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Wanted: Alternate Visions for the Venice Biennale

The Substation is hosting a competition for new ideas for the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018. The prize? $10,000 and “zero official influence.”

Wanted: Alternate Visions for the Venice Biennale

“We think it’s time to imagine new excitement for the Biennale institution,” says Joshua Comaroff, a member of a Substation-based group called the Persuasive Design Agency (PDA). He is speaking, through subtitles, in a video outlining the PDA’s competition titled ‘(Not The) Singapore Venice Pavilion’. The noise of jackhammers, which are in use behind him, completely (and intentionally) drowns out his spoken words.

The competition, funded entirely by The Substation, aims to explore the future of the Biennale model at a time when (in the PDA’s view) national pavilions fail to pose convincing responses to new technological, political or climatic concerns.

Says the competition description, “It is time to ask: can the ‘new’ pavilion move away from national advertisement, toward new roles and engagements with the public? Can it question the assumption of ‘object-ness’ or ‘room-ness’ toward other ways of being?”

The competition encourages proposals for a broad range of alternate, even radical visions: rituals, constructions, engagements, practices, materials, climates, atmospheres. And it is open to anyone: architects, designers, artists and students, in individuals or teams, from Singapore or elsewhere.

“We are open to anything and everything,” says Comaroff in the video. “We don’t believe architects have the best ideas. They say so, we are skeptical. So we made this open to everyone.”

The closing date is soon – 21 August – but fret not about the level to which you can develop your entry, as in early September three shortlisted teams will take part in an open public workshop at The Substation. The teams will receive a mentor, and will work to develop the potential of their concepts for two full days.

“In the interest of transparency, we’re going to expose the entire process of judging, of discussion, of criticism, and the development of these themes to the public,” says Comaroff.

Who will be the judges? The PDA team will be revealing the names this week, but we hear there are some high-profile figures from Singapore’s architecture, design and arts scene.

And who is the PDA, you may be wondering? Explains Comaroff, “The PDA is a temporary agency of weirdos and troublemakers.” They will be operating out of the Substation’s ‘Random Room’ (next to the theatre) during the upcoming Discipline the City show.

Says Comaroff, “A group of us will be camping there, and the public will be able to ask us to solve issues that make them insecure when it comes to architecture, urbanism and landscape. There is a secret interview-hole for asking questions. The solutions will probably be very earnest, but rational to an extreme, and are intended to create discussion about the costs and benefits of safety as an architectural consideration. The whole thing will be done with a sense of humour in keeping with the tone of the show.”

The shortlisted competition entries will be exhibited at The Substation as part of Discipline the City from 23 August to 24 September. The competition promises that the winner will receive “$10,000 and zero official influence over the design of Singapore’s 2018 pavilion.”

Find full competition details here.

Fancy a recap on Singapore’s presentations at the Venice Architecture Biennale? Read writer (and Cubes magazine’s regular columnist) Justin Zhuang’s personal recount here.




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