Building Agency (2017) is the central theme of the 11th annual architectural festival organized by the Singapore Institute of Architects in collaboration with major educational and statutory institutions in Singapore. It emphasizes building up agency and citizen participation through architecture; and foregrounds the agency of buildings as important materials and spaces of urban life. The key research and curatorial question is: Can the opinions and actions of citizens be part of the production and alteration of the built environment in a highly controlled and professionalized field?
Insisting on the empowerment of people as active agents in the making of our built environment, Building Agency marked the first time in Singapore’s highly specialized professional environment where a new paradigm of the architect’s role to create room for citizen participation was forwarded in the city-state’s single major architectural festival, potentially engendering new engagement policies. The Institute’s Design Trust Committee appointed Eunice Seng and Koon Wee as Directors’ in recognition of their roles in research innovation, education, public empowerment and the profession. This festival was awarded an Industry Association Development Assistance (IADA) grant from the Design Singapore Council.
The festival presented over fifty public engagement events to capture every stakeholder of the built environment. Over 50,000 visitors were directly impacted by workshops, forums, exhibitions, debates, seminars, lectures, study trips for the general public and allied professionals, involving local museums, parks, schools, NGOs, societies, interest groups, municipal agencies and leading intelligentsia. Building Agency built upon the directors’ research since their 2015 study of the social-urban fabric in the Rail Corridor government proposal, and culminated in a number of research publications. The research had been presented in international lectures and workshops at International Studios Symposium, Seoul, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, the National University of Singapore, Meiji University, Tokyo, and University of Michigan.