BluPrint charts 2018 in six new year’s editorial notes
Our most memorable moments of the past year and brazen aspirations for the next twelve months
January 1, 2018
Photographed by Kieran Punay
The BluPrint editorial team welcomes 2018 with our most memorable moments of the past year and aspirations for the next twelve months. We asked each one to craft his and her own editorial note to usher in momentum for the challenging work ahead. Scroll down to get to know the different voices that make up BluPrint’s masthead.
A New Front
Fire has been, for the longest time, the execution block of books and other printed material. Today, libraries and publishers feel a different burn. It is electric. This one comes with screens and memes. Digital media is blazing through our reading culture and cannot be contained.
Although print continues to carve its niche in the lives of designers (very few can resist the tactile pleasure of ink on paper), many publishers are shifting with the rise of digital media. Some scaled down their print runs while others folded up altogether this year. BluPrint is doing neither. Instead, we decided to start our website which will operate alongside—rather than supplant—our magazine and books.
This website expansion was fraught with apprehensions regarding the articles we will post online—the tension instigated by daily publishing quotas, traffic requirements, and SEO-friendly writing. “The brand may get diluted online,” we worried. And we’re not alone in our song. This has been the concern of publishing’s old guard since the advent of the dot-coms. BluPrint’s hard-fought 18-year tradition of design writing and criticism will die online if we reduce it to clickbait-traffic munchies—30-word introductions and embed codes for a list for social media posts that fit a catchy headline formula.
It took the whole team’s resolve to have our website remain faithful to BluPrint’s mandate: to appraise design, to report from the ASEAN front, and to reflect on the way we live in our homes, communities, and cities. We need to achieve all this while honoring the tenets of “good” digital writing and editing (which we feel is akin to print). While architecture criticism is fighting for real estate in newspaper columns, it can occupy unlimited space online, take on new forms, and reach audiences it has never reached before with the click of a share button. Because in this era of “Build, Build, Build,” we ought to remember that we must first “Design, Design, Design,” setting for ourselves checkpoints to listen, analyze, and refine. It is my hope that BluPrint—online and off—can serve you as a checkpoint this 2018.
– Angel Yulo, associate editor
Since joining the team midway through 2017, I quickly learned that BluPrint’s ambitions, epitomized by the launch of both the first Tropical Architecture of the 21st Century book and the Bluprint.ph website were coming at a period of transition for the publication. In diversifying content to books and online, BluPrint was already on its way to offering a broader level of engagement with its core following and new readers alike.
One of the highlights of the year for me, personally, was covering the inauguration of the National Museum of Natural History and the response to the online article we published at the crest of another milestone for the project. Despite continuing the narrative of the gestation and fruition of this monumental project in print, it was only until we broke the story online that I realized three things: the benchmark that the design, as led by Dominic Galicia Architects and interior designers, Periquet Galicia, Inc., has set for the Philippines in terms of adaptive reuse; the public’s fervent appetite and anticipation for a cultural institution of national significance; and the importance of Bluprint.ph in acting as an agent for disseminating meaningful, critical, and informative content for the architecture industry and its online audience beyond.
It’s worth reminding ourselves, as we head into 2018, that architecture and design cannot merely exist and operate in a bubble. As we too often see on design websites today, the tendency for online articles leans towards eye candy, oversimplification, and a focus on the ‘object’, rather than its relevance to a context. With an increase in exposure of design from media outlets not normally associated with the field, the need for informed critique and reasoned opinion is more vital than ever. The upcoming Design Better book (launching in February 2018) will demonstrate the potential for plausible near-future architectural solutions for existing, problematic local sites. The second volume of Tropical Architecture of the 21st Century will continue to bolster BluPrint’s agenda of speaking about climate-sensitive design from different Southeast Asian countries in the same breath. BluPrint’s online platform is in the best position to begin to carve its own niche aside from the plethora of blinging design channels on the worldwide web.
There are many positive exchanges to be had in elevating the level of design in the Philippines if only more local designers tapped into the wealth of knowledge from some of their neighboring ASEAN counterparts. As the winning and shortlisted Philippine entries for WAF 2018 have shown, the very best Filipino designers deserve to be mentioned alongside the BIGs, MADs and OMAs of this world. In presenting a wider lens to global eyes, BluPrint can grow to become the regional standard bearer of ASEAN design.
