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GRACE N. NALDA
Bachelor of Science in Architecture University of the Philippines College of Architecture
1.1 General Field of Study
After centuries of colonization, the Philippines is declared to be a free country for more than a century now. Yet, it seems that our colonizers have left footprints that have some bearing on view of architecture in the Philippines. Technology in mass media and construction has severed its ambiguity. Our architecture slowly morphs to join a homogeneous field of globalization risking our cultural identity. This is sourced out of the many international-styled buildings that we see in leading cities whether in Luzon, Visayas, or Mindanao. While people favor trends in globalization, there are a few researchers who brave themselves demystifying this Filipino character. Some have already argued its demise and some, even its nonexistence. This again is something worth exploring. The National Symposium on Filipino Architecture and Design (NSFAD) contributes knowledge that may lead us to understand our very own architecture, through research. Some of its proponents draw conclusions that Filipino architecture is found in space though no particular language through form was illustrated.
1.2 Specific Focus
The lack or loss of definite form language of Filipino architecture is the subject to be dealt with. In the belief that our architecture goes beyond the materials being used and its spatial embodiment in the built environment, the goal of this study is to inflame awareness on the possibility of true Filipino architecture. It seeks recurring architectural features that are perceptive of our culture. It finds out physical patterns that engage senses hinting again Filipino architecture. It figures out spatial arrangements that are common in many designs. It searches potential aesthetics that are recognizably Filipino. To come up with a more reliable output, the study limits itself to domestic architecture. With the family being the major shaper of our society, allusion to our culture is easily generated. However, for reference purposes, minimal citation of non-domestic architecture will take place.
1.3 Statement of the Problem
The question of Filipino architecture seems complicated. What with the many culture our history has encountered, we may only expect various influences. Most Asian countries boast with the distinctiveness of their architecture. We easily recognize their identity through it. A common example is the concept of Japanese Zen. Japanese architecture emanate marks of that are unique from other Asian countries even from its immediate neighbors. This brings us to an effort to know our own. This
study investigates domestic architectural distinctiveness in the local context. Is Filipino architecture really found only in the boundaries of space? Are there common patterns to aid in strengthening our claims of our own architecture? Are there traces of our shared idea of space and aesthetics that distinguish us from foreign architecture? If there are, what are these patterns that create form language?
1.4 Development of Rationale
buildings will not be able to come alive, unless they are made by all the people in the society, unless they are made by all the people in the society, and unless these people share a common pattern languge, within which to make buildings, within which to make these buildings. With AWARENESS IN ARCHITECTURAL IMAGE of FILIPINOS being the core, the study encompasses the recurring concept of space and aesthetics of Filipino authors. Image may be known as a three-dimensional and/or a visual element. In cultural terms, it is a characteristic that ties-in a group of people with commonalities. It is also dependent on the behavior and activity settings that may be relative to time. The concept of awareness and image stems from Kevin Lynch s Images of a City, wherein the idea of districts create an inspirational manner of viewing the problem of the study easily. This paper aims to uncover possible architectural forms that recur in many local architecture. It hopes to fortify and promote consciousness on our different culture that may be embodied in designs authored by Filipinos themselves. With this in mind, our study might be able to guide further studies in discovering what may have always been with us a Filipino architectural image. To know our own architecture gives light to our identity. This character is comparable to recognizing our existence.
References pertained to by the Design Class will be collected. References will include past studies and surveys related to local architecture. It will involve the concept of Pinoy Zen and house preferences. Relevant pictures or photographs from books will be collected. Observation and experience of the authors will also be a basis for the study. After gathering data, analysis will precede. It will dwell heavily on spatial and aesthetic aspect of domestic architecture. Though this does not mean exclusion of non-domestic architecture. When necessary, systems of analyzing domestic architecture from previous studies will be used. One example will be the method of structuration. Consultations will likewise take place. Conclusions will be derived from the results.
