A Celebration of Philippine architecture

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WILLIAM TI JR.

Philippine architecture has always strived to find its voice in the global architecture community. Last Nov. 17, Philippine architecture had a great win at the recently-concluded 2017 World Architecture Festival in Berlin.
Streetlight Tagpuro, an orphanage and community center in Tacloban by Eriksson Furunes and Leandro V. Locsin Partners, was presented by Alexander Eriksson Furunes and Sudarshan Khadka, winning both the Civic and Community Buildings category and the Small Projects Award. Their amazing story of working with the local community and creating a more inclusive architectural process proved a relevant and meaningful background for the project. It is a project of hope and resilience and filled with the richness of shared community experiences and ideas.

This year’s World Architecture Festival had the most entries ever from the Philippines with projects from Jorge Yulo Architects and Associates, Visionary Architecture Inc., and WTA Architecture and Design Studio as finalists in six other categories. Having been at the WAF since 2015, it was a joy to see much more representation from the Philippines with 12 delegates flying in from Manila to join the festival. A strong sign that Filipino architects are starting to engage with the world and open up to learning new ideas and sharing our own ideas with the rest of the world.

The glorious win by the Streetlight Tagpuro team brings to mind certain conversations I’ve had with our local developer community. There exists a certain perception, not just with developers, but also with some in the architecture community, that we cannot compete with the best of the world. This is a huge disservice to the talents of one of the largest architecture communities in the world. If anything, the projects shortlisted at the festival, shows how good architecture matters and how Philippine architecture can matter globally.

The need for awareness


Philippine architecture, in recent years, has been known for the huge number of Filipino architects that work at various offices around the world. We have provided much of the workforce that puts together some of the best buildings around the world. This, together with the outsourcing architecture offices that have grown locally has greatly increased our exposure and knowledge about design and construction technology. It has also exposed us to some of the best practices from various architecture offices. Filipino architects rightfully take pride in the work we put in into buildings all over the world.

Yet Filipino architects have not been known for new ideas and innovative design. This has created a certain glass barrier into how our architects climb up the various corporate ladders in the architecture and design community.
In order for us to create more value and increase the viability of our architects much much more needs to be done. This begins with awareness about architecture and greater promotion of our growing design community.
Awareness is increased by creating more venues and platforms for the critical discussion and sharing of architecture and design ideas. Much more importance must be given to various conferences and symposia that highlight the practice and profession. Our learning institutions must continue to evolve and pursue a more critical form of instruction, and much more attention must be paid to architectural writing and literature.

There are various forms of awareness that we can pursue in our industry. Awareness about current trends in both technology and ideas, about the global zeitgeist and international standards of practice, and awareness about the importance of architecture in our society. |

There has been a rigorous discussion in the industry about CPD (Continuing Professional Development) requirements and their value. I believe that, while much remains to be desired of the program, it is a proper path to undertake for us to better improve our knowledge as a community. Critical thinking requires constant learning and the public must be able to believe that our professionals continue to educate themselves and strive to be at par with their global counterparts.

More public support

Public awareness about architecture remains the most critical yet elusive form of awareness. The Philippines has been mired in decades of underdevelopment. The recent push by the current government to expand our infrastructure focuses on quantity and not quality. The public sector must be the first to acknowledge the importance of good design and should incorporate architecture and planning into its rollout of more and more projects.

The patronage of Philippine architecture cannot be led by the private sector. Institutional architecture led by the public sector and various cultural organizations has historically provided the best forms of architecture. We must demand more of our institutions not just in the services they provide, but also in what form these come in. Our architecture community must pursue the public sector and continue to engage our institutions in a discussion into how we can improve the design process for much more of our built environment.

The current generation of Filipinos will become more and more exposed to world class infrastructure and global trends. As they start to become more vocal and demand more from both our public and private sectors we must strive to meet these demands by developing our own ideas and celebrating them. There can be no awareness without promotion, and promotion is best served by celebration.

Philippine architecture has always been focused on developing vernacular forms and materials. While architecture must always be tied to time and space, we must also look at the global context and evolving social development as part of the greater context. Philippine architecture should not shield itself or shrink from the greater global development. It is best served by focusing on our own culture and experiences and contributing to the greater melting pot from which all architecture must draw from.

We must have a voice in how future urban standards are developed and create a platform from which we can develop new ideas based on our experiences of developing a megalopolis like Metro Manila. Let us take this opportunity to share with each other and celebrate this victory by Eriksson Furunes + LVL Partners and promote the development of a stronger Philippine architecture industry.

You can learn more about the World Architecture Festival at https://www.worldarchitecturefestival.com/ and about Streetlight Tagpuro at http://erikssonfurunes.com/blog/tagpuro/.
I invite you to follow me Facebook and on Instagram (@entrari).

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William Ti Jr. is the principal architect and founder of WTA Architecture and Design Studio. He founded WTA Architecture and Design Studio in 2007. He is also the publisher of Shelter Magazine, the founder of The Book Stop Project, and the program director of Anthology Festival, through which he promotes a more humanist and socially relevant practice of architecture. In the 15 years of his professional career, he has worked on hundreds of projects ranging from retail shops and housing projects, to large scale malls and condominiums, as well as hotels and masterplanned developments. Currently, with a team of over 100 architects, designers, and engineers, he has been working extensively on projects such as the Hive in BGC, the Golden Dragon Court in Bay City, the Outlets in Lipa, the Imperial Palace Hotel in Palawan.

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