CIIT College of Arts and Technology wanted to transform an old abandoned building near the old campus to a more modern, multi-use building. Thus, they have enlisted the help of Buensalido + Architects and the new campus was opened on November 22, 2018, in conjunction with the school’s 10th anniversary celebration. Known as the Interweave Building, it has only taken three years to win Citations as a HIGHLY COMMENDED project for Completed Buildings-Schools Category and The Best Use of Color Category from this year’s World Architecture Festival.
Earlier this year for WAF, Buensalido + Architects submitted 2 projects (The Interweave Building) headed by Jerome Bautista (Lead Project architect) together with Rissa Espiritu (Project Architect) and (From Fragmented to Free) headed by Ems Eliseo in 3 categories: (Completed Building – School; Completed Building – Best Use of Color; and Future Project – Competition, respectively). In this event, both entries became shortlisted for the categories they were submitted in. WAF executes series of judging. 7-20 firms are shortlisted per category. There will be jury per category to choose only 1 winner. All category winners will then present to a super jury for the major awards such as The World Building of The Year, Small Project of the Year, Future project of the Year, Interior project of the Year,etc. Buensalido + Architects efforts paid off as both projects won citations as HIGHLY COMMENDED projects.
All is well, since receiving HIGHLY COMMENDED recognitions in WAF 2021 is no easy feat. In an exclusive interview with BluPrint’s Editor-in-Chief Geewel Fuster, Architect Jason Buensalido shares his insights and experiences upon being given this incredible and impressive honor.
Geewel Fuster: Congratulations on your winnings in the World Architecture Festival this year! How are you feeling? How were you able to react after finding about all of these?
Ar. JASON BUENSALIDO: When they gave us the news, it didn’t feel real until now. In fact, I didn’t want to tell people until they announced it during WAF. So the announcement was a few days ago and now it’s real, it’s official. I’m overwhelmed and relieved. More than anything, I’m encouraged because the hard work that we’ve been putting in, especially in relation to Philippine architecture, is bearing fruit and gaining the attention of the global stage.
I’ve been attending WAF since 2012 or 2013. My first WAF was in Singapore and it was such a great experience because it’s got the world’s best of the best in one place. I got to listen to all their presentations and then a couple of years later, I came back to learn more.
We tried submitting a few times over the years. In 2020, we thought to try again so we submitted the 3 entries and they all got shortlisted. Just being shortlisted already made us happy. It was such an honor to be part of the shortlisted roster, especially out of thousands of entries from all over the world. And they pick out only 7-20 projects depending on the category. Just to name few of the celebrated names in the industry who won: Bjarke Ingels of BIG, Zaha Hadid, Cox Architecture, NextOffice, and for us to be in the same realm with them is just fantastic.
You might also like: Buensalido + Architects retrofits an old building into optimistic architecture
Geewel Fuster: How was your preparation process for this year’s WAF? What difficulties have you encountered compared from the previous years you joined? Is there anything different among the entries you submitted this year from the previous ones?
Ar. JASON BUENSALIDO: We learn something every time we finish a project for WAF. We studied what submitted before, then we identified how we can improve it and applied what we learned for this year’s submissions. In terms of preparation for the boards, it’s essentially the same, just gathering from previous learnings and more focus on what WAF is looking for in terms of projects.
The difference is this year’s submittals. Since we got shortlisted we were required to present. Aside from the boards, we had to prepare the presentation itself, which had to run for 10 minutes. There was another 10-minute Q&A afterwards with the judges. I had to condense everything that I wanted to say about all the projects within ten minutes and then prepare the presentation itself. I also organized a crit session with colleagues so I invited friends from the industry to take a look at my work and the way we would present it. It really helped to improve the presentation.
Geewel Fuster: Is holding private crit sessions regularly helpful for this kind of design competition?
Ar. JASON BUENSALIDO: Even in the firm, that’s the way we do things. It’s not just helpful for competitions but it’s also helpful for architecture practice in general. Even if it’s just a regular project, no matter how big or small, we have this crit culture in the office. For example, one team has a design and they will present it to other teams, who then in turn give feedback, whether it’s positive or negative as long as it’s in a respectful manner so it helps improve the project.
In any business, feedback is important. After you render the service, you ask for feedback so you can improve your service or your product. So it’s no different when it comes to design and architecture, right? Our profession is all about problem solving. It’s not about ego and not about who’s better or who has the best idea. It’s about how your project is able to solve the problem in the most optimistic way.
Definitely for WAF, the crit sessions helped even more because I purposely invited people with different points of view because that’s what could happen in presentations or more so in WAF. You have no idea who the judges will be, or where they would be from. The judges for my presentation were from Japan, UK, Netherlands, India and Spain.
Geewel Fuster: Receiving this nod from WAF gives national acclaim to Filipino architecture and how much progress it is making. What direction is the industry moving towards, in terms of national representation?
Ar. JASON BUENSALIDO : I can’t speak for the entire industry but my hope is for architects to pursue excellence in their projects. Whatever it is, everyone should do their best in terms of solving the problems of the project for people who will eventually be the users. If there is an opportunity to integrate a message about national pride in the project, then take it.
Don’t do your projects to win in competitions because that would be for the wrong reason. If the output just so happens to be worthy enough to enter into competitions, then go ahead. Don’t do it for recognition. Do your projects to serve the people you are serving to improve their lives. Focus on that, and hopefully the output would be something you could be proud of.
Geewel Fuster: Is there any other design competition out there that you’d like to participate in?
Ar. JASON BUENSALIDO: We haven’t thought about it yet. We’re just overwhelmed with this recent announcement, because this is the prime, this is WAF. If the opportunity presents itself, why not?
There are three scenarios to factor in. Sometimes there’s a competition out there and you have a project but you have no time. Sometimes there’s a competition and you have time, but no project. Sometimes, you have time and a project but there are no competitions. If everything falls into place, then we’ll see.
Geewel Fuster: Of course we are excited for the future! Are you looking into joining WAF next year, and in the years to come?
Ar. JASON BUENSALIDO: If there’s a project of ours that gets completed by next WAF, why not? I don’t know yet because to be honest, it was very tiring. We started in 2020, gathering all of these entries and making sure that they’re excellent. Then we got shortlisted not in one, not in two, but in three categories. So we had to make three presentations so it’s very taxing on top of our ongoing projects. Again, it’s not about competitions for us. It’s about doing our best for our clients.
BP: What can we look forward in terms of seeing Buensalido + Architects out there globally?
Ar. JASON BUENSALIDO: Just the usual practice of handling the ongoing and new projects and spending time with the family. I have two kids; one is turning six and the other is 4 months old. Since I am already busy, I want to give my best at work and also to my kids.
WAF, the world’s largest annual international architectural event, held a live stream virtual presentation last December 1-3, 2021. For a comprehensive list of the winners, click in the link here.
Photos from Buensalido + Architects