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WAF makes the world go round

Paul Finch
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With the World Architecture Festival moving into top gear, WAF director Paul Finch’s week reflects the global reach of the event

Thursday 14 May Breakfast in Singapore with architect-planner Liu Thai-Ker, one of the intellects behind the creation of independent Singapore in 1965. He has agreed to speak at World Architecture Festival this November. He reminds me that the initials of his practice, RSP, originally stood for Raglan Squire & Partners.

I am in Singapore to speak at the opening of Brendan Neiland’s third exhibition at the Galerie Belvedere since 2001. Based on Singapore inspirations, it’s a lively mix of colour, reflections and juxtapositions. Guests include some WAF pals who have spoken, judged or entered our awards. As ever, they are friendly and optimistic and funny.

Friday Off to Marina Bay Sands to see a splendid Leonardo exhibition, complete with nine original drawings from the Codex Atlanticus, at the Art Science Museum. Later I meet Ng Lye Hock, better known to everyone as Larry and a huge help in bringing WAF to Singapore at the Urban Redevelopment Authority. We talk about our move to another continent next year. We want to keep a regional satellite event in Singapore, like the ones we are launching in London next month, and in Dubai in September.

Then a visit to the new-ish National Design Centre, as busy and buzzy as one would hope. A formal dinner to mark the ‘Neiland in Singapore’ exhibition is held in the China Club at the top of Capita Land’s headquarters tower. Our generous hosts are the Galerie Belvedere team of Jaya Mohideen and her daughter Rasina. A wonderful menu, including a winter melon soup, served in a hollowed out winter melon.

Saturday Jaya has arranged a private visit to the Singapore National Gallery (above), now completing an impressive reworking of the two buildings it occupies, City Hall and the former Supreme Court, by Paris-based architects Studio Milou. Lunch with Kerry Hill; his weighty Thames & Hudson monograph has sold 13,500 copies, an extraordinary number. Kerry has been shortlisted in the new Sydney Museum of Modern Art competition, result awaited. Then off to see an a spectacular new public housing development by WOHA, three linked, diamond-shaped blocks with spectacular views from the open decks on the 46th floor. Other decks create 11-storey ‘villages’, each with 80 decent-size apartments, which would fetch S$1.5 million were they private.

Sunday Delicious lunch in Chinatown Seafood precedes a night flight back to London, via Helsinki.

Monday My AJ column praising the Garden Bridge triggers a stroppy on-line reaction, about which I feel rather sad.  There are enough people trying to stop things without architects and designers joining in.

Tuesday A (French) cider with Jean-Francois Milou, who happens to be in town. I invite him to speak and judge at WAF. Then off to Bespoke, the architectural recruitment consultancy for a Clerkenwell Design Week event. ‘Room 101’ features six speakers trying to persuade an audience to share their pet hate. Mine is bus lanes, those vastly under-used or absurdly rammed London road-spaces. It is fair to say I got at least a handful of votes.

Wednesday An advisory board meeting of the Regeneration Investment Organisation. In its first year of operation it has attracted £3 billion of overseas investment into ‘shovel-ready’ projects.

Then dinner at Fulham Palace, one of London’s heritage secrets, to mark the semi-retirement of Julian Barwick from Development Securities. A lovely crowd, including man-about-property Roger Squire (son of Raglan and brother of architect Michael). I tell him that it is RSP’s 60th anniversary next year. Perhaps the brothers will be invited to celebrate in their dad’s old stomping ground.

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