In a pattern of spatial configuration, there is usually a common trend through form that can be found in a particular architecture such as the Japanese zen. If a form language consequently results from a pattern language, it can be assumed that Filipinos can have their own form language. This can be true when we are able to prove or show the culture and patterns of the Philippine society. This will hence be mentioned in the study. After which, when an acceptable level of patterns in space and aesthetics is collected, form language can be sourced out of it.
Christopher Alexander created hundreds of pattern language in a global context. It is revealed in his book A Pattern Language . This language is extremely practical. It is a language that we have distilled from building and planning. It can be used to design houses for oneself, with one s family. And it can be used as guide in the actual process of construction. Most of studies on Filipino domestic architecture or architecture in the Philippines dwell on spatial patterns and configuration. Form language has not been appropriated in many of these researches. In order to move the pace on views on Filipino architecture, another step is taken by providing a pattern language that manifests form. These recurring patterns have been frequently observed in many domestic architecture and it is through these that possible forms can be derived. Such forms in turn create related patterns that have been observed and are then noted. A union of such hence generates a potential architecture that is distinctly Filipino. References that involve views on space are crucial to coming up with form. Since no definite Filipino form yet has been described in previous references, the author appropriates a form language in the Filipino context.
There are four major spatial requirements that cater to Filipino space. Since Filipinos are known as sociable people, their houses center on entertainment, accomodation and interaction. This common area involving the living and dining is connected to all other parts of the house. It is linked to the personal spaces which include the sleeping area and toilet and bathe. Likewise, the work area that is usually composed of the service and utilities is located adjacent to the same common space. Outdoor and transition spaces are also linked to it. In some cases however, the garage can serve as both common area as will be later explained. It is also sometimes connected to the service.
Links and Transition Spaces
The Filipino family being aware of its membership of a bigger community known as baranggay creates spaces that provide a link between the internal and external environment. It creates a visual and social connection between the family and its
neighbors. It symbolizes welcomeness and hospitality, and accentuates accessibility. And comes in a form of a porch, a patio, a terrace a balcony or a verandah. In some cases where there is lack of such a provision, these links come in different forms. For example a window opening to a roof or the sidewalk in front of the residence may double as a tambayan . With or without an addition of miscellaneous or furnitures, the space do not lose its sense of connection with the neighboring environment. Other examples of elements of link in terms of accessibility are typical entrances shown below. In traditional houses these space are enhanced through thatched canopy that provide space for leisure. In contemporary houses it is often used as a conversational space.
Being known as social people, Filipinos are fond of gatherings and celebrations such as fiestas, ïnuman or simply family reunions. Sometimes with the lack of space or the convenience of the outdoor atmosphere, there are other areas that are temporarily altered to suit these purposes. The most common is the carport. Carports are easily convertible spaces. Its adjacency relative to other social spaces is appropriate for this purpose. And its level of privacy is fit to the function. This is best located near the terrace, living or dining room where accommodation of guests or people takes place. This outer part of the house must accommodate a number of people and not only for two. Hence, consideration of the area size will be helpful in creating comfort. Most of the time, Filipinos use an open plan for their house. This is an indication of both permeability and convertibility of space due to different interior elements used in between spaces such as visually penetrable walls that allow conversation of function both for entertainment and living.
Integrated Living and Dining
Permeability between the living and dining area is high. Unlike other cultures, instead of separate rooms, these spaces become integrated areas. The dining, family, living room (and sometimes kitchen and breakfast nooks) overlap functions. These areas are the most fused and communicating . Filipinos are fond of
entertainment and eating (like merienda ). And sometimes one area can serve for both entertainment and dining. Two spaces become one and generate a setting for communication. The place can be delineated through half walls, dividers, or furniture, a change in floor levels or even by orientation of furniture.
