QUITE recently, some of Manila’s top architects and designers gathered at the Yuchengco Museum for a forum entitled “The Forefront of Asia’s Architecture—From Local to Global.” Aimed at addressing the looming Asean integration in 2015, this forum endeavored to provide a venue for the Philippine Architecture and Design community to address their growing concerns over the economic and trade borders opening up in the region.
But instead of going neck deep in details of how to hold your own when the man finally comes to take away your business, the forum took an unexpected turn.
We talked about design. Omnipresent, influential and responsible design. What’s the big deal, you ask? Let’s define the word “design.” Is a design merely a plan on paper? Is it just a drawing produced to show the look and function of a building before it is built?
Let us define design, as a principle, as an astute and discerning form of decision making. Design is a series of mindful decisions made as a result of careful analysis and study. Good design is the way to respond to the challenges that exist in the world, and it is also design that allows for the creation of sound solutions.
Design comes in many different forms, from the way a building has been made, to the way a business district is laid out, to the schedule of the train that will pass through it—all carefully planned and thought-out designs.
So what does all of this have to do with Asean in 2015?
With the coming integration of Asean economies as one, the game as we all know it is about to change. Foreign businesses are expected to enter the Philippine market, each bringing their own flavor and spice. From a manageable pool of local competitors, we can all count on an influx of foreign competitors coming in from all corners of Southeast Asia.
A lot of us here in the Philippines are skeptical about this. “How are we going to compete?” “How much are we going to shell out for upgrades?”
The way I see it is that the only way we are going to survive this coming tsunami is by solidifying our identity as one nation. Philippine Architecture and Design, on an industrial level, needs to form a solid image that is rooted in our culture, history, our progress, and our knowledge of construction technology.
In other words, we need to come up with branding.
Our architects and designers need to come together and start the conversation on the Philippine brand. They need to start the discussion on what defines Filipino architecture, and what gives soul to Filipino design. There should be clarity on who we are, where we are, and where we want to be as Filipino architects and designers. We also need to address our legacy, and the image and memory we want to leave behind.
One important topic we touched upon at the forum was the Philippines and its annual disasters and calamities. It is a known fact that the Philippines faces and deals with disasters every year. We have flooding, typhoons and heavy monsoons as matters of fact. When it comes to the fury of nature, I guess you can say we, as a people, have been there, done that.
But as discussed at the forum, this puts us, believe it or not, at an advantage. The annual disasters that hit us teach us lessons of humility and survival, but moreover, they also impart valuable lessons in disaster preparedness. We go through devastation every year, but we always somehow manage to get back up on our feet, wiser and stronger.
The saying: “What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger,” suddenly comes to mind.
One of the speakers at the forum, Theodore EC Chan, president of the Singapore Institute of Architects, views the Philippines to be in a very unique position. According to him, the country is poised to dominate a segment of architecture that is becoming more relevant globally these days. He said that with the number of times the country has gone through calamities and disasters, The Philippines is in the position to be a world leader in Disaster Responsive Architecture.
It most certainly is revolutionary, but I agree with him.
In light of the impending integration, our goal inside Asean should the effective communication of our skills and expertise respectively as designers and architects under the Philippine flag. If Asean dictates that we come up with branding that reflects our unique skills and expertise, I think this, along with many of the other things that make us uniquely Filipino, can pave the way for us and our country into 2015 and beyond.
“The Forefront of Asia’s Architecture: From Local to Global” was a forum hosted by Bluprint magazine and the Singapore Tourism Board.