Muhon: Traces of an Adolescent City, the selected exhibit for the country’s National Pavilion at the 15th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, has gathered the country’s foremost architects and contemporary visual artists to be part of the historic first participation of the Philippines in the Venice Architecture Biennale.
The exhibit’s curatorial team, Leandro V. Locsin Partners (LVLP), composed of Leandro Locsin Jr., Sudarshan Khadka Jr., and Juan Paolo de la Cruz, has invited six architects and three contemporary artists to start a conversation about the rapid creation and destruction of Metro Manila’s built heritage, and whether such conditions preclude the formation of the city’s cultural identity.
With the main impetus being the destruction of post-war brutalist buildings and important urban features, LVLP aims to underscore the urgency of inclusive public conversations about the relationship of the built environment and the identity of the city.
Architects and Artists and their selected Muhon
Poklong Anading – KM 0
Location: Across the Rizal Monument in Luneta Park
Anading continues his investigation of the social condition through three video installations. The individual projects surround varied conceptual frameworks – from proverbial and literal convergence points, notions of malformed progress to predicaments in urban mobility – but nevertheless and seamlessly stitched together a single reality that is the omnipresent force known as Metro Manila. Revisiting notions on identity and unearthing questions about the collective mind and memory, Anading presents us with a standpoint that is at once ubiquitous and particularly characteristic of his world view.
Tad Ermitaño – Pandacan Bridge
Location: P. Zamora Bridge
Ermitaño’s work tackles how the notion of iconic architecture becomes paradoxical in a Philippine context where informal settlements abound. The artist points out that even though the two are intuitively opposite, iconic architecture and informal settlements are in fact each other’s shadow-twin. This relationship is rooted in the brute fact that the businesses and endeavors housed in iconic structures need staff to operate. Personnel requirements and the lack of affordable housing means that all large enterprises — factories, malls, gated communities and so on — effectively generate informal settlements within their vicinity. Through the use of three video installations in the shape of iconic monuments, Ermitaño is set to explore this duality, examining the peculiar socio-economic reality that nurtures their symbiotic growth.
Mark Salvatus – Binondo
Location: Manila City Year Established: 1594
Mark Salvatus once again draws his inspiration from Manila, particularly Chinatown, which is held to be the oldest settlement of Chinese emigrants in the world. The district has been the center of trade even prior to the Spanish colonial period, and is currently a microcosm of commerce in the Philippines, where huge industries are owned and controlled by family-run conglomerates. The cyclical course that the city has charted for itself — from the destruction wrought by war, the construction of an identity bent by unbridled power, to the deterioration of social security by capitalism – is the subject of Salvatus’ work, in line with the curatorial concept that initiates discourse on the lack of social consciousness (or blatant utter disregard) for the balance among economic, cultural, and humanitarian development.
Jorge Yulo – Mandarin Hotel
Location: Makati Avenue, Makati City, 1226 Metro Manila
Architect: Leandro V. Locsin
Year Established: 1976
For Yulo, the Mandarin Hotel stood as the pivotal urban element sitting in the cradle of Makati’s urbanization. It is a crossroad of two major streets of the central business district (CBD) and its geometry pre-dated the CBD. Leandro Locsin’s “Brutalist” expression and interpretation of that junction’s urban significance set the DNA for the rest of the CBD’s development. While the building is in the process of being chipped down to rubble, and the embers of preservation sentiments are still warm, it is an opportune time for Yulo to internalize the 40-year-old structure with whatever bit of connectivity he has left with its historicity. Yulo aims the author’s initial thoughts and exploratory processes.
