"How do you improve the living standards of five billion people?
"With 100 million solutions. Your solutions."
Which is Idea #3 -and my last post on this series that is a rejoinder to Paulo Alcazaren's "Where are the Filipino Architects?"
My contention is the question should not be "where," but should instead be "what."
IDEA #3: What can Filipino Architects do? They can be innovators.
There has always been a tension in the field of architecture that revolves around the question: Are architects artists? Or are they craftsmen and artisans?
The answer, of course, is both. All the starchitects of the world started out as drafting monkeys. And because of the adulation, the temptation for all architectural students is to aspire to reach that kind of recognition. (Which is probably the recognition Paulo is talking about when he asks his rhetorical "where?")
To rise above the cacophony of the our cities, the aspiring starchitect wants to stand out by creating buildings that express his deep intellectual artististry.
I have nothing against that. Iconic building define place. But real cities cannot be built only of iconic buildings.
The Guggenheim crowns the success of Bilbao, it did not predicate it.
Yes, Metro Manila could use an iconic building or two -and yes, it would be nice to have a Filipino architect's name propelled to the heights of cultural stardom. But the bigger problem staring us (and our sister megacities) is the challenge of turning our squalid slums into livable communities. Over and above a policy solution, that challenge requires a design intervention.
The Open Architecture Network defines the challenge of our day as such:
One billion people live in abject poverty. Four billion live in fragile but growing economies. One in seven people live in slum settlements. By 2020 it will be one in three. We don't need to choose between architecture or revolution. What we need is an architectural revolution.Think of it. Instead of expending their collective hearts, minds and souls into finally building that one iconic building that will define us, our art and our culture -that one building that will maybe house 100 people or 100 corporations; Filipino architects could instead take to solving the problem that is confronting and will confront Two Billion People Around the World.
The U.N. Millennium Development Goals aim to "achieve improvement in the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by the year 2015." Reaching this goal will require a profoundly new approach to improving the built environment.
The Open Architecture Network aims to be just such a catalyst for change.
What if a Filipino architect could become the Muhammad Yunus of architecture?
How's that for long term impact? How's that for monumentality?
(And the great part is that our own megacity could be a living laboratory for this change. The best solutions will come from the people who live with the problem.)