The arrival of spring heralds a new beginning. We stop thinking of the year that was and start moving forward, picturing the year to come. Last February 9, at Anthology Festival, we had over 30 speakers from various countries giving talks and sharing their ideas about architecture and design. One of the festival’s highlights was the talk given by Lyndon Neri of the multi-aawarded Shanghai-based Neri and Hu Design and Research Office. Mr. Neri’s lecture was one that was looked forward to by most of the attendees and was distinctly inspiring for all of them because of his roots in the Philippines.
Mr. Neri, who acquired his Bachelor and Master of Architecture from UC Berkeley and Harvard University respectively, was born in Ozamis and grew up in Cebu. Their work which revolves around reflective nostalgia and memory makes one ponder about the role Mr. Neri’s own youth, growing up in a Chinese-Filipino household, plays in his explorations. His rise to prominence in the global architecture scene is an amazing story that provides a unique thread to the tapestry of contemporary Filipino architecture. Neri and Hu’s work reflects a unique synthesis of Western logic and Eastern sympathies that is very much the essence of Filipino culture. Their work is one that we need to welcome back into the country, not just as a celebration of a Filipino architect, as a beacon for the future of architecture in the Philippines.
The other bookend to Mr. Neri’s celebrated career is the role that Filipino architects play all over the world. The Filipino architecture diaspora is one of the most widespread and global in footprint. Filipino architects are sought after by firms from all over the world. Given this global presence, one wonders what our government and the architecture community are doing to elevate their status and emphasize their roles. We must promote our architects and designers not just as an ideal and rich labor pool for the rest of the world, but as source of ideas and creativity.
Architecture is an upstream creative industry. Achievements in the industry cascade down into the broader construction industry and emanate outwards into the rest of the design industry. Architecture’s role as the most visible and lasting branch of design and its broad scope also means that it serves as as an ideal champion in establishing the country as a creative center for design and the arts. Architecture is an art and science, it feeds into the construction and real estate industry. It is one of the broadest fields of design and architects frequently venture further into planning, interiors, graphic design, and even policy.
Designers and creatives are our cultural ambassadors. They showcase and define our national identity and enrich not just the country but also the rest of humanity. Enhancing our design and creative industries also means that we can take a step into the future. They are industries which can become integral economic engines, especially for the incredibly talented and passionate youthful demographic that we have.
How do we promote our architects? Much more than just imploring the public sector and local developers to support the industry, we as a community must demand more from our institutions and organizations. Institutions and organizations do not and should not define the architecture community. They exist to serve the community, not just by promoting its interests, but by coming together and strategizing about the future.
We must set out to define our communal goals in the development of our creative industries. We should not allow ourselves to look inwards and be consumed only by the everyday troubles of our community. The industry must push for excellence and celebrate achievements rather than patronizing the median. Architecture is a global practice that requires us to look outwards and collaborate and compete with the best from around the world. Architects cannot exist if we cannot be proud of our heritage and provenance.
The Asean Architect Council serves to bring together architects from around the region by allowing for increased mobility and sharing within the ASEAN member states. The Philippines will be inducting its fourth and largest batch of ASEAN Architects into the ASEAN Architects Registry on March 9 at the Raffles Fairmont Hotel Makati. This brings the number of Filipino ASEAN architects to 99 and increases our regional footprint as a community.
The Philippine architecture community is a broad and diverse collection of talent that spans the globe. If architecture is to play a bigger role in the development of our country, then we must all contribute to increase awareness about its importance and challenges. We all want to live in a better world. We all seek to find a path towards a more sustainable and culturally vibrant society. Let us not forget to celebrate our champions whose success and passion carry on our hopes and dreams.
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