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Future Memory Pavilion

As part of Singapore’s ArchiFest, London-based Pernilla Ohrstedt and Asif Khan have created a pavilion of ice and sand that considers the past and future.

Future Memory Pavilion


October 27th, 2011

With the memory of Asif Khan and Pernilla Ohrstedt’s experimental Cloud installation at Design Miami/Basel still fresh in our minds (helium gas and soapsuds were used to form a cloud-like ceiling!), we were full of anticipation to witness the duo’s first, and also biggest, collaborative project in Singapore.

The Future Memory Pavilion was commissioned by the British Council, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Arts (London) and the Preservation of Monuments Board (Singapore) as part of the country’s annual architecture festival, ArchiFest.

Unlike Cloud’s technical invention, however, the Future Memory Pavilion is more a show of local know-how using the basic materials of ice, sand and rope, though far more challenging according to Ohrstedt and Khan since it is a much larger structure involving ’remote discussions’ with a team of local technicians, contractors and suppliers.

Future Memory Pavilion

The construction

Following on from a series of forums in the UK and part of an outreach programme in Singapore, the installation seeks to encourage cross-cultural discourse on memory and ideas about change; and how the past impacts the way we consider future urban development.

Future Memory Pavilion

Asif Khan and Pernilla Ohrstedt

Situated outside the National Museum of Singapore, the pavilion takes the form of 2 towering stylised cones made of rope. Housed within one cone are slowly melting slabs of ice; the other holds a rising pile of sand.

Future Memory Pavilion

“We started off by hearing lots of stories about the memories of Singapore, and also what the ideas of the future are… but then trying to distil that into one built pavilion was quite a challenge,” says Ohrstedt.

They began with their own ’European view’ of a pavilion as a permeable building, followed by material research till a conversation with a Singapore taxi driver led them to the idea of using ice.

“A taxi driver commented about where there used to be an ’ice bridge’ near the thieves market (Sungei Road),” Ohrstedt recalls.

Further investigation led them to discover that ’ice bridge’ referred to an ice factory from the 1850s that used to import huge blocks of ice from New England’s winter lakes to Singapore for refrigeration purposes.

Future Memory Pavilion

Future Memory Pavilion

“It’s interesting to see that initiation of bringing ice has since kind of led to a dual climate that you have here where there’s obviously an internal climate and an external one… this sort of expectation that there will be a New England temperature range indoors,” says Ohrstedt.

Future Memory Pavilion

The two also learnt how sand had historically been drawn from Singapore’s hills for the country’s land reclamation works.

“This is really a beautiful idea in itself. That inside the land is the memory of the hills that existed before. And then this process is continuing to happen as well, which is really a remarkable thing,” says Khan.

Future Memory Pavilion

The sand will later be taken back by the supplier to be used in buildings in Singapore. “So it will literally become part of Singapore’s future,” notes Ohrstedt.

The pavilion will continue to morph for 1 month. As the ice melts, sand will be released at intervals from the top of the cone in an exchange of volumes; the first ice installation will be replenished with an ice seating landscape.

The Future Memory Pavilion is open to the public from 18 October – 19 November.

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