Preview’s Creative IT List

October 6, 2016

We are proud to share that Design Ambassadors and two out of the three partners of Buensalido+Architects are part of this year’s Creative It List! Read about it below.

“Architects Nikki and Ems are two of the three partners that run Buensalido+Architects, with the collective purpose to contemporize Filipino architecture thru progressive and contemporary propositions that are always coupled with authenticity, preservation of sense of place, and respect for context.

Both graduating with honors (Nikki is a magna cum laude and Ems is a cum laude), they are no stranger to excellence, which they naturally apply in running the firm, constantly finding ways to evolve. Part of this is to ensure a culture of collaboration, where design democracy is practiced and a multiplicityf ideas is produced with their teams, in the end being narrowed down through the sifting process of design thinking. Almost like curators of the firm’s design solutions, they always ensure that any proposition of the firm addresses the basic parameters of a project (such as function, budget, and practicalitywhile ensuring that their structures would inspire, lift the spirit, and give hope. This stems from their personal optimism and belief in a better future, a belief that they share with others thru their architecture.

They extract the metaphysical aspects of the Filipino culture and decipher how it can be applied in architecture. Summed up as “Four Points of Philippine Culture in Architecture”, these are : Responsive Vernacular Models (the babahayubo and the bahay-na-bato), Weaving, Personalization, and Weaving. As a team, constantly cross-checking and challenging each other’s thoughts, they have helped develop a stringent process, half intuitive and half scientific, that ensures that all of their projects express these four points of the filipino culture in varying degrees. They believe that thru this authenticity and honesty about cultural identity, that our cities will eventually be able to offer a unique urban experience that flaunt local flavor in a contemporary way, something that can only be felt in the Philippines.”



30 Design Leaders

October 5, 2016

Sharing with you when we were featured in Metro Home as on of 30 Design Leaders in the country. What an honor!

“Known for his fresh and progressive concepts on Philippine Design,  Jason Buensalido of the firm Buensalido Architects, contemporizes Philippine architecture, brething new life into traditional methods. His projects cause positive change by uplifting the local design scene while infusing Filipino values – optimism, personalization and participation, a weaving of mixed identities, and responsive vernacular models – into his work.”


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!





Bahay Kubo, ‘Kahit Munti’

April 25, 2015

Text by Nikki Boncan-Buensalido, Photo byBoom Boncan, as seen in Urban Monoogues v2.0, Business Mirror


An old Filipino children’s song, known by most local households inspired me to write this article. Its lyrics start off like this: “Bahay Kubo, kahit munti, ang halaman doon ay sari sari.”  Simply translated, “There is a Nipa Hut, although very small, there are various plants that grow around it .”  And then it goes on to enumerate various vegetables that grow around the ‘Bahay Kubo’.  The Bahay Kubo has been the subject of folk songs, legends, short stories and of children’s drawings.  I was one of those children that drew the Philippine countryside with two mountains and the setting sun in between them as a backdrop to a rice field (with a scarecrow) and a small ‘bahay kubo’ on one side. Growing up, the bahay kubo was all too familiar with me as we’d visit provinces and sleep in one of those.  During my university years, it was a topic we’d dissect throughout my ‘History of Philippine Architecture’ subject.  Up until today, a visit to our tourist destinations and provinces will not be complete without a sighting of a cluster of these houses.  Even at the onset of modernity, these Nipa Huts still serve as a take –off point  and is truly a part and parcel of Philippine Architecture and Design.  The Bahay Kubo remains to be one of the most common examples of Philippine Architecture and a lot of architects have pitched designs on their take of “The Modern Bahay Kubo”.  In retrospect, what makes the Filipino Bahay Kubo so unique in our tropical country and what are the useful principles extracted to come up with a Modern Bahay Kubo? Let me share with you some of these ideas:

This image was the inspiration for this article. This is a Bamboo House in Palawan at the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development. A model unit for the Zero Carbon Resort, this was a result from of the winning design participated by architects from Green Architecture Advocacy Philippines.

