The Future Memory Pavilion, Singapore
18 October – 19 November 2011
Designed by Pernilla Ohrstedt and Asif Khan
Commissioned by the British Council in partnership with the Preservation of Monuments Board, Singapore and the Royal Academy of Arts to celebrate ArchiFest 2011, the Pavilion invites visitors to experience the growing and shrinking sand and ice mounds and reflect on the way these materials have shaped and will continue to shape Singapore.
The Pavilion sits on the lawn of the National Museum of Singapore, underneath a Banyan tree. The form of the two cones is intentionally monumental, celebrating the two materials and suggesting a homage to the lost hills of Singapore. The Pavilion frames the space rather than enclosing it, thus inviting the visitor to experience subtle environmental changes and embrace the natural climate, unlike most buildings in Singapore that offer a drastically modified climate internal conditions.
Memory, like the sand and ice, is mutable and relative to the current time and place. What, how and why we choose to remember can shape the future. The Pavilion is a place to visit and reflect, inviting personal interpretations and recollection of old memories and the creation of new ones.
Sand and Ice
The Pavilion is a physical expression of the initial concept and drawing, with two monumental cones containing ice and sand. There is little distinction between inside and out as the two materials are exposed to the weather and human interaction. As one cone fills the other empties, creating an inside space and experience which changes over the lifespan of the Pavilion.
Naturally occurring slabs of lake ice were first imported to Singapore more than 150 years ago for cooling. The desire for climatic control is now considered vital. In the Future Memory Pavilion the melting ice becomes a visible and tangible sign of Singapore’s hot tropical climate. People sitting on the ice leave a temporary imprint, a momentary symbol of their presence that will melt away.
The regular delivery of blocks of ice to be stacked inside the Pavilion evokes its past importation from America in the mid-nineteenth century. The space that is created by the blocks changes slightly with each iteration.
Minnesota ice harvest, late nineteenth century. Photo: Whitney & Zimmerman
Singapore’s physical landscape today can be traced to the movement of sand, as its natural topography was altered and new parts of the city were built on land reclaimed from the sea. The growing sand dune in the pavilion is altered by wind, rain and people, but as sand falls a perfect sand cone is continually re-made.
The sand in the Future Memory Pavilion can be interpreted as having been intercepted in its journey from its natural location, to being used for land reclamation or within building products. Sand is used to make glass, concrete, bricks and mortar, which constitute the palette of Singapore’s built environment.
An ongoing series of Forums at the Royal Academy set out to examine the character, uses and implications of memory in visual culture. Exploring the theme from a variety of angles, the series sought to question how designers, critics or just observers consider memory, which is in its very nature ephemeral and transient, when dealing with the physical realm. Over the course of the events, it became apparent that memory’s tight relationship with the built environment in many western cultures suggested a collective lack of confidence in the ability of memory to actually remember. The increasing urge to preserve historic buildings may betray a fear of forgetting, of memory being swept away as buildings and environments disappear to be replaced by new developments. It was posited in one event that it may be through continually remaking our environment we begin to activate memory, ridding it of its tie to the physical to freely exist in the individual and collective consciousness.
The programme provides a platform for designers and architects from the UK and Singapore to showcase and exchange ideas around a theme of relevance and interest to both countries. In July a Forum was held in Singapore at the National Museum of Singapore which brought together British and Singaporean architects and artists for a shared discussion on the role memory has played in both their own practice and wider urban environment. The Future Memory Pavilion captures and elaborates on the themes in built form and encourages a continuing dialogue about memory and ideas about change.
On Monday 21 November 2011, the pavilion's designers, Asif Khan and Pernilla Ohrstedt talked about their inspiration for the project, the design process and the construction of this innovative structure. A panel of respondents including Kelvin Ang and Christopher Woodward critiqued and discussed the pavilion. Read more