

Anna Heringer, Studio Anna Heringer

Anna Heringer is an architect and founder of Studio Anna Heringer, which has completed projects in Asia, Africa, and Europe. She is an honorary professor of the UNESCO Chair of Earthen Architecture, Building Cultures, and Sustainable Development. Heringer focuses on the use of natural building materials and is actively involved in development cooperation in Bangladesh since 1997. Her diploma work, the METI School in Rudrapur, got realized in 2005 and won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2007.

Heringer gives lectures worldwide at conferences, including TED, and has been visiting professor at various universities such as Harvard, ETH Zurich, and TU Munich. She received numerous accolades such as the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, the AR Emerging Architecture Award, the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard’s GSD, and a RIBA International Fellowship. Her works were widely published and exhibited in the MoMA New York, the V&A Museum in London, and at the Venice Biennale, among other places.

Conference participants may also sign up for an exclusive: Special Dialogue with Anna Heringer 28 September 2020, 7:00 PM – 8:15 PM (Singapore time), ‘How to Save OUR World while Running a Sustainable Architecture Practice.’

Xu Tiantian
DnA_Design and Architecture, China

‘Rethinking Rural’ 

Xu Tiantian, DnA_Design and Architecture

Xu Tiantian, founding principal of DnA_Design and Architecture, has built a number of projects, such as the Songzhuang Art Center and the Ordos Art Museum. Previously, she engaged extensively in the rural revitalization in Songyang County, China. Her groundbreaking “architectural acupuncture” is a holistic approach to the social and economic revitalization of rural China, which the UN-Habitat selected as the case study of ‘Inspiring Practice on Urban-Rural Linkages.’

Among Xu’s honors are the Moira Gemmill Prize for Emerging Female Architects (2019), the Design Vanguard Award by Architecture Record (2009), the Architectural League New York’s Young Architects Award (2008), and the WA China Architecture Award (2006 and 2008). Xu Tiantian received her masters in architecture and urban design from Harvard Graduate School of Design, and her baccalaureate in architecture from Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Vo Trong Nghia
VTN Architects, Vietnam

‘Redefining the Landscape: Creating Innovative Architectural Concepts Through Buddhist Meditation and the 5 Precepts’

Vo Trong Nghia, VTN Architects

Vo Trong Nghia established VTN Architects (Vo Trong Nghia Architects) in 2006 when he returned to Vietnam from Japan, where he studied architecture at the University of Tokyo. Nghia developed a sustainable architectural design by integrating inexpensive, local materials, and traditional skills with contemporary aesthetics and modern methodologies.

Nghia’s practice has won him numerous international prizes and honors, including but not limited to, World Architecture Festival Award, ARCASIA gold medal award, WAN 21 for 21 Award and AR House award, and the FuturArc Green leadership Award. He also was chosen as one of the 2014 Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum, and as the Architect of the year in Vietnam in 2012.

The Vietnam-registered architect continues to be involved in architecture at a grassroots level by teaching at the Nagoya Institute of Technology in 2011.

Prasoon Kumar
BillionBricks, Singapore

‘Why We Design Poorly for the Poor’ 

Prasoon Kumar, BillionBricks

Prasoon Kumar co-founded BillionBricks in 2013. Prior, he worked as an architect in design firms across India, the USA, Hong Kong, and Singapore. He is a President’s Design Awardee, TEDx speaker, and social justice campaigner working towards solving the global housing crisis.

Kumar’s company, BillionBricks, began as a non-profit that provided shelters, schools, and homes to 5,365 people across nine countries, and rendered relief support to another 10,000. His team’s first innovation, called weatherHYDE, is an award-winning emergency shelter designed to save the lives of the homeless in extreme weather conditions. Currently, Kumar’s team is developing powerHYDE—the world’s first self-financing, carbon-negative solar home solution that empowers everyone to be a homeowner.

Winner of Singularity University’s Global Grand Challenge and named Urban Land Institute’s 40 under 40, Kumar graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a Master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning and an Outstanding Graduate Award in 2005.

Day 2: Design Empowerment

The second day of the SIA Conference puts a spotlight on the process of design, which aims to discuss participation, accessibility, community engagement, and social resilience, and investigate the process of co-designing and co-working with communities.

Design Empowerment means to ask: How can architects engage the local community through design and construction? In the process, gaining a deeper appreciation of the core value of the community that the architecture ultimately serve? Speakers Hsieh Ying-Chun of Taiwanese firm Atelier-3, Joshua Peasley and Harrison Marshall of UK-based firm CAUKIN Studio, and Daliana Suryawinata and Florian Heinzelmann of Rotterdam-Bandung (Indonesia) studio SHAU will answer these questions by sharing their unique methodology and experience in working with diverse communities and discussing how architecture could be more collaborative, accessible, empowering, and resilient, whether in time of peace or crisis.

