Posts filed under "Urban Monologues"

#BAhindTheScenes with Nostalji Enclave

May 28, 2018

#BAhindTheScenes is a series of posts about our practice, that focuses less about the architecture per se, but about the clients that instigate it, people who use and experience it, the ones behind its realization, and the community that co-exists with it. With this, we hope to share with you stories behind the architecture that we have been privileged to be part of.

This video is a series of testimonials about the amenities we designed for Nostalji Enclave, a residential community in Paliparan, Cavite. For amenities in residential neighborhoods, we make sure that it should be always about connecting — whether it’s with your family, friends, or neighbors — the larger goal is to foster a sense of community.

We thought of a place of convergence, open and inviting on all sides, as if luring in and magnetizing the residents to come to this centrally located clubhouse to share moments with each other, to connect on a personal level. As much as architecture is about physicality, space, and feelings, we believe that it must put people first. Architecture must be a means to uplift ways of living and improve society thru encouraging connections with various scales of community. It must be created sustainably so as not to degrade nature, but in fact should enhance it even more for future generations to enjoy. The greater good must be it’s greatest cause.


Sofia Townhomes Revisited

October 30, 2017

We revisited Sofia Townhomes, designed in 2007 and completed in 2009, to observe and enjoy how the people living in it have turned the village into a community and made the houses their own, often adding their touch of personalization to it.

Enjoy the video and the short narrative of Sofia below!

Customizable Layout
We started by interpreting the program into cubes to represent the needed spaces, then sliced these cubes to segregate the service spaces (stairs, toilet and bath, maid’s room) from the main ones (living and dining areas, kitchen, bedrooms). We then pushed some cubes up to create double height spaces in the living area, causing a ripple effect on the cubes above and beside it. During this process, interstitial spaces emerged and created opportunities to integrate lofts all throughout the interior of the house. This effectively increased the useable floor area of the otherwise compact row house. These loft spaces could also be expanded to create even larger spaces, such as additional closets or bedrooms. We were happy to see that during the build, a lot of homeowners personalized their units in their own ways, some we didn’t even think of. The sequence and relationship of the spaces had become a perfect canvas to customize the entire house according to their liking.

Keeping it Light and Right
After establishing the spaces, we were left with a number of stacked cubes that seemed to be in a disarray. We addressed this by wrapping a continuous architectural frame around the stacked cubes to visually organize the composition, then skewed these frames towards the street to visually engage the onlooker. We did the same to the firewalls that separate each unit from another, resulting in a “winged architecture” that effectively funnels in wind through the interior spaces and lets it escape out the opposite windows. Massive windows allowed an abundance of natural light to flood the insides, but kept the heat out with wide canopies and eaves. These steps ensure minimal energy consumption as there would be a less need to turn on artifical lighting and cooling.

Park Bench People

November 12, 2016

Text and Photos by Nikki Boncan- Buensalido

If you had foreign guests visit Manila, just Manila, where would you take them? (Don’t say Boracay and Tagaytay because that doesn’t count as Manila.) You might make a mental rundown of places to visit and things to do and you realize that you will inevitably have to add a mall tour to their itinerary. Bummer.

So why is it that in other cities like London, New York, Barcelona or Vancouver, to name a few, you can go on days or even your whole stay without setting foot in a mall? They have parks, museums, hiking trails, flea markets, long-running shows on Broadway and West End, repurposed buildings, public squares, nearby beaches, etc. Why have we built a culture around malls?

In London for example, once the spring and summer season starts, people flock to courtyards of museums, nearby community parks and plazas for picnics, get togethers.  They welcome the sun for most of this season by basking and frolicking in it practically the whole day.  In Vancouver, home of “The Great Outdoors”, the city has national parks, wildlife lookouts, forests, hiking trails off of certain areas.  Or in New York, an endless variety of Broadway shows, museums and flea markets are accessible to everyone.  Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London are both centrally located at the heart of the city, providing a diverse array of opportunities to attain a healthier lifestyle, social life, leisure and relaxation.

Butchart Gardens: The Butchart Gardens in Victoria, Canada also provide a park with thousands of flower varieties. Not only does this educate people about the plants and crops but it also gives national pride to the locals.

