Zarch Collaboratives

Pathfinder is a series of seven pavilions embedded within historic Fort Canning in Singapore. Pathfinder forms part of Singapore’s 2019 Bicentennial event (marking 200 years since the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles). Through movement, space and exhibits, Pathfinder invites Singaporeans to explore 700 years of history that critically engage with the shaping of Singaporean identity, now and in the future.

The structure acts as a scaffold for modular attachments such as kinetic wind sails, planters and pools. Such features, which characterise the individual pavilions, were inspired by objects embodying Singapore’s 700 years of maritime heritage. The Emporium of the East showcases trading goods found in Singapore and the surrounding region. Enlarged and reproduced as white 3D-printed objects placed within blue acrylic display boxes, the artefacts are abstracted to distil their respective essences. Through AR technology, visitors scan and interact with the objects.

A kinetic facade mimics ‘sails’ at the House of Maps – a symbol of navigation instrumental in steering the region’s historical destinies. Exhibiting Singapore’s historical flora, the Seed Conservatory features native plants and historically notable species cultivated for economic and ornamental reasons. A curated planting palette further responds to Fort Canning’s history as the site of Singapore’s first botanical garden. As the plants embedded within grow, nature shall gradually envelop and reclaim the pavilions.

The objective of the Pathfinder experience was to enable the public to discover, at their own pace, Singapore’s ‘place’ in the world across time. The design actively sought to ‘de-museumify’ the experience. Pathfinder is deliberately porous, layering the artefacts onto the historic grounds, and allowing them to be experienced through movement and interaction. The design explored the treatment of ‘site’ as an artefact that grounds the narrative in a powerful but still accessible way.

The grid represents a unit of cartographic measurement, alluding to Singapore’s maritime origin and identity. The pavilions represent a ‘form with no form’, configured along axes derived from a geographical mapping that uncovers Fort Canning and its connection to historically significant locations around Singapore.

Photography: Finbarr Fallon