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He's immediately disarming. Even though it's an email interview because this reporter can't work the IDD on the office line to save his life, Danny Forster's enthusiasm and passion for architecture, specifically mega structures is overwhelming. To be honest, he bowls you over.
Danny Forster: For the new season of BUILD IT BIGGER, we featured an incredible project in New Orleans, a post-Katrina response show looking at one of the world’s longest walls, a two-mile long, 100-meter deep wall that’s designed to fight back the next Katrina. Although not an engineering marvel, Brad Pitt and "Make It Right" foundation have been quite inspirational, rebuiling sustainable and storm-resistant homes for residents who lost their homes in Katrina.
Over in the Middle East, it's not longer just about the Burj Dubai, not the crazy buildings or indoor ski parks. The Central Market Towers in Abu Dhabi designed by Lord Norman Foster is going to be defined and understood by their own culture much like the Marina Bay Sands is interpreted for Singapore.
I think, finally, you’re going to see the Middle East defined by their own understanding of their own culture, their own history, and their own future and that's very inspirational.
AM: Where would you rank the Marina Bay Sands Skypark?
Danny Forster: The Marina Bay Sands is an astonishing piece of design and construction, both in terms of the engineering of the sky park (a first of its kind) but also in the way in which the architecture reinterprets the typical Las Vegas through Singapore's eyes. I was deeply impressed by the project on the whole.
The Marina Bay Sands is essentially three skyscrapers with essentially a 350-meter long bridge connecting the roof of these towers. It’s quite literally a park elevated in the sky, a 70-story building with a park on top of it, a long, linear park including an infinity pool, restaurants, club, and thousands of trees, plants, and vegetation. Beyond just that, it also has the world’s longest cantilever, which is essentially a diving board if you will, extended out 80 some-odd meters.
AM: It sounds like more than just a building then...
Danny Forster: It’s amazing. You’re looking down at Marina Bay. You are at the 70-some odd story in the air and there’s nothing below you. It’s a bridge on top of a skyscraper, on top of Singapore. There will be no greater view in the entire country and you’ll be looking down at all of the new downtown developments. I haven't heard of other governments who've given the greenlight to build a park in the sky. The buildings are also shaped like waves about to crash on the bay. Everything about that project is worth staring at.
I feel fortunate because I try and take the time to really look at buildings and think about them and try to feel what they want me to feel. I wish more people would do that. -Danny Forster, architect and host
AM: Have you heard of the oriental concept of Feng Shui? Have you tried to incorporate it in any of your designs?
Danny Forster: I am very familiar with the concept of feng shui, but as designer I always believe we should draw inspiration from our own experience and own context. So to that end I tend to explore my work from a uniquely American perspective as that is what I know and how I was trained.
AM: You’ve performed stand comedy for 2 years – What’s your killer joke?
Danny Forster: How do you stop a stampede from an Elephant? Take away its charge card... I quit comedy for a reason.
AM: Would you ever leave architecture behind and return to stand up?
Danny Forster: I did stand-up comedy very, very unsuccessfully for about two years after college. That was about ten years ago, and I was very bad at it because I wasn’t funny when I told jokes. When you're on stage and no one laughs, it’s a very clear indication you should do something else with your life. So I tried something else.
Lawyers didn't seem like happy people and then I discovered buildings. They're more than just something that blocks the rain or keeps you warm, you’re looking at a piece of the sociological, economic, political and technological history. Everything there is about a country and heritage including its ethnicity all exist in a building.
AM: An example would be... ?
Danny Forster: Take the Uffizi Gallery (pictured above) in Florence, Italy for example, you can understand how the Medici family controlled all of Florence during the Renaissance. The Chicago Auditorium (below) in downtown Chicago, you can understand the history between New York and Chicago and the battle to be the prime city in America during the turn of the century. There’s something kind of amazing about these hidden stories and these stories don’t just pertain to the story of the city, but you can actually go walk through a building and not just read the history or hear about the history; you can physically experience it—the design of the space, the quality of the light, the texture of the materials; all those things are part and parcel of a frozen moment in time and that kind of blew my mind.
Danny Forster: The fact that I can have the opportunity to try and do that, to try and actually make a building, that just seemed like it was too good to be true. So that’s what drew me to it. The chance to take your private thoughts and make them very public and try and make … the world around you a little bit better, which I think is a pretty nice opportunity.
BUILD IT BIGGER premieres on Starhub Cable DISCOVERY CHANNEL every Thursday at 2100 hrs (9:00 pm SIN/HK), starting July 8. Encores Thursdays at 1600 hrs (4:00 pm) and on Fridays at 0000 hrs (12:00 am).