July 08, 2019 – Ally Soriano
Authenticity, identity, and sustainability. These are things that the people at Alero Design Studio commit to in every idea they conceptualize. It is this commitment that has granted them a spot as a finalist in the shortlist of awards for The World Architecture Festival (WAF).
The Alero Design Studio is a young architecture and design firm led by millennials who throughout the years have created genuine and authentic projects that have remained true to their identity as Filipino architects and designers. Though they were only founded in 2015, they’ve already achieved a feat that has them alongside international industry greats.
WAF is a venue where the finest minds in architectural design all over the world meet, learn from each other, and inspire future leaders in the industry. It’s a place for the architecture community to hear from international speakers and watch over 550 pitches from their fellow architects who are bidding to win a WAF award. It is for one of these awards that the Alero Design Studio has been shortlisted for.
In response to the WAF’s call for entries into their Civic Future Project category, the design studio chose a project that they thought Filipinos could be proud of, the Baliwag Community Center. It is a culture-rich civic building that takes aesthetically unique and exquisite Filipino craftsmanship and gives it an international stage.
“This structure will be a venue for the people of Baliwag to meet, engage themselves in either academic discourse or exchanges of cultural diversity. To inspire them even more, the only way to build the structure is to source local materials, eventually creating ownership of the space for the occupants and fostering the identity of the people and the people involved in building the structure. To put it simply, we adhere to inclusivity in all forms,” the team of Jesy Cruz, Jaemi Cruz, and Eunice Vibal shared.
This project holds special meaning as Alero was founded in Baliwag, Bulacan. Their main inspiration for the design is the Buntal hat, a handicraft that the region is known for. The light-colored hat is made out of buri palm streaks that represent every strand of Filipino culture—unique, colorful and vibrant.
“It was just fitting to give back to the community that nurtured us. We also believe in Baliwag's contribution to national heritage. By creating awareness on what Baliwag is like and what it does, we are giving them the spotlight, consequently allowing the business of the local artisans to thrive and promote tourism in the area. People's creativity and talent need to be known and shared across the globe,” the design studio said.
With this design, they seek to become a catalyst for a paradigm shift in Filipino architecture and interior design. They achieve this by staying true to local materials that are readily available and the use of native vernacular dwellings (bahay kubo, bahay na bato, etc.) as inspiration. They stress the importance of projects like theirs being promoted and inspiring architects and designers to work on similar projects. And in this way, uplift the cultural identity of the Filipino People.
“It's high time that we fully promote our cultural identity. In the macro setting, the Philippines has thousands of islands, each with its own special identity and rich cultural background, if we get to showcase each one just as how the Baliwag Community Center does for the Baliwagenos, we get to bring these structures to the world stage as those that are unique but also richly Filipino. It brings about pride not only to Baliwagenos but to the entire Filipino people as a whole,” the team said.
A prime focus in their design is on the materials and efforts toward sustainability. Through creating a structure that lets in natural light and ventilation easily, they promote less dependence on machines. Using environment-friendly materials that are locally sourced, those natural resources are maximized an economical and sustainable design is achieved which can still be a model for government and private partnerships for fully functional government facilities. They also hope creative professionals will consider sustainability by designing according to the climate we are in.
“What we've noticed now is that Western architecture and design are very prevalent here in the country which actually doesn't work in our setting. Like for example, making use of box-type architecture and houses, when in fact our climate is very prone to harsh weather and having nothing to protect us from it... It should be natural for us Filipino designers to be able to respond to the needs of our local climate,” the trio added.
And for incoming architects who have just passed the recent architecture board exams, they gave a few words of advice:
“Stay true to your design principles. If your future clients have a different vision in mind, take their vision and give it your own twist… Be authentic with your design approach and be empathetic to your client’s needs and the rest will follow. And get out there! Meet positive and like-minded professionals and share and learn from one another. Build a strong network amongst each other to foster countless possibilities,” the Alero team emphasized.
With such a noble and genuine drive to promote the talents and creativity of Filipinos worldwide, it’s no wonder that their passion drove them to produce a work that is not only a marvel worth the WAF stage but one that will no doubt be something Filipinos can wholeheartedly be proud of.
Photos courtesy of Alero Design Studio
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