The practice of architecture is evolving, and rightfully so because of the advent of global economy. It is not anymore the way it used to be. Those who have been living in the Jurassic period should now embrace the changing trends of the practice. The architect should adapt and face the reality that being visionaries and creative thinkers. Collaboration is now an important factor in order to co-exist with other allied professionals since architects are at the forefront of globalization.
Recent headlines affecting architecture are not for the faint of heart. There have been natural calamities, such as earthquakes around the country causing destruction of structures and havoc on local government preparedness, and storms and typhoons making life miserable for coastal folks and even urban dwellers. There is the territorial dispute with China and the ongoing trade war between two of the largest economies of the world. These have made people wonder how developing countries like the Philippines will find its architectural practice progress in the face of what looks like a time of economic and geopolitical disruptions. These are factors affecting the changes to the architectural profession.
In 2019, the global economy escalated with the US-China trade dispute taking a downturn. The negative effects caused emerging market economies to slow down, eroding investment confidence and slowing Asian exports. The Philippine gross domestic product dipped from a high streak of more than 6 percent growth the past several years to a low of 5.8 percent this year. This has caused delays in government infrastructure spending, especially on the “Build, Build, Build” program of the President of the Philippines, due to the recent election spending and the budget impasse. Adding to that, because of the US-China trade tensions, the Philippines’ growth potentials have been limited in both our exports and foreign direct investments.
To date, the Philippines’ export to the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries has declined. This is clearly affirmed in the decline of manufacturing products, such as merchandising exports as our national income has shown to be anemic. Ironically, after just four years from the time of the Asean integration where economic communities are expected to develop, the Philippines seems to lag behind.
Architecture and other technical professional practices seem to have been affected by the tensions that have disrupted the supply chain of construction materials as shown by the decline in the sale of Philippine products to the region. Even Philippine exports to European markets have slowed down in the past two or three years due to Europe’s automotive slowdown on newer or better standards imposed on environmental standards for vehicles.
Despite all the negativity, there is light at the end of the tunnel. While the Philippines, and other Asean countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have had mixed statistics on their economic growth, Vietnam seems to have benefited the most amid this turmoil. It has a well-established public sector and has benefited from investment diversification in terms of cost of energy and low wages in the field of manufacturing, which made them attractive to foreign investments.
Architecture in the Philippines should poise itself in the near future, with a combined effort of the private and public sector, by speeding up the development of policies and programs of the President’s “Build, Build, Build” program. The various government agencies should fast-track crucial projects and implement key structural reforms while the private sector should offset the effects of global changes and equip businessmen and the workforce to capitalize on opportunities presented.
The United Architects of the Philippines, as the integrated and accredited professional organization of architects, expects architecture to change globally because of the effects of competition from outside the country coming in, the newer and better methods of technology changing the traditional ways of design and build, the world demographics now seen as a smaller world to live in caused by information technology, and the eventual rapid changes of regulations and international building codes.
Embracing solutions from foreign entities coming in are the mutual recognition agreements that have caused government and private sector initiatives to be implemented and regulated such as the Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Architects Registry and the Asean Architects Registry and the Architects Regional Council in Asia (Arcasia). In the Apec Architects Registry, the UAP will be hosting the 9th APEC Architects Central Council Meeting together with the Professional Regulatory Commission and the Commission on Higher Education in the Philippines on September 7 to 11, 2020 where 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific region will participate. The UAP will also be bidding to host the Arcasia Forum in 2021 where architects from 21 Asian countries are expected to participate. The UAP will be bringing in international architects with experience in businesses and practices to discuss topics that deal with the best practices in architecture, especially in the field of design and build where the public should understand that architects interpret their designs well when they execute and build their design in the construction phase.
On the domestic front, UAP has implemented the state-regulated Continuing Professional Development Law or the CPD Law to upgrade the knowledge and experiences with our Asian countries as a response to the changes in the practice of architecture. Even our building codes have been proposed to be upgraded in the event of natural calamities and evolving international influences of building standards. Ironically, the public has yet to see the ancillary permits, such as the architectural permits and the civil/structural permits applied as part of the building permits. Relative to that is who the responsibility and liability of the prime professional is in the build industry as per Article 1723 of the revised Civil Code. Without these two permits, it will always be assumed local government officials are responsible for any defects in the buildings or on the ground where the structure was built, in the event of calamities affecting the building environment.
Not only have the architects moved forward on the CPD law, but also embraced the global practice of outsourcing and partnership where either their office works are done by satellite offices or their offices become global partners to international architectural offices.
In the previous year, the UAP conducted a seminar on innovation and construction at the Philippine International Convention Center last November 2018 with friends in the design and construction industry to spur interest and highlight the architect as the prime professionals in the design and build construction of buildings. It encouraged architects to be innovative and progressive, change business models with evolving architectural practices today from design and build services, project management, and emphasized collaborative works with other allied technical professionals. In the flow of design to build vertical structures, technology now has become better, faster and safer as this can be gleaned by the fast-changing urban landscape of our vertical skyline. Even rural settings have quickly changed their environment, embracing progress and urban dwelling structures.
Who is better equipped academically and qualified to design and build vertical structures but the architect. In recent international conferences, the focus on identifying the right professionals for the designing and building of various structures was placed on the shoulders of the architects, they being the prime professional in the design and build industry worldwide.
Nowadays, the architect works with a specialized team of allied technical professionals such as structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, sanitary engineers, acoustical designers, electronic and computer engineers and so on and so forth. The architect orchestrates the whole team similar to the medical profession where the doctor sees to it each specialist in their respective field of medicine participates in the operation for it to be a success.
The UAP is now focusing its sights in developing the building aspect of their profession, encouraging architects who only design to collaborate with other contractors in the industry, or be contractors too. This way, it is easier for the architect-builder to interpret and understand the language of his architect-designer counterpart, and hopefully create a wonderful masterpiece.
The UAP’s Catalyst of Change campaign advocacy “Get an Architect” and the architectural branding are an out-of-the-box innovative campaign to educate the masses that architects do not only draw beautifully, but also designs, plans, executes and builds their designs. It is intended to change the mindset of society who an architect is, what they do, who is the rightful professional for the design and building of vertical structures for man, promote the practice, and let architecture be known to the public.
Happy New Year to everyone!
The writer is the current national president of the United Architects of the Philippines and the first national president coming from Mindanao. He has been in the private practice for more than 34 years and is a fellow of the UAP. He is also the first Asean architect and APEC architect from Davao City. He is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Mindanao and is also a doctor fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects Singapore.