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to gather: The Architecture of Relationships

Singapore Pavilion

at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia

  Published: 20 March 2021

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and DesignSingapore Council (Dsg) jointly present to gather : The Architecture of Relationships, as Singapore’s response to the overarching theme of the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia -- ‘How Will We Live Together?’ by curator Hashim Sarkis. This marks the country’s seventh showcase at the International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia since Singapore first took part in 2004.

Curated by the National University of Singapore (NUS), the Singapore Pavilion will profile local architects and design talents on an international stage through projects that explore and celebrate the different ways in which Singaporeans share public spaces. Drawing upon local spatial typologies, the exhibition will showcase everyday stories representing a broad cross-section of culture and society, and allow visitors to experience a uniquely Singaporean style of gathering and living together.

to gather explores gatherings through Singapore’s urban context where the majority of the population lives in public housing and where designed spaces of different scales such as hawker centres1, community hubs, void decksand sky gardens meaningfully contribute to public social life.

For the exhibition, 16 built and speculative architecture, art and design projects on gathering typologies unique to Singapore have been selected. The projects will be presented on 16 round tables within the Pavilion, inspired by the spatial typology of local hawker centres.

The projects will be brought together by four themes – Communing Relationships, Framing Relationships, Uncovering Relationships and Imagining Relationships. Presenting the works of various stakeholders such as architects, designers, communities, citizens and non-profit organisations, the projects collectively feature the different ways in which Singaporeans share public spaces, and how these spaces – both designed and spontaneous – can serve as catalysts in forming relationships, improving the quality of the built environment and forging new spatial contracts. 

As a compact, island city-state with scarce land resources to support Singapore’s urban development, it is crucial to constantly balance the demands of the population across a wide variety of needs. Unique forms of public spaces have correspondingly emerged from these considerations, with Singaporeans creatively establishing distinctive ways of encouraging the community to gather. However, rapidly evolving technologies may change the way public spaces are viewed by communities. Over the past year, COVID-19 has also resulted in major shifts in the way Singaporeans interact with one another and with the surrounding built environment. to gather allows local architects and designers to examine afresh these shared public spaces and address the challenges in making them more sustainable, resilient, and safer, as the community positions itself to emerge stronger from the pandemic.

Singapore Pavilion Co-Commissioner and URA Group Director (Architecture & Urban Design) Yap Lay Bee, said: “As we leverage architecture and urban design to address new global challenges, it is important to continue supporting and facilitating community participation in the design of public spaces. Collectively, public spaces have a significant impact on our quality of life, helping us to form connections, share memories, values and a sense of place in which we call home.” 

Mark Wee, Singapore Pavilion Co-Commissioner and Executive Director of Dsg added: “As a city-state which has experienced rapid urbanisation since its independence, Singapore has over time forged our own style of high density living, and places of community gathering in our parks, hawker centres, void decks and sky gardens. The pandemic and its restrictions on global travel have brought everyone closer together, with a deeper appreciation for our families and communities. This exhibition aims to share how we can live and gather peacefully amidst such challenging times.” 

Curator of the Singapore Pavilion and Head of Department of Architecture in NUS, Prof Ho Puay-Peng, said: “Architects have always played a significant role in designing safe, healthy, inclusive, and equitable spaces, particularly as Singapore begins to take steps to transition cautiously out of the current pandemic. Yet, this contribution to creating, sharing and building spaces cannot be without a re-learning of what it means to live together, and a new spatial contract for living together needs to be forged. Returning to the status quo is inexcusable, perhaps this global public health crisis can motivate architects to expand their roles in society innovatively and take this opportunity to actively shape a new culture and a new way forward.”

The Singapore Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia will open from 22 May 2021 to 21 November 2021. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation globally, digital platforms will be leveraged to present the Pavilion to the international audience. The exhibition will be restaged in Singapore in 2022, and the details will be announced in due course.

For more information, visit, or the Singapore Pavilion’s Instagram and Facebook pages at and

Annex A [PDF, 32kb]: About the Singapore Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia
Annex B [PDF, 57kb]: Full list of participants
Annex C [PDF, 78kb]: Curatorial Statement
Annex D [PDF, 58kb]: About the Curators

Hawker centres are public open-air, cooked food centres in Singapore that offer a variety of ifferent cuisines. In 2020, Hawker culture in Singapore was added to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Culture and Heritage of Humanity.
In Singapore, void decks are sheltered, open spaces at the ground floor of high-rise public apartment blocks.