Thursday, September 22, 2011

Exhibit Review: ICONS – Traditions and Transformation in Philippine Architecture

Exhibit Overview:

THE Cultural Center of the Philippines unveiled an exhibition of architectural designs entitled ICONS: Traditions and Transformation in Philippine Architecture (CCP Architectural Design Competition winners) at the CCP Bulwagang Juan Luna (Main Gallery) in celebration of the CCP’s 42nd anniversary.

iReport borrowed here

  • Background. The said exhibit is part of the CCP Architectural Design Competition held last March 2011 for the two new iconic structures: The Performing Arts Theater and the Artists’ Center, which is two of the seven iconic buildings that will form the centerpiece of the CCP Complex’s 62-hectare Master Development Plan to provide world-wide facilities and spaces for the artists and the core programs of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. 
  • Public Architecture. What were initially considered as oddities and blots in the urban landscape, are now visited by millions. The design of these two structures must reflect the Filipino art and culture as well as address the disconnect and disparity between the iconic development and the people. 
  • Finalists. Selected from 17 entries that included major architectural firms in the country, the five finalists are the following: Lor Calma and Partners, Syndicated Architects, Palafox Associates, Buensalido Architects and Leandro V. Locsin Partners, Architects.

Lor Calma and Architects

With this project, the design concept that Lor Calma and Architects had is procession. The successful performances of National Artist for Theater Severino Montano throughout the 47 provinces were set as an example. The location of the site was also considered as a very strong axis for a ‘performance belt’. The two buildings are connected seamlessly as a profile of an overall language and the incorporation of green strategies were considered in the overall concept and design.
  • Design Concept: Procession 
  • Simplistic in nature; organic, free-flowing and seamless in the use of form and overall lines and concept 
  • Spaces are intelligently oriented according to the rising and setting of the sun without having the need to use external sunshading devices – a result of the careful study of the prevailing natural forces 
  • Public spaces were oriented with varying levels of roofs providing shades with it 
  • The design employed a modern approach but still seeks to reflect the local culture.

Syndicated Architects

Syndicated Architects derived their design from the bangka - an old form of water transportation rooted in the Filipino culture - which symbolizes a new tomorrow. The form ‘bangka’ was employed in reference to the Manila Bay which lies proximate within the CCP Master Development Complex. Evident also is the use of 8-ray sun (probably derived from the Philippine flag) in the master development parking of the site.
  • Design Concept: Bangka and 8-ray sun
  • Employed a symmetrical axial with the location of its structures to evoke balance though there is quite a variety in the use of forms in a modular context, i.e., parallelogram and circular plans that showed an impressive interior space allocations
  • Somewhat rigid in the systematic approach used
  • Use of modern materials such as glass in the façade as well as solar panel roof and wall cladding were part of their use of green strategies
  • Personally I think it is a modern marvel bereft of such cultural reference in its overall character
    • It looked like a business commercial structure/mall from the exterior

Palafox and Associates

The complex is designed to recall the dynamism of the high seas thus making of use of ‘undulating waves’ as one of its main concept, and also bring the sense of tranquility and contemplative motion that depicts the emotion of the Filipino. There were many other main concepts used which I suppose reflects the much diversity of the Filipino culture.

  • Design Concept: Undulating waves; duyan, balangay and regalo
  • Dramatic, profound and theatrical in the use of symbolisms which I think came out too literal in the design translation especially in the play of forms – which are prominently rigid in nature
    • The duyan concept is represented by the feature of the building having a hull-like form inspired by the balangay which reminds of the seafaring character of the nation that is in a journey of showcasing Filipino arts and culture. 
    • The regalo concept representing the gifts and talents of the Filipino being offered to the world
    • The undulating waves of lines that evoke dynamism as well as resilience, movement, and revolution.
  • There’s too much happening with the façade that I think could use a lot of editing
    • There were unnecessary triangular protrusions smacked in the façade of the structure which is too strong and intimidating aside from being creative altogether
    • Notable as well were the mash of materials and finishes used in the different façade of the building complex
  • Idealistic in its design principles (8 G’s, Re-Century, and Triple E/P Bottomline Approach) – again, too much going on - yet impressive in the use of green technologies 
  • Highly original yet showed absolutely no sense of continuity from the old structure of the CCP Complex

Buensalido + Architects

Probably my favorite in the bunch, the Buensalido Architects derived the “Weaving” as a core design concept of their proposal. A basic representation of Philippine identity, this weaving concept is a symbolism of coming and standing as one, uniting together different parts to form a coherent and strong whole, as well as a reminder of the collective strength of the Filipino people.