-Lawrence Carlos, associate editor
A year-end epiphany, a new year’s vision
We believe in the power of design to make lives better and in the necessity of designing for our context and climate. Since 1999, BluPrint has been flying the flag for Filipino architects and designers. Next year, we expand our commitment to elevate Southeast Asian design and designers within ASEAN and on the global stage by carefully curating the best design projects and news from the region on our website, social media, books, and magazine.
2017 saw BluPrint publish its first two sets of books: the visioning series, which we launched in January with Blueprints for 2050, and the Tropical Architecture for the 21st Century series, with Book 1 launched in August. The Tropical book series covers projects in countries with climes similar to the Philippines. The wealth of material we gathered on our trips for Book 1 allowed us to expand our magazine coverage in 2017 to regularly include projects in Malaysia and Singapore. In 2018, our coverage spreads out to include Indonesia, Vietnam, and Cambodia. By 2019, all of ASEAN.
Our interviews with the architects in these countries underscore how much we have in common with our neighbors. The need for resilient, sustainable, and equitable design has never been so acute in the face of climate change and rapid urbanization. So too have the pressures of the global economy, and consequently, the challenges of contending with foreign (particularly, Western) practitioners within our shores, never been so sharply felt. It is an experience (and complaint) shared by designers all over ASEAN, who, until now, look askance at the touted benefits of ASEAN integration.
Since 2014, the advent of borderless practice, BluPrint has advocated boosting the competitiveness of local architects and regarding their ASEAN brethren in the design professions as ‘coopetitors’ rather than dog-eat-dog competitors. In the context of ASEAN integration, ‘coopetition’ means complementation rather than competition—each ASEAN country producing goods and providing services that complement one another intra-industry to achieve efficiency and stronger inter-dependence. Integration’s proponents say achieving complementation in intra-industry trade will afford ASEAN the economies of scale to compete in the global marketplace, not to mention advance regional cohesion, harmony, and peace. If we in ASEAN see each other as members of the same team, then knowledge and technology sharing will be genuine. It will improve efficiency, lower costs, and increase productivity—all of which translate to higher incomes and inclusive growth.
In architecture, we all can re-learn from each other the wisdom our forebears developed over millennia of living in our geographical location, our hot and wet weather, and of evolving our diverse yet very relatable cultures. We could share insights from our common experience of foreign dominion and the conflicting desires of independence, wanting to be like our former masters, and coming into our own.
BluPrint has had the unique privilege of covering the annual World Architecture Festival (WAF) since 2013. That year was the first time an Asian country—Singapore—hosted the festival after always being held in Europe. Because of its proximity, many Asian architectural firms and schools participated. On our very first outing, Filipinos students from the University of San Carlos won the grand prize in the student category, and Singapore’s Chang Architects, Pencil Office, and DP Architects earned top recognition in the Villa, Production, Energy, and Recycling, and Leisure-Led Development categories. Since then, more and more ASEAN firms have been joining. a21Studio made the WAF’s World Building of the Year award in 2014 and Vo Trong Nghia has been winning in multiple categories ranging from House to Hotel and Leisure, Religious, and Office almost every year, placing Vietnam on the global architecture industry’s radar. We have also seen the shortlisted entries by professionals from the Philippines increase from one in 2014 to six in 2017 and finally win a grand prize when Furunes + L. V. Locsin Partners & Associates merited the Small Project of the Year award last November in Berlin for an orphanage and community center in Tacloban.
These triumphs affirm that ASEAN architects have a voice the global community of designers can learn from and be inspired by when given a platform like the WAF. What ASEAN designers don’t have is the medium through which to broadcast and amplify their voices beyond the festival grounds. Just listening in at the live presentation and defense (at WAF, they are called crits) of the shortlisted entries is instructive and thought provoking. These sessions hardly ever are discussed and analyzed unless the architects are name designers. Western media, understandably, follow their own and pay closer attention to unknowns from our region only after they have won a major prize.