Vancouver: Vancouver, Canada has various park trails and treks with different difficulty levels. It natural for them to commune with nature as they enjoy the small parks and open spaces scattered throughout the city

These cities also offer free museum entrances for visitors to learn about their culture, heritage and their national treasure. They are proud to share what they have to their visitors. Moreover, they provide public spaces and opportunities for people to converge and get together.  The visitors use even courtyards in between these buildings.  Children idyllically splash about in water fountains while parents casually talk to other parents.  In plazas such as Trafalgar Square in London, or Times Square in New York, people utilize these spaces climbing onto interactive steps, monuments and pillars.  Isn’t this the quality of life that everyone deserves?  To have the same amount of freedom such as this though, also requires a certain amount of responsibility from the citizens.

Now what about Manila? Is Luneta Park or Plaza Miranda at par with what other countries can offer?  Do our flea markets provide interesting finds that pique one’s interest? Are our museums worth visiting and is getting there accessible most especially to tourists. What can our tourists associate with within the city?

Malls are one of the biggest income generating entities in Manila.  Developers have come up with a million and one ways to continually expand and add huge malls with relatively all the same concessions and surprisingly, these malls are full even on weekdays. There are many possible factors that possibly hinder the community to come together in the way other citizens of the world do, like the weather, or the pollution, responsibility to cleanliness, and maybe even fellow citizens. Perhaps, this is a call to developers to place value on other projects that also help build communities besides malls in order to promote the betterment of quality of life.  I believe that through exposure to certain kind of experiences one is able to develop more sophistication, open-mindedness and social responsibility.  Once exposed, this might even be a seed planted towards improving our lifestyles, and our personality as a People.   On the other hand, maybe as citizens and members of the consuming public should be able to respect, appreciate and take care of places like these. The way I see it, having these spaces are not rights they are privileges.

Banff, Canada: Aside from parks, Banff, Canada boasts of its pristine turquoise lakes from melt water of glacial ice. Tourists and locals alike can canoe in one of these lakes and enjoy the majesty of its surrounding mountains. This experience definitely is one that leaves a long lasting memory that money cannot buy. Are there such experiences in Manila? Perhaps.

Central Park New York: Central Park in New York has a ridiculously huge amount of open space at the heart of the bustling city. The park is kept clean and serves as a breather on weekends for the locals of fast-paced New York. This park is ALWAYS used and New York is not complete without a stroll in this park. Is a tourist’s visit incomplete without a stroll at Luneta Park? I am skeptical.

Trafalgar Square: Trafalgar Square in London is a fine example of a well-used plaza right smack in the heart of the city. This plaza is filled with people, local and tourists alike on ANY given day. It is a space that serves the public and provides quality of life. However, people here are equally responsible for the trash they leave and bring with them. This, in turn is their social responsibility.



TV producer-realtor believes an unsinkable home is a ‘smart’ one

October 8, 2016

by Tessa R. Salazar, as seen in Inquirer and on September 10, 2016

John Aguilar is out to prove a point when he decided to build a “flood-responsive” house right smack in a flood-prone city.

The Philippine Realty TV executive producer is all too familiar with Marikina City’s notorious river and the floodwater spilling from its banks during the monsoon season. In 2009, “Typhoon Ondoy” caused record flooding in the city and neighboring areas, inundating the homes of his relatives.

Soon afterward, Aguilar then came up with the idea of building a flood-responsive home that would showcase a design that could be adaptable to flood-prone parts of Metro Manila. That idea was dubbed “Project: Smart Home.” The realization of that idea is a 5-door townhouse, with a floating carport and the so-called Regenerative Amphibious Floating Terrace (RAFT).

“The entire 5-door townhouse has typhoon-adaptive elements (raised house design, insulated walls), but only the model unit at the center has the floatable carport and detachable balcony raft,” Aguilar told Inquirer Property.

Each Smart Home consists of a three-floor townhome. The first floor has space for cars, a covered portion that can be converted into a storage area or a place to entertain guests, a small pocket garden, and the stairs leading to the main entryway of the home. Instead of a communal area at the second floor, the bedrooms are located here, while the living room, dining and kitchen areas are on the top floor.

