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WHEN IS ENOUGH, ENOUGH? The Performance of Measurement

Singapore Pavilion at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia Sale d’Armi, Arsenale


The centrepiece of the Singapore Pavilion is a Values Measurement Machine, a spectacular series of analogue plotting machines that mark data on 5-metre-tall, rotating calligraphic scrolls.
Photographer: Chiara Becattini

  Published: 17 May 2023

Co-commissioned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and the DesignSingapore Council (Dsg), and organised by the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA), the Singapore Pavilion, WHEN IS ENOUGH, ENOUGH? The Performance of Measurement, will feature at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition in response to La Biennale di Venezia’s theme, The Laboratory of The Future.

Buildings and the built environment are designed and built according to measurable and quantifiable standards. Yet a community’s interaction with their environment is intangible and not measured within these same markers. If cities are to be designed to be more humane and loveable, the need to redefine ‘innovation in design’ to link both the measurable and intangible realms of architecture is important. The Singapore Pavilion seeks to encourage dialogue about additional ways of measuring and evaluating the intangible qualities of architecture, and asks in particular: how much is enough?

Led by curators from SIA, Ar. Melvin Tan, Ar. Adrian Lai and Ar. Wong Ker How, WHEN IS ENOUGH, ENOUGH? The Performance of Measurement aims to visualise how we can measure the intangible, unmeasurable qualities of a community’s interaction with their urban environment as encapsulated by six qualities – agency, attachment, attraction, connection, freedom and inclusion.

At the Pavilion’s centre is the Values Measurement Machine, a spectacular series of analogue plotting machines marking data on five-metre-tall calligraphic scrolls. Visitors are invited to respond to six questions that relate to the intangible elements of the city and reflect on the qualities that can enhance our urban landscape to a more loveable one. Navigating through a spectrum of artistic renders, visitors will pinpoint the critical balance of qualities to evoke their desired habitat, weighing their preferences and registering these values at the Pavilion. These acts of weighing and registering values form the body of the artwork and their choices will be plotted on the large calligraphic scrolls over the six months of the exhibition, creating a dynamic display of the audience’s desires, telling the story of consensus and contradiction over the six months in real-time. 

Accompanying the machine are exhibits containing over 40 other questions for visitors to learn more about the research and work done by practices, in how they expand the definition of architectural outcomes. In particular, their work in measuring intangibles while designing for topics such as dementia and neurodiversity, rewilding, biodiversity, nutrition, and biomimicry ecosystems. 

These contributors comprise Singapore-based and international architects and researchers who collaborated with the curators to create the exhibits, tapping on their wide range of subject matter expertise concerning the qualities of agency, attachment, attraction, connection, freedom and inclusion.
They include:
Ong Ker-Shing and Dr Joshua Adam Comaroff from Lekker Architects, architectural practitioners with interest in social impact and inclusion; 
Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassell, founding directors of WOHA Architects with award-winning sustainable architecture and design projects; 
Anuj Jain, an ecology and biomimicry design expert leading the field in biophilia;  
Bjorn Low, an urban farmer and co-founder of Edible City; 
Dr Emi Kiyota, an environmental gerontologist and leader in designing and implementing long-term care facilities and hospitals globally;  
Dr. Thomas Schroepfer and Dr. Srilalitha Gopalakrishnan, researchers of Network Science tools to analyse and visualise how people interact and occupy spaces
Yann Follain, founder of WY-TO, a multidisciplinary design studio focusing on holistic society improvements through purposefully planned spaces and everyday interactions;
Calvin Chua, Aurelia Chan and Chew Yunqing of Spatial Anatomy, researching the future of Singapore malls; and
Annabelle Tan, an urban designer with a keen interest in city making and its relation to socio political systems.

“Good architecture and urban design celebrate the intricacies of each city, and holds society’s needs as its reason for being. In this vein, we strive to continue to partner the community in bringing to fruition the cherished aspects of their lives within the built environment. This would then foster a stronger sense of belonging and camaraderie among people, nurture harmony amidst diversity, and drive the development of a well-designed and loveable living environment for all,” said Yap Lay Bee, Co-Commissioner of the Singapore Pavilion and Group Director (Architecture & Urban Design) of URA.

“Agency, Attachment, Attraction, Connection, Freedom and Inclusion are essential qualities for a city, which were identified by the Loveable Singapore project led by DesignSingapore Council. As a multicultural, multilingual city state of a compact size with limited natural resources, Singapore’s designers, architects, researchers, scientists and activists have long been grappling with and balancing these intangibles as part of their work. WHEN IS ENOUGH, ENOUGH? The Performance of Measurement materialises the challenges and opportunities cities around the world face, in reconciling needs and wants to design a better and more loveable city for all,” added Dawn Lim, Co-Commissioner of the Singapore Pavilion and Executive Director of Dsg.  

In examining design processes that work for these six qualities, the Singapore Pavilion uncovers challenges and contradictions, and brings to light methods of addressing diverse preferences and the conundrums that arise. Meanwhile, the Values Measurement Machine collates empirical data throughout the 18th International Architecture Exhibition, offering a snapshot of how intangible qualities turned into data can help increase appreciation of creating inclusive standards from the ground up. 

“The Laboratory of the Future seeks to be an agent of change by telling multiple stories and the Singapore Pavilion is designed to evoke discussions on the fundamental instrumentality of measurement and standards. Architects have long grappled with the challenge of measuring intangible qualities in the built environment - from Louis Kahn's Unmeasurable, to Le Corbusier's Ineffable or the Nusantaran Ruang - we now shift our collective gaze to the most critical intangible qualities. For architecture, planning and design to mirror evolving values and consensus, what standards do we measure to? Critically, what meta-architectural measures do we need in place if systemic changes are necessary for society to move forward?” said Adrian Lai of Singapore Institute of Architects on behalf of the curators.

WHEN IS ENOUGH, ENOUGH? The Performance of Measurement proposes that an equitable society rests upon the bedrock of its people continually making sense of counteracting priorities, values and definitions, especially in increasingly multi-cultural and multi-species cities. Visitors to the Singapore Pavilion are called upon to reflect on how much is enough to achieve the outcomes they envision for their cities, to imagine the intangible qualities deemed truly important, and the roles that both architects and the general communities play in designing and realising this reality.

Visitors can explore the Singapore Pavilion at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition at the Sale d’Armi, Arsenale, from 20 May to 26 November 2023. 

To learn more, visit the Singapore Pavilion’s online channels:
Website: https://www.singaporepavilion.sg 
Facebook: https:/www.facebook.com/singaporepavilionvenice 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/singapore.pavilion

Annex A [PDF, 141kb] Commissioners and Organiser
Annex B [PDF, 218kb] Curators
Annex C [PDF, 182kb] Collaborators
Annex D [PDF, 400kb] The Loveable Singapore Report