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Sablan, Marianne Sheena Sarah U.

28 June 2013
Is Our Contemporary Architecture More Western or Filipino?

Context Clues
Contemporary architecture in the country typically consists of commercial
establishments, ranging from mixed-use developments to high-rise residences. What is also
generally common among them, particularly for high-rise residences nowadays, is how they
emerge all of a sudden into the cityscape without any warning. What I mean is somehow such
buildings are designed and built as though context is some alienated concept simply floating
in the air. And yet context is a very crucial principle in design if the Philippines were to
design a Filipino architecture.
Consider the many emerging residences usually found across from prominent
universities, particularly in Metro Manila. For instance, consider the new Berkeley
Residences in Katipunan Avenue, a few hundreds of meters away from Miriam and Ateneo.
While it is true that properly speaking, the zoning of the vicinity of Katipunan Avenue is
Commercial, it seems that the idea of putting up towering and self-evident obstructions in the
sky line never crossed the mind of those people who have been living, working or studying in
the area for a long time now. A common line of thought comes to memory, realizing that this
reaction of some Filipino citizens with regard to building skyscrapers in almost all
commercial zones may actually stem from an evident contradiction between the expectations
of the Filipino citizen of the architecture and of what is presented before his eyes. The
example of the Berkeley Residences in Katipunan is characterized by the negative reaction of
some Filipinos to the loss of natural landscaping in the area, which they supposedly attribute
to the rise of such developments. But the case is most probably not merely an ecological issue

Even from this point. precisely because that is how they think architecture should be. where many early settlements were lined along bodies of water for the purpose of efficient transportation and food gathering. especially in areas where the projected populace intended for the building may not even be supported adequately by the land. This shows in the proper adaptation to climate conditions. both of which are structures that stand in the middle of a plain field. it is also likely that subconsciously. high energy consumption and high green house gas emission). It has been observed.e. The dilemma now is that it seems this consciousness of the environment is being lost. Filipinos look for architecture that is greener and is compatible with the preservation of the environment. and not against. articulating precisely. The dilemma however. that settlements then were built in an environmental context. either form a point such as the Menhir. Could this motive then be that these skyscrapers only aim to start a trend that will eventually lead to the emulation of some foreign cityscape that is so full of them? Could it also be that this implies that what the skyscraper is actually expressing is a predominant projection of the self rather than a community? These lines of reasoning remind one of how the West looked at architecture from the pre-historic times. as demonstrated by the arrangement of their settlements which are evidently articulating a sense .or anything to do with sustainability. This is highly in contrast to how Filipinos looked at architecture then. Rather. or a boundary such as the Cromlech. We refer to the classic story of early settlements in the pre-colonial islands of what is called now Philippines. the dominance of the ‘self’ or the individual. it is still possible to scrutinize the motive for building such establishments. The configurations of their monuments. does not stop at the loss of at least the minimum concern for the environment. which simply means designing with. pollution. traffic congestion. the choice of materials used and of strategic locations. the environment. notwithstanding even the immediate consequences of overbuilding skyscrapers (i.

surely it cannot be overemphasized that indeed Berkeley is peculiarly tall for its surroundings. the skyscraper-among-the-dwarfs impression of such buildings makes it suspicious that it is perhaps a hidden agenda to emulate Western architecture. simply filling up vacant lots along busy. but what is certain is that this paper stated a fact not merely about a particular form of contemporary architecture. such a building type is designed. and that is none other than the West. but on how. . But aside from this. then they can only absorb what is most influential. commercialized roads. But is contemporary architecture about high-rise residences solely? Certainly it is not. They deviate from the environmentallycompatible character of pre-colonial Philippine architecture. as a contemporary architecture. Going back to the example. And it was presented that primeval Filipino concepts of architecture are apparently lost in their design translation which means only one thing: if they are not what they ought to be (that is. Filipino).of community. High-rise residences then. which still concerns Filipinos today especially at the height of sustainability consciousness. as a typical form of contemporary architecture seem to send “the wrong message” to Filipinos as they come up lost in context.