Estimated cost

Aguilar told Inquirer Property that the estimated cost to build the smart home would be P20,000/sqm, excluding the floatable carport, detachable balcony and solar panels.

Aguilar revealed: “So, the cost comes out the same with traditionally built homes. We only have the special flood adaptive features for the model unit. The cost of the floatable carport, including the metal platform and guide rails, comes out to P500,000. This is a bit high due to the experimentation cost, plus the fact that we only built one, so we do not have economies of scale. We tested it out in the Marikina River to see if it was ‘flood worthy,’ using sandbags and our own weight to approximate the weight of a small SUV.”

The test was successful, and now the townhouse is “100-percent complete and for sale.”

“As a pocket developer, I believe it makes sense to promote the Smart Home now during the rainy season, as it is meant to be a solution to floods,” Aguilar added.

Aguilar’s team partnered with Buensalido + Architects to help develop the “bahay kubo” concept on which the Smart Home is based.

“Since the first floors are the first to go underwater when floodwaters rise, we made sure that the Smart Home is designed to start from the second floor up,” explained Aguilar.

“The open space of the communal area (at the 3rd floor) is where those who are stranded can stay together while waiting for rescue,” he added.

Aguilar said these areas are “usually where most expensive appliances and electronics, like the TV and refrigerator, is kept, so keeping it on the top-most floor safeguards it best from severe floods.

“One of the problems we noticed during Ondoy was that people who were stranded on their roofs had no access to food and water. With the kitchen on the topmost floor, stranded residents will still have access to food and water.”

Amphibious terrace

The floating carport consists of a platform that a car rolls onto in the parking area. When flood comes in, this platform is designed to float, with the car on top. The RAFT, on the other hand, is a floating balcony connected to the second level. It can be detached from the entire structure and float should floodwaters rise, thus helping residents escape to safety.

“Through ‘Project: Smart Home,’ we found a way to integrate the idea of flotation platforms to existing parts of the home to come up with a climate-adaptive real estate property model that effectively responds to a rapidly changing world,” Aguilar stressed.

Aside from the floating mechanisms and some clever repositioning, Aguilar also used panel systems containing an EPS core—more commonly known as Styrofoam—to insulate the Smart Home from the heat of direct sunlight, allowing the structure to retain a generally cooler indoor temperature akin to that of an icebox. Solar panels and LED lighting were also used to keep the house’s carbon footprint to a minimum.

“What we’re doing with the project is that we’re injecting technology and innovation into home designs, using these out-of-the-box ideas to help make homes in the country more flood and climate-responsive,” said Aguilar.

“We can’t wait to see how homes across the Philippines can adopt our ideas, and see this kind of change affect the country’s responsiveness to drastic changes in our climate,” he added.

Read more:

KUMA and MATERIALITY : An Architecture of Kindness

September 18, 2016

As written for and seen in BluPrint Magazine – July 2016. Interview held during Archinet’s 8th National Architecture Symposium held in April 2016.

Being familiar with Kengo Kuma’s work prior to meeting him, I have had a high level of respect for the level of authenticity in his architecture. His structures disseminate a message of material honesty, often leaving the chosen material for a specific project unadorned and in it’s natural state. The level of detailing shown in his work is distinctly Japanese, though the uniqueness of how traditional skills and natural materials are put together clearly is a manifestation of contemporary mechanisms and thought processes.

Sitting down with the unassuming yet physically towering icon of architecture and design, he revealed an even deeper part of his belief system and the stories that led him to form them.

I discovered that he is a man with many ironies – his buildings appear complex and contemporary yet the details and construction methodology are simple, scientific, and highly logical. His output seem like an end product of a process of advanced and digital architecture, yet he works in a surprisingly low-tech way, always relying on his sense of touch and intuition on choosing materials and discussions with his teams.