8×8 Design Studio Co.– Ramon Magsaysay Building
Location: Quintos St., Malate, Manila
Architect: A.J. Luz Associates, Pietro Belluschi, Alfred Yee Associates
Year Established: 1967
Built in 1967, the ingenious and unique structural design was done by A.J. Luz Associates in consultation with Italian-American designer Pietro Belluschi of Boston and Alfred Yee Associates of Honolulu, a pioneer in designing pre-cast, pre-stressed concrete building structures. The building designers decided to employ the use of a novel structural system — the pre-cast, pre-stressed concrete beams and multiple in- place floor slabs and wall panels. The main structural element of the building is the cast-in-place concrete sheer wall core over deep concrete piles. The structure has resisted lateral forces from earthquakes or wind load. It is designed like a big tree with the columns as its deep-rooted trunk that sways with the wind and movement of the ground. 8×8 will study the Ramon Magsaysay Building as it becomes a center of economics and trades, as well as Manila’s congested development.
C|S Design Consultancy – Pasig River
Pasig River is one of the most important environmental features of the city of Manila. It flows right through the heart of the Metro, anchored on one end by Manila Bay and Laguna Lake on the other. Historically, it was where trade among the pre-colonial tribes and kingdoms of Manila with its Chinese and Arab neighbors flourished, establishing Ilog ng Pasig as a main transportation artery. It was central to the daily activities of colonial Manila. In modern times, its significance has faded, with cities developing inland and motorways proliferating as the main mode of transportation. Shanties and factories have replaced the mansions of old, and its waterways have been polluted with filth. The Pasig River deserves its place as a landmark, as a “muhon”, surviving despite indifference and neglect. These sculptures are intended to ignite contemplation of the potential role of a river in the life of a community. The sculptures are envisioned to serve as a reflection of our relationship with the Pasig River, through which one can compare its significance in history, in modernity, and project our hopes for its desired reality. If context is to be celebrated, the river can be perceived not only as an element that bisects a landform but also connects the urban fabric and the landmarks surrounding it.
Lima Architecture – Makati Stock Exchange
Location: Ayala Avenue, Makati City
Architect: Leandro V. Locsin
Year Established: 1971
According to Don Lino and Andro L. Magat of Lima Architecture, the issues of heritage preservation and moving forward to stir economic growth have been at the center of an on-going battle in the field of architecture: retaining cultural identity 3 and creating the future. Lima Architecture explores the Makati Stock Exchange (MSE) building and deconstructs it to discover if it merits preservation without hindering new developments that help the economy to move forward. The firm’s process considers if it is possible to “remove” heritage structures such as the MSE while retaining its “essence” to protect our cultural identity and memory. Lima asked, “Is it possible to design something new but still have heritage and cultural identity without sacrificing modern day solutions?”
Mañosa & Co. Inc.– Tahanang Pilipino
Location: CCP Complex Manila
Architect: Francisco Mañosa
Year Established: 1978
Tahanang Pilipino also known as the Coconut Palace is valued for its unique and locally sourced construction, the building utilizes the coconut tree for its architectural and design components. Its creation symbolized the beginning of many dimensions — launching a design and materials revolution, exploring a flexible and democratic geometry, and developing into cultural icon — while harnessing the power of people coming together in common cause, a concept known locally as bayanihan or community effort.
Akin to the concept of binhi (seed), the Tahanang Pilipino paints a picture of life and growth, planting the seed of innovation and creativity that evolves through the decades. A statement of Filipino ingenuity, design and art, it is a work in progress – a myriad of the endless possibilities of indigenous materials in the spirit of discovery and collaboration. More than being a relic of the past, it is an iconic building whose soul has shined through the decades—and will continue to do so in the future, leaving an indelible imprint on the pages of history.
Eduardo Calma – Philippine International Convention Center
Location: Vicente Sotto St., Pasay City, 1700 Metro Manila
Architect: Leandro V. Locsin
Year Established: 1976
According to Calma, there is no guarantee that built architecture will be preserved. As population increases in highly developed urban areas, structures are destroyed and neighborhoods erased to make way for much needed infrastructure, housing, institutional and commercial developments. New structural codes and building guidelines often conspire to make it more economical to demolish and rebuild than to preserve old buildings.
Calma chose the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) as one of the few remaining Leandro V. Locsin buildings surviving. Yet there is still no guarantee that this building will survive in the future. If the inevitable happens, the only hope is to preserve a memory of its presence and its architectural qualities in a new proposal.