Last year VW+BS Architecture and Design (where I am a director) entered a couple of projects in the residential category at Inside Festival in Singapore, and one of our entries was shortlisted. Nice job we thought. Only we had not quite clocked the nature of this competition: in order to win, you have to go along and present your work in person, all the way over in Singapore.
Well that should not have been too much of a problem, as we are back and forth to Singapore with projects and work all the time…..but that was the problem. We had just arrived back in London after an exhausting couple of weeks working on 100% Design in Singapore, as the curators and designers of the show, as well as moderating their conference programme. And we did not want to pack that capsule hand luggage again and fly back almost immediately.
In hindsight, we know that was a mistake, now we understand the nature of the competition. Because this year we went to Inside Festival. No shortlisted entries this time but Voon Wong (our creative director) was judging – we had done a bit of design work for Inside Festival and we were speaking on one of the conference panels. The whole point of the show is that architects and interior designers from all over the world (on our table at the final dinner we were surrounded by Romanians, Italians, Japanese, Thai, British and Singaporeans to give you a flavour of the international reach) are talking and being questioned in open panels about their work.
It’s quite amazing to have the possibility to hear so many ideas being discussed about design all under one roof. Of course you’ve got your architects Richard Rogers and your Moshe Safdies on the conference programme, but it’s the small studios giving a 20-minute insight on why they had designed that restaurant or house or bookstore or office or bank (you get the picture) that offer real gems.
And best of all was that the winners at Inside Festival were not all obvious names for well-known projects. Sure BIG architects and Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners won architecture prizes, but the Building of the Year was a chapel in Vietnam by a21 Studio – hardly a household name. And we now have some Romanian architect friends for those Bucharest city breaks and a meeting coming up with a big potential client. We are already planning our 2015 trip.