I discovered that his evolution as a designer was largely due to issues outside of his control. He was forced to go to Japan’s provinces and learn the traditional and local ways of building due to his inability to get projects in the industrialized  urbanity of Tokyo. He shifted his mindset (along with a lot of Japanese designers) from the hard qualities of modernist ideals of design to the softer qualities of traditional architecture as a response to the failure of a host of concrete buildings during a massive earthquake in Japan. These situations were uncontrollable, forcing him to find other means of survival which I am sure he did not feel was ideal at that time, but actually led to the formation of his design sensibilities that brought him to the success that he is enjoying today.

I now understand that his aims in architecture are simple. He sees his buildings as filters, as screens, thru which we experience nature. He also wants to humanize the sometimes imposing and artifical nature of architecture (since it is after all, man made). Thru these, he hopes to achieve balance between man, nature, and architecture.

Interview Proper:

Ar. Jason: What’s the story behind you picking architecture as a profession?

Ar. Kuma: In the beginning, at the age of 10, the Tokyo Olympics happened. It was 1964, and my father brought me to the national gymnasium by Kenzo Tange. It a beautiful building and I was so shocked then. Aaaaaahh, I’ve never seen that kind of building . That was the first time to know the profession. Before that I wanted to become a veterinarian. I love cats. (laughs)

Ar. Jason:  You love cats! You have cats now I assume?

Ar. Kuma: I have no time! But I was living with cats.  But after that, from cats to concrete, from concrete to wood, which is the theme of the recent practice.

Ar. Jason:  Being an architect, I know how challenging it can be. Our profession can cause a lot of stress. So how do you balance your life? Balance your time?

Ar. Kuma:  If I would do the project by myself, it would stressful. But we are always making a good team and we are always discussing in the team. And we are always discussing cities, people, etc. And those kinds of dialogue are very good for stress, to avoid stress. And also traveling! Traveling is very good to avoid stress.

Ar. Jason:  You mean traveling without work?

Ar. Kuma:  No, for work! But after work we can drink. That kind of relaxed time is very important. In Tokyo, to find that kind of relaxing time is not easy. After dinner I would go back to office to have a meeting, meeting, meeting. Usually in Tokyo I would stay in the office until at least midnight. Normally, that’s how I work. It is very tough. But if I’m traveling, after drinking I can go back to the hotel and that’s why I prefer to travel.

Judith: Do you have time to relax in this trip?

Ar. Kuma:  In this trip? Yesterday, old Japanese friends came here.

Ar. Jason: Well, maybe we can talk about running your practice. From what I know, you have a practice in Japan, you have an office in Paris. So first is, how do you divide your time, and how do you distribute yourself among these different office locations?

Ar. Kuma:  Basically, once a month I go to Europe. I go to the Paris office, and then to U.K, Italy. What I do is I combine those trips once a month. And then I go to China once a month.  For example, tomorrow I go to Beijing, then Xiamen and to Shanghai.  Three cities in three days. And every month I go to those offices to have a direct conversation in front of physical model. It is very important for me. I don’t trust the 3d rendering. Rendering is 2d. The physical model is a reality. The materiality! I go there once a month.

Ar. Jason:  Could you perhaps describe a typical project flow? For example, when clients in, how do you start the design process? How do you move on to the design development to construction until project delivery?

Ar. Kuma: Usually, first, I go to visit the site. I check the landscape and the flow of people. Always, we starts with the site visit. After the site visit, we make a physical model of the place –  the mountains, the rivers, that kind of surroundings. That model gives me many hints about the place. And after that we have some discussions and stimulating each other. I didn’t want to start from myself. I’m only one of the members of the team. Everybody can say something about the project. And through those processes, we can go to the next step. And step by step, we have that kind of team meeting, in front of the physical model, and step by step we can go.

Ar. Jason:  Okay, so do you still go to the site meetings, site constructions, site inspections?

Ar. Kuma: If the construction has started, I go to the site to check some material on the site. To check the material in Tokyo is not good because natural light is difficult, it’s different. Philippine natural light is so strong; the material looks different. The critical meeting, the critical material selection, and it should happen on the site. That is our policy.

Judith: So you do that for all your projects all over the world?

Ar. Kuma: Yes! Basically all the projects. Because for every project, the critical meeting does not happen every week. And also we can combine the site visits. One day in Beijing, or two projects in one day. We can combine the site visit.

Ar. Jason: So it’s just time management.

