Dressed stylishly in full black with a pair of clear spectacles, the lanky Singaporean looks every part the designer.
Despites its youthfulness – the DAN was only established in 2018 – he feels a good foundation and structure has been laid for him to build upon.
“This year, apart from doing networking events with scholars, we are pushing for two community engagement programmes I’ve themed ‘Doing’ and ‘Speculating’ that will feed off each other,” he reveals.
The first theme is focused on bringing design outside of Dsg home at the NDC, such as to the heartlands, to increase its visibility and accessibility.
“Through the process, we might learn a thing or two about different design communities around Singapore.”
The second theme will centre on the idea of craft, an extension from last year’s efforts, examining its future in food (and coincidentally, a theme at this year’s ArchiFest).
“We want to continue this by exploring the use of technology in Singapore’s public spaces, and speculate what they could be, imagining alternative scenarios for them.”
Syafiq’s unconventional ideas hint at a multi-disciplinary mind that becomes more apparent as he shares about his life journey.
For starters, he is refreshingly upfront about his chosen career path, “Architecture is this mask for me to sound professional. Deep down inside, I'm a closet inventor. I love making things. I love to understand how things fit together and work.”
He recalls taking apart radios in his childhood, and a deep-seated love for Lego and Tamiya racing cars.
When he failed Mathematics in secondary school, he was posted to study Design and Technology (D&T) instead, where he excelled in and eventually topped the class.
“It came naturally to me. It was quite easy for me to draw something three-dimensional,” he says, with an embarrassed laugh at his disinclination towards numbers.
After learning that he could put these skills to good use in the Interior Design course at Temasek Polytechnic, he applied for it and got in.
It was there that he learnt about Archigram, the influential British architecture collective formed in the 1960s, leading him to dip his toes into the subject.
“It shaped the way I was thinking about spaces – that when you're creating an interior or external space, it's not just floor and walls that defined the spaces, but the smell, the site, the all-encompassing experience that actually creates architecture.”
However, after two brief stints in interior design firms, he concluded he was not made out for the work.
“I was interested in how structures work, how you put materials together, how you make things stand out with emotion of some sort. I felt Architecture ticked those boxes better.”
In 2010, after serving National Service, he left Singapore to study Architecture at the University of Sheffield.
He labels his education at Sheffield as a mix of “happiness and frustration”. On one hand, its pragmatic syllabus enabled Syafiq to build a strong foundation in the basics of Architecture.
“One thing which I did not foresee was that they had a very strong social agenda. My view on architecture had been quite technological and scientific up till then.”
For instance, in the planning process of designing a building, architects working in the UK have to conduct consultation sessions with the community it will be in.
This meant that a concept that could be celebrated in an architecture magazine, could “look too scary for the community”.
To solve this, architects would have to design a few different options and put them to a vote.
Upon graduation, he spent a year in Cullinan Studio (London) as an architectural assistant helping out on projects like a residential block in Bristol and Camden, London.
It was then that he learnt from friends back home about the Dsg scholarship and decided to apply for it.
“Dsg was looking for new scholars to learn new skills in non-traditional fields, such as user experience, service design and digital design. I guess this is how they question and challenge traditional practices.
“Through the Design 2025 Master Plan, they have identified contemporary world issues are multi-faceted. I felt that this is quite interesting, because it's going beyond the idea of really creating a building, which is similar to what Archigram did.”