Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Beyond Seduction: The Pursuit on Finding the Legacy of our Time

I submitted an article for Lantawan Magazine & Bro. Bela (editor in chief) urged me to publish it anonymously thinking it might be too offensive. I agreed, just because it sounded cool (woaaah anonymous!).Looking back, maybe I should've gotten a pen name! (oooh that would have been spicy! haha). Im publishing it here, just because I can. Just because I want to put a face behind my article. Just because, Im no longger a student.( \m/)

Here it goes:
"When faced with a problem, we don't only think of a solution. We use the problem to come up with an even better design."-- This is what my Design 3 adviser told me when I consulted him about my parking building dilemma three years, eighteen plates, one esquisse, and one thesis ago. (whew)

It would be much later that I saw exactly what he meant. A lot of the greatest breakthroughs in architecture came  forth as a result of a pressing need. Gothic era's quadripartite vault transpired from the barrel vault because there was a problem of structural support, and so did buttresses. Brunelleschi's strutted, double- shelled dome was invented as a substitute to the conventional drum to serve as a deterrent to construction difficulties.Geometry was discovered as a basis for planning in the renaissance and would later make plans more functional, beautiful, proportional, interesting. Joseph Paxton's luminous, light, airy crystal palace ignited the era of pre-fabrication as a means of faster, and lighter construction through iron and glass. All these were design solutions that turned out to be architectural trends, catching on fast like lemonade sold on a hot day. The architects behind these innovations exceeded the expectations of their time- revolutionary!

Crystal Palace, ignited the industrial revolution

Brunelleschi's dome

In the long and rich history of architecture, every era, every period, every decade leaves an invaluable inheritance to the next. A lot of architectural principles during the Renaissance can be traced through subsequent architectural movements- from Mannerism, to Baroque, or Rococo, to Neo- Classicism, to Eclecticism, to Modernism, and to Postmodernism. The influence of Renaissance architecture can still be seen in many of the modern styles and rules of architecture today. The same goes with the Gothic era, the early Christian period, the Baroque, etc.

Now what's with "Parametric Design", "Smooth Architecture" and "digitally driven design" being dubbed as "the legacy of our time" ? I applaud the innovation behind this creative form- finding method. Aesthetics-wise, interesting. But what about climate? Won't those giant fish bowls increase heat gain inside buildings? And economy? Aren't we supposed to promote locally abundant and sustainable materials? The Philippines is a third- world country. Our needs are different. Our Social Issues are different. Therefore, the    direction we must take must also be different. We can blame it on the internet and the many pictures of buildings that scream "copy me!" or we can blame it on us for wanting to be something we're not.

In one of our school's forums, A schoolmate once asked an international, Filipino, parametric design expert about the advantages of this innovation. I was heart-broken when the expert said:"Since your forms are unique, you get to attract more clients, and more clients mean more projects" True, but we should know better than luring our clients. We're suppose to educate them. The notion of the parametric and the potential network practices may need to incorporate more digital techniques in order to step-up to the challenge of the future while building on the recent past. If it isn't for that, then it's nothing but seduction.

If I may quote from Niccolai Ouroussoff: " The greatest influence of this trend, however, may be on a younger generation of architects. Reared in an era where there seems to be an irresistible supply of work, these architects often seem eager to build at any cost. And their facility with computer software can make it easy to churn out seductive designs without digging deeply into social truths."

Personally, this type of architecture is a legacy for legacy's sake alone: egocentric, proud and shallow. It is true that " Open-mindedness doesn't necessarily cause you to lose origin or culture". But culture or origin is not the concern of what seems to be "close-minded" people like me. Rather, it is purpose. 

Wasn't architecture created primarily to provide for users' needs without jeopardizing the environment and the generations after us? Wasn't this what differentiated architecture from all other forms of art? Now tell me, what part of "service" does this twisting and tapering belong to? We are building habitats, not action figures. If we are brilliant enough to even think of leaving a legacy to the world, then, aside from the search of beauty, let's think of ways to increase the competence of our structures, not waste our time trying to make them look like ships, aircrafts, toys, or a scene from the Jetsons! The possibilities are endless: faster or easier construction, energy-saving features, cheaper resources, more functional building systems. The list is long.

Alessandro N. Tombazis, a noble Greek architect, said: "Architects by definition have to have a higher degree of egoism, otherwise they would not be creators. Within this vanity however, humility should be one of the guiding forces, otherwise we cannot serve, we cannot create understanding that what is around us is more important than our own selves."

What we need is a more meaningful legacy to leave the next generation with, especially at this age where change is most crucial. I want my generation of designers and builders to design for a reason, for a bigger purpose other than ego and aesthetics. I want us to humbly build in order to improve quality of life here on earth, that in its most beautiful form.

On a much lighter note, I miss CAFA. sort of. These are photos from three years ago. :) 

By the way, some time after thesis defense, Bro. Bela said he regretted making it anonymous :))
Oh serious stuff. haha.


  1. i LOVE your blog!!
    currently studying architecture too...
    we share the same view with regards to parametric design...somehow it frustrates me that i can't make my classmates (and sometimes *teachers*)understand my point 'coz they're just simply in-love with moderns...but you just picked the exact the words left at the tip of my tongue...THANKZ!!


  2. Thanks Chin-Chin :) Really, Wwhat school are you from? Took some contemplating to gather the thoughts. Nothing against moderns, just.. SUBSTANCE OVER STYLE. :))

  3. i'm from the University of Mindanao...3rd year...
    really admire your writing!
    doin' some architectural write-ups too...but they're nothing compared to yours..haha!!

  4. im a noob too,but learning is a life-process and you never know when "rhema" hits you, so let's just, write our hearts out :))
    Archt. Mike Guerrero once told me, the power of the pen is the instrument of a powerful mind. :)


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