This is where BluPrint comes in. Observing the WAF juries interacting with Filipino and Vietnamese architects, we saw first-hand how the interchanges challenged stereotypes, opened eyes, and—dare I say it—even reminded some of why they became architects in the first place. For too long, the academia and media have almost exclusively studied and celebrated architecture built for royalty, dictators, and tycoons. We don’t deny the delight, desire, and ambitions that grand gestures and monumental sculptures stir in our breasts. But it is time we paid a great deal more attention to architecture that devotedly and authentically serves the overwhelming majority in their daily lives. It is, after all, ordinary working people that most architects will be designing for throughout their careers.
This epiphany to exert greater effort to uphold design for the greater good comes at the end of an exciting year of exploration, self-examination, and criticism. In our search for architecture in service of public welfare, we cast our eyes further afield in 2018. This coming year, we look for models of architecture and design in ASEAN that are humane, inclusive, equitable, transformative, and culturally relevant; that work intelligently and comfort us in our changing, ever more tempestuous climate. We aim to be the online platform for Southeast Asia’s thought leaders in architecture and the allied arts. In the age of borderless practice, BluPrint.ph is committed to engaging Southeast Asian designers with the best practices happening in the region and updating an international audience about what is relevant to our rich, diverse, and rapidly developing countries.
Join the conversation! Happy New Year!
– Judith Torres, editor in chief
Aspiring for competitiveness and positive change
This was a busy year for BluPrint as we started laying the groundwork towards our goal to becoming the design authority in ASEAN with a series of trips. For me, it was our recent Indonesia assignment for our second Tropical Book that left a mark. I felt reacquainted with the country of my childhood years—and my Bahasa, albeit rusty, still helped us get around. The vibrant Indonesian architectural landscape and the wealth of promising talent made me excited and hopeful about the future of Southeast Asian architecture. I also realized that we have a lot to learn from the Indonesians with how they approach crafting spaces that both work tropically and culturally. Meeting and interviewing local design luminaries like Andra Matin was an unforgettable trip highlight. The humility, passion, and confidence he shows in running his practice is something I hope our architects both young and old could emulate. (Read our Firm and Function feature on Andra Matin in BluPrint Vol 4, 2017).
This 2018, my personal vision ties up with what BluPrint has always set up to achieve: being a voice for positive change and inclusive social development. It is my goal to grow more as a designer, not just in skill set but in terms of the impact I make in society. I feel that this is something that the world largely needs right now, individuals who are willing to call out the problems and faults of the systems and the hierarchies that are governing today’s society; beyond fault-finding, it is a call to action that we need not take or make do with whatever is handed to us and that it is in our power to change the way we live for the better. Design has never been as important or at the forefront of societal consciousness as it is now. Here’s to creating positive change through design this 2018.
-Patrick Kasingsing, creative director
Overnight at the Museum
There were a lot of memorable shoots and events we had in 2017, like photographing projects in Jakarta for BluPrint’s Tropical Architecture for the 21st Century, Book 2 (coming out in August 2018) and the launching of Book 1. But, for me, the most memorable one must be our “Overnight at the Museum,” at the National Museum of Natural History last November. No, the animal exhibits didn’t come alive like in the movie, but we experienced how wonderful the design is–of the original by Antonio Toledo and the amazing retrofit and majestic Tree of Life by Dominic Galicia. From a Sunday afternoon until Monday morning, we walked, shot, sat, and walked and shot again and again, capturing the museum’s many moods in sunlight and moonlight. I look forward to photographing more amazing work in 2018.
-Ed Simon, Studio 100 head photographer
Part of my job is helping the editorial teams, event organizers, account executives, and our advertisers invite guests to various functions. 2017 had a full calendar, with four BluPrint Circles, two book launches, BluPrint’s 18th anniversary, a send-off for the WAF Filipino finalists, and a victory party upon their return. It has been my privilege to meet the architects behind the projects our Home and Design titles feature in their books and magazines. At BluPrint’s events, in particular, I sense the passion, dedication, and hunger in each and every designer I’ve met, to keep improving their craft. What inspires me the most is in every craft, they show what is Filipino. As enter 2018, may we inspire more and do more for our readers. And as BluPrint plants its stakes all over ASEAN, my hope is we gain the trust and support of the people BluPrint is dedicated to serve.
-Ria Lasco, editorial coordinator