1.    Passive Cooling

Living in a tropical country has its pros and cons.  We have extreme heat and humidity and strong winds especially during the peak of the monsoon seasons.  Our architecture has to deal with these types of extreme conditions too.  Passive Cooling is harnessing these types of energy to work for the house by means of design and construction methodologies rather than using energy from artificial appliances.  The Bahay Kubo exemplifies this through the presence of wide windows from strategic locations of the house for natural ventilation.  Other fenestrations that allow wind to flow through the house are over-sized windows, ventanillas or louvers, and an exhaust route for hot air at the top of the ceiling to name a few.  Furthermore, wide eaves and overhangs provide shading for the entire house as well as its surroundings. Proper orientation of the house to open up to the wind directions (Amihan and Habagat) may also be helpful when site allows. When this is achieved, heat is deflected away from the house but light is still welcomed.  The same principles can be applied to a modern house and I promise you, you will also get the same wind flow and heat protection.

2.    On Stilts

Conditions in the Philippines also range from rainy and sunny.  Lifting up the house on stilts is also beneficial not only to allow wind to enter and circulate from under the house but also to protect the house from floods.  In the case of the Modern Bahay Kubo, if the house is raised on stilts, the lower floor acts as a social space for family and friends to come together forming an interstitial space.  In the older times, this space also served as the extension of the family space or a storage for livestock or harvest.   Moreover, a house on stilts also reduces the building foot print and has a very minimal ground disturbance during construction.

3.    Sustainable Materials for a Sustainable Environment

Building materials also play an important role in the construction of a bahay kubo.  These include bamboo, sawali, anahaw, rattan, among others.  Bamboo is actually a type of grass with utmost strength and flexibility.  It is also one of the fastest growing plants in the world, hence its sustainability.  A typical Bahay Kubo is 80-90% bamboo.  The leaves act as cladding for the ceiling and the roof.  Concrete may also be used but only recommended for the foundations of the house and so that insects are not able to eat into the house’s foundations.  Today, the Modern bahay kubo uses more modern materials that are still sustainable and environment friendly.  Certain materials are also certified to be sustainable as they are eco-friendly or made from recycled products, or those with low volatile compounds, etc.

4.    The Family as a single unit

A unique trait amongst Filipinos is that we consider the family as a single social unit rather than an individual as one unit.  The family plays an important role in Filipino society. This is something designers and planners must never forget. The spaces inside the typical bahay kubo are limited but big enough to accommodate a whole family living together.  The social space adapts to the Filipino family values of being together and sharing their lives with one another.  The idea of a family as a single unit dictates that the common spaces of the house are bigger than i.e. their rooms.  Usually, the bigger rooms are the dining areas (Filipinos consider eating as a hobby and a past time) or Family areas.  This is also evident in the “Modern Bahay Kubo”.  Filipinos love to entertain and have friends and extended families over thus, spaces have to be designed to accommodate large or small groups and spaces have to be able to open up to each other.  One might notice that the dining room opens up to the living area and the living area may open up to the garden or an outdoor patio. Heck, in a traditional bahay kubo, the community lives so close to each other that they share their big common space with their neighbors opening the house not only to their family, but also to the community.  That’s is how social Filipinos can get.

 There are still a lot more principles I can extract from a small bahay kubo but I will stop here and leave the rest to the imagination.  The Bahay Kubo is not just a ‘small’ house, it is a home, that is full of history and in it lives the heart of the family.  It is very functional given the limited material choices in the provinces but with the right choice of materials and the right construction methodology, the bahay kubo can withstand the strong storms and remain standing.  Its elements are sustainable and its principles are still extracted, studied and translated into modern day thinking.

“Bahay Kubo, kahit munti, ang halaman doon ay sari-sari’” (Even if the bahay kubo is small,) it is still used for so many purposes with each space designed and well-thought of.  The concept of the bahay kubo will never die, it is just transformed into something modern perhaps due to the rise of more modern materials but its soul will always be there in the hearts and minds of each and every Filipino – young or old.



Buensalido Architects launches Random Responses, sparks movement for Filipino architecture

March 29, 2015

Buensalido Architects may only be on its eighth year, but the architectural, interior, and urban design laboratory has already built a formidable resume of projects that show off its distinct design flair, and the launch of its book Random Responses only added to the firm’s string of contributions to the industry as it aims to contemporize Filipino architecture.

Held October 28, 2014 as a cocktail event at the Main Lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the launch of Random Responses solidified Buensalido Architects’ mission to instigate change in the country’s design industry.

Hosted by Issa Litton, the affair brought together Buensalido Architects’ industry friends and distinguished clients. Principal Architect and Chief Design Ambassador Jason Buensalido, wife and Associate Architect Nikki Boncan-Buensalido, and VP for Operations Ems Eliseo led the team as they welcomed some of the event’s guests, which included Ces Drilon, Julius and Tintin Babao, Ed and Dinti Tuviera, Atty. Charito Planas, Artist Leeroy New, Joseph and Stenie Tay, and Daniel and Monica dela Cruz.