Filipinos seem to have sentimental attachments to material. This could be because of the experience or memories that go with these things. Or perhaps, the practicality of possessing useful objects could be another reason for accumulation or
accommodation. Nevertheless, in most spaces, particularly the bedroom, there is apparently a trend in the area that is left free from stocking. The space, no matter how big or small needs to accommodate for these things in such a manner that they are not very much far apart (in contrast to minimalist designs) nor too close that would create inconvenience in movement and circulation. As shown is an approximation of the area for moving within a particular room. It is therefore best that particular dimensions of rooms be sized accordingly to common Filipino equipment or furniture such as bedroom furniture sizes that follow Filipino anthropometrics. Another example is the typical bench that is frequently found on porches or on outdoor transition spaces.
Difference in Floor Level
Division of spaces is done through difference in floor level. This create a psychological demarkation between two spaces allowing an amount of exclusivity of function without completely losing interaction between users. Varying floor heights define Filipino spaces. They are also used as elements of approach or transition giving an inviting atmosphere from outside. As for interior spaces, split levels are usually defined by a few steps (often, three or four) functioning as invisible walls. This allow for visual and acoustical
accessibility. Such characteristics signify Filipinos favor for social interaction. This difference in floor level is usually
designed in such a manner that two spaces are not completely separated by height. This means that varying heights do not exceed a level by which two people will be deprived of visual
communication. This is probably the reason why most steps usually are composed of not more than four steps before another common space is reached assuming an average ceiling height of 2.7 meters. Split levels have long been a tradition for Filipino houses. The bahay kubo is elevated by stilts; its function is to provide a silong to shelter livestock such as chickens. At the same time it helps control heat and serves as protection from wild animals. Today, though caring for chickens and keeping from wild animals is no longer of need, it leaves the purpose of thermal control and space seggregation. Still, it leaves a mark of Filipino culture.
Filipino s high value for permeability gives a unique character to its elements of access and circulation such as doors. Access being described here are those of the interiors. In most household, wall partitions need no doors. If there is, it is usually open. In many provinces for example, rooms do not require permanent door swings. Curtains as partition would already do. Would there be any door, (especially in common areas) it would usually be open. These describe a smooth flow in circulation. Areas are conversant with each other and more penetrable.
Elements of Security
Safety and protection is of value to any culture. In Filipino context, this is expressed in a different way. The issue of creating a space that is permeable yet has security
considerations fashions Filipino house. Although there are different ways of treating this problem, the most common is through window enclosures. Window treatment comes in a form of metal or bamboo grills, styled in a decorative pattern. It functions both for protection and aesthetics. Fine lines are used to permit exterior view from the
inside and allow better air flow. The fineness of this element creates contrast to the wall area. Outer spaces such as veranda or terrace may also hold the same idea and effect. Fine grills made of fine bamboo, wood or metal may enclose these spaces. For residences that have the luxury of securing spaces through fencing, the house can be enclosed without losing interior and exterior interaction. This is done through the use of movable sliding doors that open to larger spaces, appropriate for external communication.
Ventilation Local climate is a major determiner of form in any country. Tropical countries have distinct ways of countering heat. While neighboring countries integrate water elements within the perimeter of the house, Filipinos have consistent ways of treating the natural environment. The use of ventanillas is a common passive cooling technique that has been carried on through the years. Today, this has taken on a somewhat different form. Similar to it is the use of louvers.
Louvers are common wall treatment applied on tropical countries. It controls heat likewise shows a Filipino character of permeability also in terms of acoustics and sometimes visual. Louvers can be found in interior and exterior spaces not only in residential buildings. This comes in simple and decorative form but quite functional. Not to mention its ability to admit light penetration enhancing the concept of flowing and maaliwalas spaces.
While louvers allow for both thermal and lighting control, glass and new translucent or transparent materials are now being used as an alternative for lighting and aesthetics. Employment of such an element though provides a conventional appearance that assumes Filipino form. This element is often found directly above doors or windows. Done in a rectangular shape, these light sources are often found in contemporary houses.
Although Filipinos are known to be sociable, there is still a level of privacy that can be observed. Building standards encourage a window height of 0.90 meters. This is being followed by many Filipino architects. The reason behind it is not quite definite. But if it would be for the purpose of thermal control, a lower window sill height would be better. This therefore leads to a consideration of a degree of privacy. It is a wonder whether this is done simply in obedience to codes or because Filipinos want to have a view of the outside without having the outside to view them fully.