Hsieh Ying-Chun
Atelier-3, Taiwan

未來「新文明」- 部落   (“Tribe” as the New Civilization)
(The talk will be in Mandarin with English subtitle or translation where applicable)

Hsieh Ying Chun, Atelier-3

Hsieh Ying-Chun considers architecture and town-planning a collective endeavor and participatory effort and devotes himself to post-disaster reconstruction for over 20 years. His projects provide a prompt response to environmental or climatic emergencies, focusing on principles such as biocompatibility, sustainability, and self-sufficiency.

Some of his notable reconstruction efforts were in Nantou County in Taiwan after the September 21, 1999 earthquake; in isolated mountain areas in Sichuan after an earthquake (with members of his Rural Architecture Studio); and in indigenous communities after the 2009 Taiwan typhoon. He also worked on settlements for Tibetan herders and promoted cooperative, sustainable building in the rural areas of Hebei, Henan, and Anhui.

Among his accolades are the 16th National Awards for Arts in Taiwan (2012), the Golden Prize of the Shenzhen Affordable Housing Design Competition in China, and the Curry Stone Design Prize (2011). He also took part in Liverpool Biennale 2012. In 2006 and 2009, he represented Taiwan at the Venice Biennale International Architecture and International Art Exhibitions. He was also shortlisted for UN-HABITAT’s Best Practice award in 2004.

Joshua Peasley & Harrison Marshall

‘Democratic Education, Quality Design, Accessible for All’ 


CAUKIN Studio is a social enterprise that utilizes business as a force for good, founded in 2015. The studio believes that everybody should have access to better designed and built spaces without the large price tag. CAUKIN has worked on more than 25 design and construction projects worldwide, involving and educating over 500 international participants and local communities through these projects. The studio hopes to demonstrate that an organization can balance profit with purpose, considering the impact in equal measure to the financial goals.

Daliana Suryawinata and Florian Heinzelmann
SHAU, Rotterdam-Bandung, Indonesia

Collaborative Performances

Florian Heinzelmann and Daliana Suryawinata, SHAU. Photographed by Ed Simon, 2018.

SHAU Rotterdam-Bandung founders Daliana Suryawinata and Florian Heinzelmann work on multiple scales and typologies with a cultural-environmental agenda, including public spaces, vertical housing, visionary masterplans, and microlibraries.

Among other awards, SHAU received INDE. Awards 2018 ‘Influencer’ category, Small Firm of the Year in Sustainable Architecture from the American Architecture Prize 2017, Silver Prize from Lafarge-Holcim Award Asia-Pacific 2017, and was shortlisted for Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2019.

Before establishing SHAU, Suryawinata and Heinzelmann studied at the Berlage Institute Rotterdam. Suryawinata worked for OMA, MVRDV, and West8 and taught master courses at The Why Factory TU Delft. Heinzelmann was a project architect at UNStudio in Amsterdam, a researcher, a master course tutor, and a Solar Decathlon project manager at TU Delft. He completed his Ph.D. research on adaptive daylight structures at the TU Eindhoven.

Ar. Chu Yang Keng
IX Architects, Singapore

Leading a Positive Change

Ar. Chu Yang Keng, IX Architects

Ar. Chu Yang Keng founded IX Architects Pte Ltd, a recognized architectural practice established in 2004. As a registered ASEAN architect, Chu has been practicing both locally and across the region. He has built a diverse portfolio in a wide range of projects in Cambodia over the last decade. With a strong interest in nature-centric designs, Chu aspires to create environmentally conscious architecture that inspires and enhances the quality of life.

Chu actively contributes to the fraternity and is an active member of the SIA SMAP committee member since 2009. His accomplishment in social projects has also won his firm an Honourable Mention in the annual SIA Design Awards.

Chu graduated with a Master’s degree in architecture from NUS and was appointed one of the Panels of PPE Examiners with the Board of Architects, Singapore.

Day 3: Empathic Interventions

The final SIA Conference day will focus on Empathic Interventions, examining the humanistic, purposeful, urbanistic, tactical, place-making, transformative impact of design.

The discussions in this sub-theme aim to answer the question: “How can we design buildings and cities more purposefully so that they can fight against climate change, natural disasters, health risks, and future pandemics?” Empathic Interventions will look at the impact of architecture from the human level to the urban level, and discuss the meanings of impact, design ethics, and the inevitable trade-offs while pushing architecture to the frontline of humanity and ecological wellness.

