They define the shape of a city. They contain its people and their multitudes of lives too. Buildings are the ubiquitous fabric of our urban condition, yet they somehow remain in the background of the minds of many city dwellers.
Perhaps it is their towering silhouettes that overshadow questions of how they came about. Or their immutable forms that make them seem like a natural phenomenon. But no building is simply a heap of materials, be it stone, concrete, steel or glass. They are assemblies of intentions, resources and beliefs—expressed in a language known as “architecture”.
Architecture may not be able to speak for itself, but the people who created it can. This is how I learned about the buildings by W Architects. As the editor of this exhibition catalogue and the studio’s first-ever monograph published in 2020, I have been privileged to spend hours listening to managing director Mok Wei Wei as he patiently walked me through four decades of the studio’s projects. These recollections at W Architects were frequently interrupted by an excuse to retrieve a drawing, a document, a magazine or newspaper cut-out and even a book from his office to vividly bring home a point.