A way of communicating Filipino appreciation of the exterior environment is through their laundry work. In a barangay, It is not a wonder if you see a manual water pump or tubig poso being used in the neighborhood. Foreign countries normally would do their laundry in the basement or in a designated part of the house. In the Philippines, inspite of the convenience of having the ease of washing, do their laundry in the outdoors. Perhaps, the grounds for this could be the lack of internal space, unique drainage system, the presence of other people or simply
the pleasure of enjoying sunlight. Still, even the wealthy have their outdoor laundry in their very own backyard. This could
mean that space is not after all the only reason.
Despite the outgoing culture of Filipinos, their love for nature is not lost. While Asian countries bring in the outside landscape and incorporate water features internally, Filipinos have a different way of integrating concepts of nature. Instead of literally bringing the outside in, they provide schematic designs that allow for viewing the natural outdoors. The terrace, balcony or even the rooftop are ways of obtaining such pleasures. If not, they provide for spaces that will accommodate potted plants or hanging orchardries. Meaning, compared to neighboring
countries, provisions are artificially stitched to evoke a natural ambience. Apparently, nature is being viewed as an object of design or entertainment and pleasure and not completely as a pretense of an organic part of forest .
Movable Furnitures Filipino houses are composed of spaces that are flexible, multifunctional, permeable and mostly integrated with each other. Spaces are indeed not limiting. Inside these spaces are elements that create such unlimiting functions that somehow appear as embellishments in Filipino interior spaces. It can be argued that only space defines Filipino architecture. But this does not mean that there is no true Filipino form. It is the role of this space that provide for these furniture for the users that mold the Filipino form.
Bangko or Bench
The spirit of community between family members and the neighborhood is implicated in furniture favored by Filipinos. While many household today use individual chairs or stools for dining, in the province (Leyte for one), long seats (sometimes without a back rest) are being used. This caters to a greater seating capacity suited for large families. The essence of it is similar to a sala set which is yet another element for living rooms. What then does this mean? It may be that dining or breakfast nooks are not only seen as places for eating. It is betterly known as a place of engagement, conversation and leisure like the living. It is meant to be a place not for a single person alone but for a group. Anywhere in the neighborhood where there are mini-stores or tindahan , we can easily find a bench that are sometimes fixed, and sometimes not.. This is a nother example of a social space.
Filipino values are dictated by traditional beliefs. This can be seen in fiestas and even in architecture. In a block, you will find at least one house or corner lot that has a grotto containing an image (usually of the Virgin Mary or a Saint). This acknowledges the Christianity of a family, since many Filipinos are Christians. In the absence of a grotto, wall fences sometimes put up framed images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus, or Santo Ni o. They come in different rectangular sizes but hold the same meaning. This form of expression is located in outer portions of the residence. As for the indoors, most families have their own altars located near the entry or at the central part of the house. Making space for these images are vital to spatial hence form considerations, so that spiritual values of Filipinos are not taken for granted and are given due significance and attention.
1.8 Summary and Conclusion
Form delineates and quantifies space. It may be argued that Filipino space is not only purely contained in a form. It is a combination of enclosed and unenclosed space that flow through. This however does not mean the absence of form. A variety of scales may define form. It could be through rectangular enclosures in a carport, or as detailed as louvers. Built forms such as domestic architecture are products of space and forms. For them to work, it must base its arrangement on behavioral patterns that are specific in a Filipino context. These activities are drawn from a culture that is dynamic through time. Somehow, a common language remains the same in the past years, and others are constantly developing into forms that are attuned to a changing time. This is an indication of a culture that keeps its values and beliefs and likewise continuously maturing with the resources available through time. These resources may involve physical and social elements. By understanding the essences of the elements in a domestic architecture by way of analyzing its spatial requirements, function or beauty as manifested in form, criticism or appreciation of a specific architecture can be sourced. These open doors for improvement in planning, designing, and building that are done in a Filipino environment.
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