L-worthy design

Longaberger Company basket buildingBuilt in 1997 as the headquarters of the Longaberger Company—an American manufacturer and distributor of maple wood baskets—the building takes the shape of the company’s biggest seller, the “Medium Market Basket.” The building measures seven stories and 180,000 square feet. The structure and its surrounding 21 acres were purchased by developer Coon Restoration.

But news has it that the building’s sold to a developer. The current design is amazing so I hope it stays. 

The Philippines doesn’t venture into similar “riskier” designs, architects here influenced and still preferring Brutalist design ie. concrete-heavy fortress-like buildings. But what buildings would we have if builders design out of the box? A bahay kubo (nipa hut) perhaps? But then there’s already the iconic still operational Cultural Center in Manila…derided by people of the extreme right on the grounds that it was a project of Imelda Marcos (in other words, everything the former First Lady had ever touched is bad). Or, perhaps a reimagined pine tree…burned during the holidays in Baguio City. Accordingly some people had had enough of the artificial kind that manifested each year the dirty hand of politics.

Tourism which is being aggressively-promoted in the country iif it is to endure as a unique offering need to be packaged as a total experience of place which includes architecture. You can’t call people to come visit for them to just see or smell the flowers (literal and not!) and not care about them seeing vandalism on buildings, abandoned and decaying properties, and haphazard and uninspired design all over the place. Consciously designing the place ideally right from the start should eliminate the need later on to hide from visiting VIPs embarassing elements such as decay.

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Designing for the public realm

I am fascinated by architectural forms and designs.  They’re poetry.  Gazing at these doubles as a de-stressing activity for me.  I get absorbed imagining the history of the building and design that I totally forget what has stressed me.

In an increasingly complex and hyperactive world that values sameness, beauty (hence order) are important counterpoint elements in the formation and design of spaces especially in the public realm.

Beauty is however subjective and the anticipated concern is, whose perspective of beauty?  But that’s exactly why such things need to be a continuing discussion among and with the public.  Beauty is not any one’s exclusive image.  It’s what’s finally formed out of collective commitment to positive community values.  What is beauty for the Filipino?

Around Baguio City CBD: Laperal Building

Laperal Building is one of the City’s commercial buildings that survived the 1991 earthquake. Preserving the old design, it’s facade recently received a much needed face lift i.e. new paint in keeping with renovations in this area of Session Road. Majority of it’s spaces are still let out as offices, many of which have been there for ages.

“The Architecture of Happiness”

The German theologian Paul Tillich explained that art had always left him cold as a pampered and trouble-free young man, despite the best pedagogical efforts of his parents and teachers. Then the First World War broke out, he was called up and, in a period of leave from his battalion (three quarters of whose members would be killed in the course of the conflict), he found himself in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin during a rain storm. There, in a small upper gallery, he came across Sandro Botticelli’s Madonna and Child with Eight Singing Angels and, on meeting the wise, fragile, compassionate gaze of the Virgin, surprised himself by beginning to sob uncontrollably. He experienced what he described as a moment of ‘revelatory ecstasy’, tears welling up in his eyes at the disjunction between the exceptionally tender atmosphere of the picture and the barbarous lessons he had learnt in the trenches.

It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value. Acquaintance with grief turns out to be one of the more unusual prerequisites of architectural appreciation. We might, quite aside from all other requirements, need to be a little sad before buildings can properly touch us.

Taking architecture seriously therefore makes some singular and strenuous demands upon us. It requires that we open ourselves to the idea that we are affected by our surroundings even when they are made of vinyl… At the same time, it means acknowledging that buildings are able to solve no more than a fraction of our dissatisfactions or prevent evil from unfolding under their watch. Architecture, even at its most accomplished, will only ever constitute a small, and imperfect (expensive, prone to destruction and morally unreliable), protest against the state of things.

But if we accept the legitimacy of the subject nevertheless, then a new and contentious series of questions at once opens up. We have to confront the vexed point on which so much of the history of architecture pivots. We have to ask what exactly a beautiful building might look like.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, having abandoned academia for three years in order to construct a house for his sister Gretl in Vienna, understood the magnitude of the challenge. ‘You think philosophy is difficult,’ observed the author of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, ‘but I tell you, it is nothing compared to the difficulty of being a good architect.’

– Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

Modern-day towers of Babel

Paris-based Chinese artist Du Zhenjun has reimagined the biblical ‘tower of Babel’ in various different contexts.

These contexts are some examples of things that are a threat to human existence even in this day and age. They include: huge winds, snow, conflict of law, destruction, and many more.

This series of work is full of symbolism as it juxtaposes the modern day context: tall towers fill our skylines, yet disharmony fills our streets.

– designtaxi

This is the trend it seems.  The race toward who or which country holds the record for the tallest building in the world.  In this it feels like the Old Testament all over again, but hopefully not.

Architecture in the face of global warming: back to basics

we also need to think about how to design for global warming. We need to go back to some of the lessons we used to understand on how to create structures that are not completely dependent on air conditioning and other mechanical systems. We need to open up our houses and make them sturdier. We need better planning strategies.

I think this will lead to better architecture. It will move us away from flimsy boxes ballooning with air-conditioned rooms and festooned with decoration. It will lead to communities designed with, not on, the land. It will help us create spaces that flow and provide shelter, rather than those that show off and segregate.

Read the full article here.

The Philippines too began with sturdy, land-friendly, and weather-adaptable home design and structure – the so-called indigenous houses – which I think we should go back to and re-fit into more modern designs. To me, the nipa hut has never symbolized poverty rather it stands for the affinity of the Filipino to the land (farming) and his/her natural genius at working with nature. Filipinos need to re-discover this within themselves.