International firm WOW Architects’ director James Tan is the principal designer behind the eco-friendly Pavilion, the activity hub for this year’s Archifest. He talks about why Singapore architecture is special, the Pavilion’s unique construction materials and how he remembers the building site at Fort Canning.

What’s special about the Singapore style of architecture?
It’s unique not because of a singular style but rather an approach and strategy to assimilate Singapore’s diversity. It explores the mosaic-like nature of our multiculturalism and history. It studies our tropical climate and pushes the boundaries of our garden city concept.

What’s new and different about your pavilion design?
We used the material VersiWeb, which allows natural ventilation while providing shelter from the sun and rain. When viewed from different angles, the Pavilion seems to disappear and merge with the surroundings. The Pavilion design is also highly interactive. Straw mats are inserted into pockets in the VersiWeb to encourage visitors to use them for seminars or picnics around the Pavilion.

How did you first find out about VersiWeb?
I first saw it used in construction work to strengthen the slopes of Fort Canning. I realized the VersiWeb could be re-used on these slopes after the Archifest or donated to countries affected by slope erosion due to floods.

Do you have any personal memories of the pavilion site?
I used to swim at the River Valley swimming pool that was here back in the 1980s! And I visited the National Library (now demolished and relocated) on weekends.