Featuring Tan Wei Ming
THE LIFE OF an architect is definitely not all work and no play. Apart from being an architecture student at the National University of Singapore, Tan Wei Ming has had many interesting endeavours in art with a distinction in the Chinese painting Category for the Dr Tan Tsze Chor Art Award in 2011.
Some of his works include a public installation at Singapore Art Museum @ 8Q. THE LANDSCAPE BOX project, which examines the relationship between the scale, memory and landscape of Duxton, was inspired by the Urban Sketchers Singapore interest group. Boundaries between landscape and memory, time and space, the existing and the pre-existing are blurred as the viewer’s line of sight is guided from layer to layer, foreground to background, past to present. THE INK FOLLY, another project of his, uses Fibonacci triangles as an architectural folly.
Wei Ming enjoys exploring the city on foot whether in Singapore or beyond. He is intrigued by every detail of the landscape, from the back lanes to the front streets and the informal use of urban greenery and nature in the wild. He derives his inspiration from construction sites to demolition sites, built heritage and intangible traditions. The thresholds and dualities, ambiguities and contradictions of a city intrigues Wei Ming. He connects his passion for architecture with his personal interests in urban sketching, photography and Chinese ink painting.
The folding and unfolding of fractal triangular planes creates a multiplicity of spatial qualities, blurring the distinction between interior and exterior. As one creates art and cleanses the brush within the space, the varying opacity of calligraphy ink in water modulates the degree of light and shade to a poetic effect.
Wei Ming feels that it is important to express a relevant form as a consequence to a critical discourse. Architecture might be about design of creative forms and icons to many. As such, the content, typology, and the intangible qualities of architecture often go unappreciated. Older public houses are deemed as non-design to most, but these are the spaces that impact Singaporeans the most. Banal, ordinary-looking places may matter more to a community.
Prior to his architectural education, he had been fascinated with avant-garde ‘starchitects’. However, in a city with no lack of iconic architecture, he questions the appropriateness of such autonomous expressions by re-aligning the Miesian aesthetic (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was German-American architect born in the 1880s) of ‘less is more’ to an age of environmental and humanitarian crises. He realizes that it is vital that architecture achieves more with less. Wei Ming considers himself fortunate to have learnt an invaluable lesson from his first tutor, Richard Ho, that architecture is not about the ego of the architect, but of its users and the society at large.
Wei Ming would like to see more collaboration between different art and design fields from architecture, urbanism, landscape, industrial design, to fine art, digital design, and also other fields like engineering, science, and humanities.
The contextual approach in architecture, an approach that is sensitive to the local climate, its inhabitants and the site, is important to Wei Ming.
He strongly feels that the city belongs to the people and is the melting pot for the collective memory of Singapore. To him, the public undermines architecture by remaining silent and being apathetic to the developments in the city. Especially in this day and age where economic priorities, gentrification, and en bloc sales take precedence, issues of environmental and social sustainability, heritage and memory becomes inconsequential.
Architecture can be deeply enriched with a multi-disciplinary approach. The resultant possibilities would be limitless: an exchange of philosophies, principles and perspectives.
Lastly, Wei Ming would want to ask you to think twice if you intend to pursue architecture. Though the journey ahead would be meaningful, it would not be an easy path. He asks and reminds those in and out of the field not to fear failure, being critical, and being ordinary.