Also joining the firm in celebration were Architects Manny Illaña and Rommel De Guzman of Ayala Land, Ric Gindap of Design For Tomorrow Branding Consultancy, Mike Marquez of Evermount Construction, Tony Tuviera, Direk Mike Tuviera, and Jojo Oconer of APT Studios, and CCP’s Tess Rances and Nes Jardin, who received the book for CCP.

A compendium of the firm’s past, future, built, unbuilt, small, and large scale projects, Random Responses is Buensalido Architects’ “love letter” for Philippine architecture, which the firm believes still holds great relevance amidst the newer, more foreign architectural styles in vogue today.

Random Responses is our call to fellow Filipino architects, designers, and creatives to spark an architectural revolution, one that brings back the glory of Filipino architecture as exemplified by the bahay kubo and the bahay na bato,” said Principal Architect and Chief Design Ambassador Jason Buensalido. “We believe that by applying contemporary materials and methods, we can enliven Filipino architecture to make it appealing and competitive in the current times, despite the prevalence of newer and more foreign design styles.”

A special exhibit which included some of the works featured in the book, as well as a special book signing for guests by Architect Jason Buensalido capped of the event.

The Random Responses Book Launch and Exhibit was made possible in part by general contractors and Buensalido + Architects collaborators Evermount Construction Corporation and Perfect Dimension Corporation.

Random Responses: A Crusade to Contemporize Filipino Architecture is available for purchase through email: For further inquiries, please contact +632 478.3445. The book will be available in bookstores beginning second quarter of 2015.

Modernity: A Menace or A Promise?

March 29, 2015

Photos and Text by Nikki Boncan- Buensalido (As seen in Urban Monologues v2.0, Business Mirror)


What does it mean to be truly modern? How did modernity come about and how did it evolve in the past century?

My most recent adventure took me to “Fundamentals” the 2014 Architecture Biennale which is currently on display in Venice, Italy.  The exhibition, which runs from July 6 until November 23, 2014 is the 14th international architecture biennale exhibition entitled “Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014” portrays the century that has passed highlighting the influences that changed the parameters of modern architecture.  Some countries were ravaged by war, destroyed, divided, occupied leaving people traumatized yet these countries have survived and have come out stronger.  The exhibitions of the different pavilions from various participating countries show how the elements of architecture have survived and how they evolved to put up with the latest ideas and inventions of their time.    These exhibitions aim to perform an “audit” of architecture and posts questions such as: “what do we have?”, “how did we get here”, and “where do we go from here”.  According to Paolo Baretta, president of the Biennale di Venezia exhibition, the presence of the national pavilions representing 66 countries, show national identity and the country’s ability to become a protagonist in the cosmopolitan world of art and architecture.

The “Elements of Architecture” exhibit curated by well-known Architect Rem Koolhaas offers a new perspective on the elements of architecture that should form the relationship between us- our civilization and architecture. The exhibition compiles a new body of knowledge that explores the often universally mundane parts of a building and highlights its evolution.  The floor, the ceiling, the wall, the roof, toilet, windows etc. are exhibited and broken down into parts and how it was developed over the past century.  With great courage and ambition, Koolhaas mentions that he was able to review the history of modernity in the past hundred years, and offers a new perspective of those “elements” that should constitute reference points for the new architectural prototypes of the next century.  Afterall, these elements, being the simplest parts of a structure will essentially never be removed no matter how the next century architectural models evolve.

As one lands in Venice, the biennale is celebrated everywhere.  The exhibit spaces are divided into three venues and showcase not just architecture but art, dance, film, theater and a music festival as well.  The summer sun complemented the exhibit space at the Giardini Gardens as well as the Corderie dell’ Arsenale grounds where the architecture pavilions were located.  What was effective for this Biennale was that it was truly about architecture and not a tribute to the architects themselves generally making the exhibit communicate in a more universal language.  It highlighted in-depth research, discourse and discussion on modernization of architecture rather than a simple portrayal of various architects’ works which made the experience even more insightful.