Ar. Kuma:  Yes! And it’s still possible to check on site.

Ar. Jason:  Can I ask something about what other writers call your “Architecture of Kindness” which you would champion? Because correct me if I’m wrong, that in the 80’s

there was a “Strong Architecture” in Japan. Most architecture then were based on industrialization and that’s when you went to the different parts of Japan and studied a “Soft Architecture”, to a certain extent, an “Architecture of Kindness”. So what made you shift from the concrete, purist boxes that time that were developing in Japan to this very humanistic kind of architecture that you produce now?

Ar. Kuma:  A big change happened in the 1990’s. The 1990’s, economically, was a time of recession. I couldn’t find projects in Tokyo. In the 90’s , in ten years, I didn’t do any project in Tokyo. I traveled to the country side. I could only find small projects in the country side. But we had enough time to communicate with craftsmen. And enough time to find local materials. That was the period that changed Japan very much.  And also in that period, we had some disaster. Before the tsunami, in 1995 was the Hanshin disaster, the Hanshin Earthquake, that changed the mentality of Japan. The big concrete buildings were destroyed and we began to think about “strongness”. That concrete and steel were actually very weak and the link of the community is much stronger than the “strongness” of concrete. That was the finding in 1990’s.

Ar. Jason:  That’s when everybody shifted! I also read somewhere that you always start with materiality before starting with the design rather than starting with the design and then thinking of the materials after, is this true and was is the thought process behind this?

Ar. Kuma:  The uniqueness of architecture is the material. Now, we have the internet. The visual image – we can get it very easy. But a visual image is just a shade, a color, but no materiality. Architecture is here -  we can touch and we can smell and has weight. And that is the real uniqueness of architecture. After the IT revolution, probably 1990’s is when the IT revolution, the Internet revolution happened, people again found architecture realistic, more touch, more tangible. That was the new finding of the people. And then after that, my thought is going to that direction.

Ar. Jason:  If you notice, we’re sort of suffering the same condition of architecture here in Manila wherein we’re surrounded with all of these concrete boxes devoid of context and devoid of culture. And I see that in all your projects you always bring out the sense of place. It’s very specific to the place. So context is very important to you.

Ar. Kuma:  Yes! Every project, I’m go to the site and I ask the people to show me something old, , historical, the streets. For the Manila project, they showed me a prehistoric house, in a museum!

Ar. Jason:  Which museum was this? National museum? Probably the Ayala museum?

Ar. Kuma:  In the courtyard, there’s a house with thatch, floating floors, thatch roofing – very similar to Japanese. Aaaahhh, this is the same! And that experience gave me many hints.

Ar. Jason:   We call it the bahay kubo. I noticed that after you choose the materiality, I always see a particular rhythmic, repetitive pattern in your projects.

Ar. Kuma:  Yeah, yeah, yeah! That kind of rhythmic pattern is not an artificial pattern. We try to find some rhythm nature, from the environment. Because the environment always has some rhythm. And we try to translate those rhythms to architecture. And we try to avoid structure. In 20th century, people would like to show structure, to expose structure –  from beam, wall, cable, or something. That is a representation of industrialization. But now we already left industrialization. We are living in a new period. And in this new period, that kind of rhythm is necessary for our life.

Ar. Jason:  Yes, that’s why we need a humanistic kind of architecture, right? I learned in your talk that one of the features of your design is layering between the user and nature. What’s the reasoning behind this?

Ar. Kuma:  Life needs layering. We have those kinds of layers to control the relationship between the body and the environment. Animals also creating their nest by layering. Layering is a basic method of life and we just translate that method to architectural design.

Ar. Jason:  I have few more questions; I hope you can bear with me a little bit. We’re just grabbing this opportunity because this is a privilege for us to be with you. We noticed that though your sites are in different locations, there’s a distinct Japanese sensibility to it. The joineries, the humanistic kind of architecture, the soft nature of wood. How important to you is national identity?

 Ar. Kuma:   That kind of method, for example the joineries, the layering, is not necessarily Japanese. In Japan, we are  have been developing that method for a time. But everywhere that kind of method has been happening before. But in the 20th century, we have all forgotten those methods. And I don’t want to stick to Japan. It is not Japanese. Everywhere, it was existing.

