LOOK: Collaborative works of 2 National Artists for Architecture at MET Manila
The exhibition entitled, ‘Leandro V. Locsin and Ildefonso P. Santos, Jr.: A Legacy of Filipino Popular Modernism,’ mounts the works of two Filipino National Artists for Architecture, Lindy Locsin and IP Santos. It revisits the geometry and openness of the modern form and communal approach of the two National Artists for Archicture’s collaborations. Against off-white walls and glass-covered display boxes, detailed original blueprints of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Philippine International Convention Center, and Nayong Pilipino. These are but a few of the public buildings and landscapes that Locsin and Santos worked on together, which remain as valuable contributions to the Filipino identity and monuments of modern Filipino architecture. Standing on white pedestals are models and plans that turn into three-dimensional models through augmented reality (AR) technology.
“I want people to go around and immerse themselves in the exhibit,” exhibit curator Dr. Gerard Lico explained the use of AR technology to complement the blueprints. “If you look at the buildings and spaces in the exhibition, those are all public places. Even the video presentations show people using them because the architecture and the landscape are all for the people. That’s what this exhibit is all about: showing how public spaces create a civic consciousness, a Filipino identity in the national connectivity.”
With only one month to prepare for the exhibit organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (MET Manila) and the Filipino Heritage Festival, Inc. in partnership with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas with the support of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Lico managed to curate the blueprints and reconstruct the 3D models for the National Heritage Month celebration. “I had only a month to prepare. Fortunately, Locsin’s works are very well-preserved and archived,” Lico said. IP Santos’ works were mostly from Lico’s possession. He collected Santos’ landscape plans for a tribute exhibit for the Father of Philippine Landscape Architecture when he was still alive. However, it didn’t happen due to the lack of funding. “When IP Santos passed away, I think the family kept his landscape plans in Tagaytay. Unfortunately, termites and molds infested the plans, so we’re unable to retrieve those plans for the exhibit.”
However, Lico admits that it was difficult to choose among the two national artists’ works given the uneven number of plans he was able to obtain. “It was a challenge to give equal treatment to the two design professionals. Locsin’s documented works outnumbered Santos’, so we carefully selected those that enhance the narrative we are trying to convey,” said Lico. In his exhibition description, Lico wrote: “The modernist edifices and landscapes featured in this exhibition were designed not only as avant-garde modes to radically digress from tradition but as ways to transform the everyday life of the Filipino—palpably weaving a civic narrative and popular culture that consolidates a collective consciousness and public memory to inculcate ties of loyalty to an imagined Filipino nation.”
Locsin’s son, Andy, who was also present at the exhibit opening, echoes Lico’s description. “I think when you look at this exhibition, and when you think about what was happening in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, it was somewhat a search of who were we as Pinoys, and where we fit in in the world. Curiously, if there’s anything obvious, it was that we were in-sync and current with what was going on globally. I think that’s as much a reflection of us as being mestizo or sort of a mix of several cultures, and I think you can see that in the architecture. Even in IP Santos’ stuff, there are many references to a guy named Roberto Burle Marx, who was an incredible landscape architect.”
Lico encourages students and the public to experience the exhibit as “architecture is the most underappreciated in all art forms.” He added that learning more about it helps them realize “how architecture can be co-opted by power and becomes a form of propaganda.” Lico asserted that whether we like it or not, these are all part of a social reengineering agenda to create one nation. Our culture is plural, but if architecture is singular, then we can connect.”
Andy Locsin encourages young people to see the exhibit as well. “The work speaks for itself. Somehow, it continues to have relevance today. As you architecture guys know, modernism is the most optimistic of any kind of architecture. There’s a certain belief that if you did this aesthetic right and practiced it in a sort of way, then you can change the world, and make life better for the people—very, very optimistic stuff. Buildings in the US and Brazilia are very much like that, and there’s a consistency with the idea of self-discovery of this kind of architecture, and with the feelings of nation-building and optimism.”