Upon disembarkation from the Vaporetto, the taxi boat that takes you anywhere in Venice, we were greeted by a pylon welcoming us to the biennale and signs that led us through the grounds.  Our first pavilion was the Stirling Pavilion which houses an exhibit of the past century’s effect on various countries thereby ‘Absorbing Modernity’.  The pavilions post the question of national identity being sacrificed to modernity as the development of global architectural movements and technological processes took over the once local and vernacular architecture.  It turns out that each country has adapted and evolved from their individual experiences, be it war, new technologies available or natural destruction, etc. to create their own definition of modernity.  Images compiled from various pavilions show how each country has locally adapted to the miles stones of modernity.

Milestones of Moernity – The Stirling Pavilion houses the exhibit that shows images compiled from different countries on how the concept of modernity has affected their design thinking and their built environment

Rem Koolhaas Exhibition on his “Elements of Architecture” was also top pick on my list of exhibits.  Upon entry of the main gallery, one is greeted by a 1:1 installation of the ceiling.  The exhibit talks about how the modern ceiling has become a faux representation, whose main purpose is to conceal utilities within it, increasing in space requirements over time, effectively decreasing the served spaces below.  It was interesting to see how the utilities were initially placed on the floor early on in the century and how it has technology has allowed us to transform the way buildings and ceilings are constructed.

Rem Koolhaas' Ceiling – Rem Koolhaas shows how the modern ceiling has become a faux representation, whose main purpose is to conceal utilities within it, increasing in space requirements over time, effectively decreasing the served spaces below.

Fundamentals - The exhibition compiles a new body of knowledge that explores the often universally mundane parts of a building and highlights its evolution. The floor, the ceiling, the wall, the roof, toilet, windows, stairs, elevators, etc. are exhibited and broken down into parts and how it was developed over the past century.

Various wall cladding installations were also displayed and Koolhaas was able to show how temperature and climate change affected building systems and how they work.  It made me think of how designers are constantly looking for solutions to improve living qualities and building techniques and how sustainable materials are incorporated more often at this time.  This just goes to show that designers are now more sensitive to climate change and how information has been widely available to the vast majority.  Experimentation and new inventions help push modernity forward keeping building technologies at par with the fast evolving times because of globalization and the internet age.

 Aside from the Central Pavilion where the “Elements of Architecture” were tackled, was caught my attention was the installation of the Architectural Association (AA) Students.  They replicated a 1:1 scaled model of Le Corbusier’s ‘Maison Dom-Ino’ which dates back to 1914. The structure was first designed as a prototype for mass-produced European housing whose design as been iconic images of 20th Century Architecture. “This initial installation will remind visitors not only of modern architecture’s most foundational project, but of an architectural instinct made even more apparent today than it was at the time of its original conception; namely that architecture always operates in the space created by a contrast between architecture as already known, and what it might yet become,” said Brett Steele, AA School Director.

Le Corbusier's Dom-Ino - A 1:1 scaled model of Le Corbusier’s ‘Maison Dom-Ino’ which dates back to 1914. The structure was first designed as a prototype for mass-produced European housing whose design as been iconic images of 20th Century Architecture

The French Pavilion caught my attention because it was challenging the evolution of Modernity as a menace or a promise of a better built environment.  The French have contributed a lot to modernity in terms of architecture and engineering.  The research inside the pavilion questioned if the large scale monotonous housing structures of heavy pre-fabricated concrete panels answered the questions of economic scale or monotony in design and which of these should be taken into consideration more: Design or Utilitarian Function? On the other hand, they also showed how structures like this which were put up in 1942 are now undergoing the process of re-urbanization.

Overall, the Biennale led to me think about how modernization affects those living in this time and age.  A century ago, the concept of modernity was so different from what it is now.  An introspection of the past points out that modernity always had the intention of trying to innovate and trying to improve the way of life through technology and new ideas.  It has challenged us to think of new ways on how to evolve as each generation is an improvement of the former.

In some ways, modernization has also affected our social relationships and how we interact with one another.  Personal touches disappear as one is all too dependent on man made machines. Cultural identities in architecture are less pushed to give way to a standard way of doing things such as pre-fabrication to achieve efficiency. Family communications are now limited as social media through the internet has depreciated one’s ability to personally communicate with another. It could happen that a family lives under one roof, yet they don’t see each other for weeks physically, since they are connected to each other virtually anyway. At the same time, this same technology has allowed information dissemination and new to spread faster and more efficiently.  More people are aware of current state of affairs.

Modernity is positive except that we have to be extra sensitive to what it affects, especially our social and cultural values.  One just has to think of how to balance the menaces and the promised of this new and constantly evolving society.  So to answer the question on whether modernity is a menace or a promise. Well, I guess it can be both.