Ar. Jason:  I have a question about your project here in Manila. You’ve mentioned that it’s based on a cave. Why did you choose a cave for the origin of the design process?

Ar. Kuma:  I visited the site of the project – the Unilab campus. It is a series of boxes and parking – not a comfortable environment! I wanted to create some semi-covered space, not an enclosed space; a semi-covered space where you can feel wind, light, light with reflection, light thru leaves. I want to create that kind of space in that kind of industrial area. It is not an enclosed cave, it is a semi open cave. It is connecting the sky and the ground and the goal of this design is to achieve that kind of quality of space.

Ar. Jason:  One last question. You know, Filipinos, we have a certain level of colonial mentality. We were colonized by different countries and so majority of Filipino architects, they’re not confident about developing their distinct voice, distinct sensibilities and reflect it in architecture. But you, obviously, have developed your own, your own language based on the site, your understanding of the site and you use architecture to basically flaunt the qualities of the site. So what can you say to us Filipino architects to gain confidence?

 Ar. Kuma:  In Japan we also have a big influence from China, and the Japanese language is very

much origined from Chinese character. We are still using Chinese character. Everywhere we have a history of cultural exchange. Colonialization is part of that cultural exchange. And cultural exchange is not bad for countries. Still, we want to do some exchange with other cultures. That kind of stimulation is good for our own culture. For the Philippines, as an advantage of the Philippines, you can have the chance to communicate with Spanish cultures, American cultures, and also you have a very interesting pre-historic cultures. You have many chance to communicate and you can utilize this chance and maximize the cultural exchange and develop uniqueness. Uniqueness can developed from cultural exchange. I expect that Philippine culture can achieve some unique, interesting things.

Ar. Jason:  Words of wisdom!

Judith: One question. I think many many many people around the world will be studying you and studying all of your work, so I’m wondering, is there something about your work or about  you that you would like people to learn from your example and is there something you  think “Oh don’t copy this!  Don’t copy this!”.

Ar. Kuma:  No, no. To learn my detail and to learn how to use material is good. In the 20th century, identity is very important. – branding, identities. But now people are using other people’s idea. That kind of culture is creating something. This is our new method. “Please come to me” and “Please come to my architecture” if it is for developing your style.

Ar. Jason:  The world is getting smaller. It’s all becoming just one single space. Cultural exchange is becoming a norm.

Ar. Kuma:  Yes, one single village.

Ar. Jason:  Cultural exchange is great! Thank you very much! Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu.

Ar. Kuma:  Arigatou!

L-R - Jason Buensalido, Judith Torres (EIC of BluPrint), Kengo Kuma



Snippets from B+Abble

June 12, 2016

Hello friends of B+A!

We just wanted to share with you snippets of what happened during our last B+Abble, held at A Space Palet Express along Pasong Tamo in Makati, last May 28, 2016.

B+Abble is a self-initiated series of talks on Contemporary Philippine Architecture and Design. Our aim is to share our thoughts on how we and our collaborators use innovative, unique, and progressive thinking to ensure the relevant evolution of Philippine Architecture and Design.  We aim for culture and identity of the Filipino to be reflected in our spaces and environment, an experience that is distinctly and uniquely our own and can never be experienced in any other part of the world. We hope that by doing this, we inspire others and hopefully get them to join our crusade in securing the future of the state of design in our country.

The last B+Abble was a well attended event, as it was opened to anyone who was interested in design. We had B+Abblers from different walks of life – fellow architects, corporate offices, interior designers, landscape architects, graphic designers, students, businessmen, entrepreneurs, and property developers.

Our speakers this year were an interesting group of design-related professionals coming from different backgrounds: Kris Abrigo (visual arts), Vince Lim (landscape architecture), Ems Eliseo (architecture), Ric Gindap (branding and strategy), and Jason Buensalido (architecture).

Enjoy the pictures! For the B+Abblers who were there, feel free to share! For those who weren’t able to make it, we hope to see you in the next one!