  • Design Concept: Weaving – an act that has consistently manifested itself in the different levels of our vernacular culture; evident in our local materials such as sawali, banig, jusi abaca used in barong tagalong. 
  • Dramatic in a good way, both the structures looked like a stack of pancakes from afar, which will surely catch anyone’s curiosity and attention
    • I personally loved the use of ‘hyperbionic’ principles in its overall character and design
  • Evoking a nice ‘organized chaos’ feel, it is simple yet very intricate altogether while providing a smooth contrast with the old CCP Pambansang Tanghalan
  • Innovative and new in a way that it has not been seen nor done somewhere else before
    • Employed a juxtaposition of curvilinear and triangular forms with subtle hints of festive colors - a tribute to the diverse and unique hybrid of Filipino culture
    • Alive and vibrant with emphasis on the interweaving of the spaces and the very form – inspired by the intertwining of the banig, sawali, vinta, seashells and jusi fibers – as in the use of pleated volumes
    • Proportions of solids and voids were mimicked from the old CPP for context
    • Organic as well in the use of interior spaces – reminds me all of a sudden of the parts of a cell/ heart - (‘Puso ng Pinoy’ and seashells)
  • Highly structurally challenging from the looks of it and the lack of modularity might be a concern as to the practicality of the space allocations and conformity to existing design standards and guidelines
  • There is a sense of continuity with the use of the same material finishes – grey granite and travertine
  • Other highlights include:
    • Expansive in the use of pedestrian/outdoor opportunities for open space activities, in contrast to the ‘chauffeur-driven’ ramps of the old CCP
    • Symbiotic relationship with the interweaving of landscapes, pedestrianization and welcoming nature, expansive plazas, landscaped parks, urban steps and ramps.Festive ambiance with the innovative use of LED light shows in the exterior façade at night
  • Almost ambitious in some ways, I consider the design entry of Buensalido + Architects to be the type of design that one would almost automatically file under the tag of ‘too-good-to-be-true’ especially in the Philippine context. While it has some share of its own constraints, their entry still remains to be my favorite and second to the winning entry, a design that I would love to see to materialize in the future.

Leandro V. Locsin Partners, Associates

The winning design of Locsin Partners, Associates conceived the concepts that evoke the idea of sculptures within a larger garden. ‘The designs for the buildings all incorporate sustainability, economy and green qualities which were expressed in terms of the environmental impact of the buildings, material choices, energy use, operational efficiencies, and calamity readiness. The design was a translation of the aspects of Philippine culture commendably and was inherently Filipino, yet forward-looking and global in appearance.’

  • Modern but not too rigid with its clean use of lines – complimentary and supplementary qualities from the context of the old CCP building
  • Employed a unique use of irregular and modular interior spaces which I suppose to have been inspired by a mild deconstructivist approach
  • Simple and modern yet monumental with a sense of the old CCP Complex grandeur – true to the concept of floating massive structures which was the design concept for the old CCP building
  • Other highlights include:
    • The new Performing Arts Theater looked formal and monumental but still approachable employing bicycle and pedestrian ramps and a grand entrance to give a beckoning feel for all to step into the public space
    • The Artist’s Center on the other hand looked also like a mall from the exterior – a design that would contrast the CCP Main Theater’s solid singularity and will feature a series of lighter, transparent pavilions
  • Inspirations came from natural movements, forms, and shapes broken down into simple lines and employed in the translation and make-up of the character
    • Crane, rock islet, islands, waves, stilt houses and mangrove trees
    • ‘On another level to recall the archipelagic arrangement of an island, a mangrove cluster or Badjao village, and a wave on a promontory rising out of the sea, all possible metaphors for the expression of a national architecture.’

Conclusion: The exhibit also was a free pass to have a look at the qualities, standards and the different creative processes of the different Filipino firms. Each firm has shown different conceptualization from different inspirations – a validation of the Filipino’s talent and skills through architecture that is as diverse yet global at the same time.


  1. @kuya red: bawal po magtake ng pictures eh. iniwan ko yung digicam ko sa lady guard. ampf. at nakakatakot pa nung nagpunta ako. ako lang tao. creepy. feeling ko di na 'ko makakalabas ng buhay. ighz.


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