BluPrint Circles: Charting The Architecture Of Future Cities
Industry leaders in design and architecture round up their visions for tomorrow.
March 30, 2019
Written by Kristoff Sison
Photographed by Ed Simon, Miggy Abesamis, and Kieran Punay
What does the future city look like? This is a question tackled by a lot of pop culture media—scenes depicting flying cars, all-glass skyscrapers, and a lifestyle. It seems exciting to see the development of technology go hand-in-hand with the evolution of the cityscape, but we can only go so far before seeing the dangers of our advancements. An October 2018 special report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlines how our planet is getting worse. Earth would reach a warming point of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2030 if our emission practices continue. Some headlines even calling it “a point of no return.” We are going to see rising sea levels and diminishing crop yields; while water shortages may reach inescapable levels.
Thus, a look into the future of cities should never be solely about massive technological advancements and booming industries. It should also be an analysis on what solutions of the past turn out to be the problems of today and for the future. This became the focal point of the first BluPrint Circles for 2019, in partnership with Commune Home PH and LG held last March 21, at the Commune Home Showroom at the East Wing of EDSA Shangri-La.
The panel consisted of G. Limgenco Arkitekto principal architect Miggy Limgenco, PDP Architects managing director Cathy Saldaña, Leo Almeria Design Studio principal designer Leo Almeria, SpaceFabrik principal architect Stephanie Tan-Branquinho, UAP-Manila Metro Chapter president Jason Ang, LG Air Solutions technical services manager Jason Caguiat, and Commune Home PH chief operating officer Gerry Alava. The members of the panel gave insights on how using technologies and educating the next generation of designers and citizens may provide solutions to the hurdles we may face as we tread the path to this future. BluPrint deputy editor Roumel Itum acted as the panel moderator.
Solutions for tomorrow call for a shift in perspective
To understand what direction we should take our cities to, we must first see from where we stand. In today’s bustling society, technology has made it easier for us to make sense of things. For Tan-Branquinho, technology helps us navigate through the city chaos and more. It also makes us more aware of problems that we need to solve—with “we” not referring to professionals alone, but all city-dwellers. As Limgenco puts it, “[Professionals] are not the only ones knowledgeable about the city. The fact that we live in the city means we are knowledgeable on it. My experience of the city is different from yours.” This makes us all liable to the changes that go on around us. We all have a voice that can influence the progression of our cities. We have to make sure that our stance is always aligned to the betterment of society.
Meanwhile, Ang says, “Be part of the solution, not part of the problem. ‘Wag nang pasaway. Our culture in the Philippines, is that it is easy to bend the rules through persuasion, but is this thing that you want part of the solution or part of a future problem of the city?”
There lies the difficulty in building future cities: how can we ensure that the solutions of today won’t pose as problems later on? As an example, Caguiat mentions the use of freon in our cooling systems. “Would you believe that freon was [developed in] 1928, and in all those years up until the late 1980s, we have been using that. [Today,] we now know that the Global Warming Potential of freon is at 4000.” This means that freon traps 4000 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Most freon use nowadays is regulated or outright banned, and it is because designers constantly come up with better solutions.
“As designers, we plan ahead and think of worst-case scenarios and build around them. It is our role to understand how people think and behave, and how things will go in the future,” says Tan-Branquinho about future-proofing solutions. But the role of designers and architects do not stop at providing solutions based on human behavior.
Saldaña brings up the point that architects must exceed what is expected of them and go beyond their roles by also understanding plumbing, sanitation, and other things that go into a structure construction. “Go beyond your comfort zones and work with your peers because you have that sincere desire to protect the environment.”
To be green is to be human
This leads to the main point of the panel discussion: protecting the environment is our major priority in designing future cities, and keeping our design green and human-centered is essential to its success. This begins with the proper education of today’s young and emerging architects. Almeria sees to it that students benefit from on-the-job experiences and never forget traditional methods of design. “There are things that you have to learn in the office or job site—things that are not taught inside the classroom. You also have to learn how to draw. Most students now are too dependent on technology. There should be a transfer of knowledge from head to hand.”
Saldaña doubles down on this point by emphasizing the human element in design: “You have to humanize design for you to realize what it truly is. It is not an imprint of a designer’s ego, but a reflection of what end users really need. Technology should only be a tool and not the means.” This intervention of humans in design is important in an industry that is big on automation and assistive technologies, and an edge that humans have in creating these future plans is consciousness. As humans, we should be aware of what is best for the future of society at large. “Consciousness is key. The mere fact that you’re thinking about [implementing green design], it will lead you to solutions. If you don’t do it, tamad ka lang talaga. It is also important to convince clients that [green design] is the best solution for them. Being green is an investment,” says Limgenco.
But implementing green design for the future won’t be easy as the panelists point out a few hurdles that we may face along the way. Saldaña mentions apathy regarding implementing rules and regulations. Meanwhile, Ang brings up our country’s booming population and how our resources are slowly depleting because of it. For design that is human-centered in nature, a major hurdle that Tan-Branquinho brings up is directed to humans themselves. “People’s attitude is a hindrance. We think that somebody else will fix the planet for us, but actually, no, time is running out—it’s really us. We have to put in the work and make the sacrifices. Nobody will solve it for us.”
Leave behind a legacy
Designing with the future in mind can be challenging—most solutions are done with current problems in mind. But if we do not start changing the way we tackle problems today, these can become hindrances for the progression of the next generation. It is never too early to start acting upon the issues we can foresee.
To conclude the roundtable discussion, Alava poses a challenge to aspiring architects and designers of future cities: “[To] the young people here, maybe it’s time for you to think of this question: what is the legacy you want to leave behind? Sometimes, when you think about a legacy, you think about it when you’re about 70 or 80 years old—when you’re about to pass on—and it’s regretful because there is little you can do about it. When you graduate, you will have the ability to influence other people. Ask yourself: what kind of influence will I give?” The future of our cities lies in the hands of today’s young minds for they have an entire lifetime ahead of them to enact change, to be part of advocacies, to engineer new solutions, and to direct the course of society. Let the leaders of today serve as role models for the creators of a green tomorrow.