Our dashing and beautiful Design Ambassadors welcome our guests at the registration table

Arch Nikki Boncan-Buensalido opens B+Abble with a prayer, along with our youngest B+Abbler, Annika Buensalido

Our host, Samantha Sales of Dreamlist, welcomes our B+Abblers and officially opens the Talks!

Vince Lim spoke about the state of Landscape Architecture in our country, and how "malasakit" is integrated in BCL Asia's company values and designs.

Kris Abrigo revealed how he is drawn to architecture, and how he integrates its elements in his art.

Ems Eliseo (B+A VP for Operations) asks how one defines beauty and its relevance to design.

Jason Buensalido closes by asking "What is the future of Philippine Architecture and Design?"

BluPrint EIC Judith Torres

Edna Del Rosario of Isla Palma Resort and Jardin De Miramar


And even MORE B+Abblers!

Our speakers. From them and from the B+A Design Ambassadors - Thank you for coming!


We hope to see you at the next B+Abble!

The event wouldn’t have been possible without our fantastic speakers, B+A Design Ambassadors,  A Space Palet Express (venue),  Design For Tomorrow (graphic design),  Chris Yuhico (photography); and our past and new B+ABBLERS!

Thank you to our supporters Spurway Enterprises and Filipinas Paint.

Use of Indigenous Filipino Materials and Methods in Building Green Homes

October 16, 2015

(We recently did a collaboration with, and we’re sharing with you what they had to say on Filipino building materials and sustainable designs, feel free to share your thoughts with us too!) 

Upon close inspection of local real estate, it can be observed that current housing trends follow the exemplars of American and European designs. However, many of these, though impressive, are not always ideal for our tropical climate.

Many lead to significant energy and operation costs, and the continued increase in building materials’ prices already pose a challenge during building. Despite modern developments providing more affordable solutions, not all are necessarily sustainable.

Remarkably, the greenest methods and materials may not actually come from foreign influence or future advancements, but from local ingenuity, history, and natural resources. Leading real estate website Lamudi enumerates just some of these indigenous materials homebuilders can use.

Bahay Kubo

The Sawali Design Cue

Favored in a tropical country, the bahay kubo had always been designed to deal with heat, humidity, and floods. Bahay kubos are built lifted from the ground or on stilts, allowing air to circulate from the under the house, helping keep it cool, as well as avoid significant flood levels.

While the indigenous concept, commonly referred to as the sawali, seems simple, it remains effective today, with existing bahay kubos naturally cooler than modern condos and houses. With the property type, space, and landscape permitting, the sawali can easily apply to contemporary homes.

Contemporizing the Bahay Kubo is a challenge that gets us going. We tried to extract the principles of a Bahay Kubo and applied it in a more modern context


Bamboo comprises 80–90 percent of a bahay kubo. The material is very versatile, used as strips, split, or whole timber varieties. Unfairly given the moniker of “poor man’s lumber” and relegated for use in furniture, bags, and wall décor, bamboo has experienced a renaissance as a building material thanks to increased public interest in going green.

Technology has allowed bamboo to be cured, where it is soaked in special solutions that eliminate the starches that make it susceptible to fire and termite infestation. It also preserves the material, allowing it to last for as long as 30 years.

 Rice Hull Ash Cement (RHAC)

Of course, it is no longer practical to build a full-on bamboo bahay kubo, particularly in the metro, due to the risk to fire safety and durability. Concrete is essential for modern homes, and given that the standard variety has ingredients of volcanic origin, it can be costly, particularly in copious amounts.

Fortunately, the ash from rice hulls or husks is an affordable and effective substitute. When burned between 700 to 750 degrees Celsius, the ash from palay coverings offer binding properties that make it a suitable additive to cement solutions. Since rice is a common crop in the country, RHAC building materials are easy to sustain.

Coconut Lumber

While palm trees have grown in the different parts of the Philippines since the early portion of the 20th century, these were primarily just for the harvesting of coconuts. When trees stopped bearing fruit, it was commonly just felled to give way for the plantation of new trees.

With the increase in prices of more commonly used lumber variants, recent years have seen the exploration of palm trees as an alternative source. The once low valued senile coconut palm trees have since been promoted as a source of income for the lumber industry, with the material a source of veneer and numerous building products.

