Victory in creativity

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

UNLIKE those victories of Manny Pacquiao and some Filipina beauty queens—which defined a triumphant year for the country amidst the barrage of calamities in the concluding part of 2013—the victory of some architects-in-training last year almost came unnoticed.

Well, exception is given, of course, to their equally-proud family and schoolmates, who instantly shared their feat on social networking sites.

Looking at the short clip on the culmination of the 2013 World Architecture Festival Student Charette Competition, which was uploaded on Facebook, the announcement came swiftly. No runners-up; just the winner.


Gasps of disbelief and followed immediately by a modest applause from those in attendance filled the function room of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore as the jury proclaimed the team from the University of San Carlos (USC) College of Architecture and Fine Arts as the winners.

The team—composed of Jon Adriel Medalla, Kathleen Canlas, Keshia Stephanie Lim and Miguel Jorge Rocha, all architecture students from USC—was actually featured in Live! just a few days before that momentous day in Singapore. They were initially shortlisted into the “Top 8” from numerous student entries all over the world, thus earning themselves a ticket to the finals in the bustling island city state.

In coming up with the design solution, which they dubbed as “Village in a Box,” to the competition “problem,” they made sure that the Filipino culture was well-integrated into their proposal. The charette competition required participants to find ways in which architecture can respond to the needs of an aging society.

“Our solution aimed to preserve the suburban setting which middle-class Filipino families love while at the same time taking into consideration that fact that housing developments must be made denser due to realities such as increasing population and urban congestion,” explains Jon.

“It (i.e. the design solution) is the Filipino translation of what we believe is a sustainable development which will also cater and bring forth a sustainable society,” adds Keshia.

The “Village in the Box” proposal grouped together housing units in a compact, self-sustaining box. The planning was centered on a plaza, which is a typical Filipino town set-up, with the units and facilities distributed in different horizontal layers. The box itself, through its transparent envelope, was designed to also “interact” with the outside environment.

Jon said that the judges recognized the potential of their ideas apart from the clarity of their presentations. One of the judges even congratulated them for having “made a new typology.”

The victory was an excellent cap on months of brainstorming and working together to come up with a creative take in providing a creative solution to a relevant design problem. (They started working on the project during their summer vacation last year.) This is a victory, which must be made as a source of pride and inspiration for budding architects and designers.

It is a victory, worth celebrating just like winning medals in sports or crowns in beauty contests, because this is not just for the Cebuano creative sector but also for the whole country as well.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 12, 2014.


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