David Nelson of Foster+Partners Addressed the Importance of Reusing Buildings in SIA Conference 2019
The original article is published in FuturArc Volume 67
This year, the theme for the festival was Craft. Working alongside artisans, architects develop an understanding of materiality and techniques that often reflect the genius loci. While it is easy to focus on the role of craft in the discourse of architecture, the theme had the potential to encompass far more.
Seah Chee Huang, president of Singapore Institute of Architects, opened the SIA Conference 2019. “This year, specifically, we focus on craft to reflect our chief aspirations. Through craft, we would like to re-examine the contextual relevance of our practice, the capacity of design, and in turn, reinforce the fundamental roles of architecture and the idea of being an architect. The advent in technology has opened a myriad of interpretations that challenges traditional understanding process and techniques of making architecture.”
David Nelson (head of Design, senior executive partner, Foster + Partners), was the keynote speaker at this year’s event. “Contractors usually say that it is cheaper to knock it down than to rebuild. It is probably cheaper in financial terms, but in carbon terms, it is quite the opposite. All the cities that we live in already have a huge investment in locked carbon in the existing buildings, where a majority of them have lasted beyond their prime. So, can they be renovated? Do we have enough effort to consider keeping these buildings, modifying or extending them? I think we have to show more respect to existing structures. Land prices have since skyrocketed; it is a commercially driven problem.
“When you analyse it, they are very efficient financially, but not necessarily efficient for the occupants. If we actually change the priorities and say this is going to be efficient for people to work in—they are going to be healthier, they are going to get daylight—one would not build with the standard responses that still exist everywhere.
“I think if we build in the future, we need to actually design something that could be occupying nature in a different way, and that is a hard thing to do. All life is between two slabs: it is a slab up there and another down there. All that alters is the dimension. If we were smart, we would actually think about optimising all that should be, particularly for large-scale urban planning city projects. If we have this kind of mindset, buildings will never need to be knocked down.
“I think that China is very interesting. They are one of the largest polluters in the world at the moment, but they are also putting in huge amounts of work looking at alternative ways. We have completed many master plans in China that really push a lot of new thinking in technology, food production in cities, water storage, etc. It is an interesting dichotomy between where they are now and where they ultimately might end up,” Nelson observed.
The Architecture and Building Services (ABS) 2019 series was officially opened on 1 October 2019 by guest of honour Zaqy Mohamad, Minister of State, Ministry of National Development & Ministry of Manpower, at the Sands Expo & Convention Centre, Singapore. The extensive and comprehensive three-day platform presented six key architectural and building services exhibitions and 12 industry conferences, and was attended by more than 10,500 visitors, conference delegates and industry professionals from the built environment sectors in Singapore and globally. ABS 2019 was driven by six international showcases: ArchXpo 2019, International Facility Management Expo (iFaME) 2019, LED+Light Asia 2019, Safety & Security Asia (SSA) 2019, Fire & Disaster Asia (FDA) 2019, and Work Safe Asia (WSA) 2019.
For more information, please visit www.archifest.sg.