Stefan Sjöberg
Kjellander Sjöberg, Sweden

Extending Fabrics 

BluPrint Events Singapore Archifest 2020
Stefan Sjöberg, Kjellander Sjöberg

Stefan Sjöberg founded Kjellander Sjöberg with Ola Kjellander in 1998. Sjöberg’s design vision is to contribute to neighborhoods and meeting places for healthy and thriving communities. His work is firmly developed from an understanding and analysis of the urban fabric, culture, place, climate, use, and local conditions, where his architecture always tells a story. With an engaged and creative mindset, he believes in shaping integrated and successful projects for quality lifestyles, vibrant surroundings, and new placemaking. Driven by his passion for innovation and craftsmanship, with a pragmatic and technically coherent methodology, Sjöberg has established an active and sustainable approach to the design and programming of the built environment.

Sjöberg has received a range of awards and prizes for Kjellander Sjöberg’s competition-winning designs and completed buildings. Alongside his architectural practice, Stefan is a frequent public speaker and initiates research through think tanks, workshops, and exhibitions.

Kelly Alvarez Doran
MASS Design Group, Rwanda and UK

Towards Half – Design for a Climate Positive Future 

Kelly Alvarez Doran, MASS Design Group

Kelly Alvarez Doran oversees MASS Design Group’s work in Europe, leads the London office, and spearheads the firm’s sustainability initiatives. He joined MASS in 2014 to lead the Kigali office, overseeing the growth of the practice from an office of eight to 80 over five years.

Doran has led the design and implementation of several projects across East Africa, notably the award-winning Munini District Hospital and Rwanda Ministry of Health’s Typical Hospital Plans, the headquarters for both One Acre Fund and Andela in Kenya, and the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture.

Doran is a past recipient of the Canada Council’s Prix de Rome for Emerging Practitioners and has held teaching positions at the University of Toronto, The Bartlett, Harvard University, and the University of Waterloo.

James Shen
People’s Architecture Office, US, China

Uncertain by Design 

James Shen, People’s Architecture Office

James Shen is a Principal at the People’s Architecture Office, an international practice with offices based in Beijing and Boston. Founded in 2010 by James Shen, He Zhe, and Zang Feng, the firm is a multidisciplinary studio dedicated to design innovation for a more inclusive and connected society.

Domus named PAO as one of the world’s best architecture firms of 2019, and Fast Company listed PAO as one of the world’s ten most innovative architecture companies in 2018. Recognition for the studio’s work includes the Aga Khan Award (finalist), the World Architecture Festival Award, and the Architizer A+ Award.

Shen received his Master in Architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Bachelor of Science in Product Design from CSU, Long Beach. Shen was a Loeb Fellow at Harvard, a Senior Research Fellow at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, and an Innovation Fellow at MIT’s China Future City Lab. He has taught at MIT and Harvard.

William Ti, Jr.
WTA Architecture and Design Studio, Philippines

Social Architecture 

William Ti, Jr., WTA Architecture and Design Studio

William Ti Jr., principal architect and founder of WTA Architecture and Design Studio, is a strong advocate of social architecture that promotes a humanist and socially relevant practice of architecture. He believes that architecture is a vital component of nation-building and considers stories and toys as crucial parts in the development of architecture.

In his 15 years of professional experience working on projects ranging from commercial and housing developments to bridges and stadiums, Ti has led his firm in winning various awards and gaining global recognition. He is also the founder and director of the Anthology Festival, Shelter Magazine, and The Book Stop Project.

Ti graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Master’s in Urban Design in 2012 and acquired his Bachelor’s in Architecture from the University of Santo Tomas in 2002.

Ar. Michael Leong
SAA Architects, Singapore

It’s a Job… It’s a Career… It’s Ikigai! 

Ar. Michael Leong, SAA Architects

Michael Leong is a Director at SAA Architects and leads project teams in design and project management. After working in URA, Leong joined SAA in 2008 and has been involved in a broad spectrum of projects ranging from mixed-use developments, master plans, transportation, and commercial projects, to healthcare, residential, and institutional developments, such as the recently completed Northpoint City.

Attentive to clients’ requirements yet attuned to users’ needs, Leong’s philosophy places users’ well-being at the very heart of his designs. His most recent project, the Woodlands Health Campus (WHC), is Singapore’s largest healthcare facility that enables person-centered care and healing through nature. Leong’s experience in urban planning and complex buildings offers versatility to his works. He adopts a systematic and thorough approach. He designs with a macro to micro perspective to ensure that buildings dialogue with their environment and improve human well-being.

READ MORE: Singapore Archifest 2020 is going hybrid!

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