We wanted to introduce the Spirit of Optimism and Community with these houses that will hopefully be built in Tacloban

Santol Wood

Quite common in the Philippines, santol is mostly known for its fruit that is popularly consumed and used as an ingredient in places all over the country. What most don’t realize is that the tree that the fruit grows from is also an ideal wood alternative.

While the material is comparatively less dense than other wood variants, it is one that is easy to work with and polish. This, of course, is if the lumber was cured correctly. Probably the best feature of high quality wood from santol trees is that it is highly resistant to wood borers, or bukbok. This makes it ideal for use as protective covering or skeletal framework.

Infographic courtesy of the Lamudi team

For more information on Lamudi, visit their website at

On Sections

October 13, 2015

On Sections

Text and Art Work By Nikki Boncan- Buensalido

(As published in Business Mirror, Urban Monologues 2.0)

I have always had a fascination with sections.  People on different floors do things simultaneously without knowing that they all exist at a certain point in time.  In the field of architecture, sections are equally as important as elevations and for concept-driven projects, the sections are referenced even more.  Sections depict some of the most intricate details that explain how to construct a structure.  It is interesting to see how these drawings are detailed on paper and how the user’s lifestyle and habits change according to how these sections are designed.

I was at friend’s condo recently and was observing the habits of the condo-dwellers.  As the sun sets and dusk turns into night, I observed that the building comes to life as lights turn on.  It was enchanting to witness a static structure turn into a living organism once the lights turn on- as if revealing its internal organisms.  Not to stalk or anything – but some units turned on their lights, others their television sets, others were in the kitchen preparing dinner and the other in the living room entertaining friends and or having family time together.  It was just alluring to see how different people adapt and change their lifestyles based on how developers and their architects design these urban spaces.  The units are all laid out the same save for a few changes with number of bedrooms and the like but as I sit and watch how each space is used and how each is decorated differently from each other, I realize how creative people can get sometimes even without them realizing it.  They are able to customize the space according to their lifestyle.  They are able to work around conditions and adjust to the parameters dictated by the units themselves.

The same is true with office spaces as I pass the Central Business District and the Fort Bonifacio Skyscrapers and as I observe people on the windows.  The only difference is the usage and the function of the buildings.  In office spaces, instead of couches, TV screens kitchens and bedrooms, desks piled with paper work, conference rooms or brain storming rooms fill each window.  It is fascinating to see how even the lighting preferences differ to people.  Some use warm white and some use daylight. They all have different minds of their own. I tried to imagine and put myself in various perspectives. I imagine myself in one floor and my entire line of sight of the space changes.  In that particular instance, the going-ons in that particular space engulf my presence, you feel the tension, the stress, the business of the office but when I pull away and I change my perspective to that from a person in a distance, I am able to see offices on each floor and how they all function and differ from each other.  You now observe people running to and fro, talking to each other, perhaps making business deals work, perhaps running after a deadline.

The Author’s Illustration of her thoughts as she tries to capture the images running around in her mind. Here, she tries to depict how people on each floor live separately without knowing that they all exist together at a certain point in time. These people are different from each other and have varied taste but share one thing without knowing it – they share the structure that they live or work in.

As we go about our busy days, it is sometimes just nice to look at things in different perspectives and different situations.  Sometimes, insights from these musings are what give daily doses of wisdom.  Looking at different perspectives make us realize what life is all about.  There are always insights that we can extract from these experiences – we just have to be sensitive enough to take in and process these thoughts to make better people, heck better designers and creative individuals in the end.  These are possible instances, thoughts and perspectives where we can draw sources of inspiration as we continually study people’s habits and lifestyles that we, as designers need to take into consideration when it comes to designing for communities that work.

Modern Living TV (Current State of Philippine Architecture)

September 26, 2015

Our Chief Design Ambassador, Jason Buensalido, was invited by Modern Living TV (A PhilStar Show on ANC), to share his thought son the current state of Philippine Architecture, what he and his firm are doing to improve it, and how they applied their principles in a recently completed project.

Our book, ‘Random Responses’, even has a cameo appearance!