Collage by Rochelle Padilla

LOOK: Emerging Architects Studio proposes a series of post-COVID-19 residential designs

Architects and designers from Emerging Architects Studio identify post-pandemic responses for modest Filipino residences, small spaces, and social housing

  • June 3, 2020

  • Written by Gabrielle de la Cruz

  • Images courtesy of Emerging Architects Studio

“When the enhanced community quarantine was implemented, we have observed how the crisis was changing the way people behave, act, and live in their homes,” Emerging Architects Studio (EASt) narrates. There was a mutual realization within the team that our participation as designers should not only be limited to proposals and interventions during the pandemic but also, and most especially, after it.” The lockdown has driven the architecture and design industry to re-evaluate both public and private spaces in the efforts of adjusting to the so-called new normal. As part of their contribution to the built environment, EASt bares their ideas and gathers research-based information in presenting a layout of what various Filipino residences can look like after the pandemic. 

Post-COVID-19 house

Concurrent to their plotting of ideas for isolation facilities and quarantine centers, Emerging Architects Studio shares how they felt the need to look into the behavior of Filipinos while on lockdown and further on what they can do to assist in the betterment of spaces after the pandemic. “We resolved to create a post­ pandemic design series, which consists of multiple episodes, all of which would be sensibly and progressively linked with one another to form one big cohesive picture,” the team shares. In a Facebook post last April 8, EASt shared a layout for a post-COVID-19 house. “The layout is based on one of our on-going projects. Our client wanted a clean, minimalist, Japanese-inspired home. And based on our research, we have seen the Japanese’s idée fixe to hygiene, and so we tried to adopt it while still meeting the requirements of a Filipino family.” 

Emerging Architects Studio-post-COVID-19-model
“Most of our team’s proposed design ideas came from personal experiences in our respective homes. Some came from our observations made online from experiences shared by families, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances,” the studio shares.

The proposed structure ideally sits on a 320-square meter lot, divided into a 120-square meter two-story main house and a 40-square meter one-story auxiliary house. Main living spaces such as the family room, dining area, powder room, and laundry area are situated within the main house’s ground floor, while two bedrooms and a toilet and bath are on the second floor. The auxiliary house holds two bedrooms, a common toilet and bath, and an outdoor kitchen. EASt shares that this layout is adaptable and adjustable depending on the area size, adding that excluding the second floor will definitely be possible because “the spaces on the ground floor can functionally perform as a home.” The entire design incorporates adaptive ventilation, which aids in controlling the flow of air inside the home.  

“Our team believes that the general public must be informed of the basic concept of cross-ventilation and how any household may be able to achieve it through simple and uncomplicated means,” EASt shares.

Materials and finishes of the proposed design will mostly be non-porous and organic. The studio specified linoleum for the flooring, which is a resilient type of flooring material with a self-sanitizing quality. To ensure that the structure is hard and durable, the use of concrete and terrazzo will be implemented. These materials are easy to clean, require minimal maintenance, and “compared to carpets, tiles, and wooden floorboards, concrete works better when it comes to respiratory ailments as this material gathers less dust, bacteria, and mildew.” Emerging Architects Studio also cited the use of paints and coatings with low volatile organic compounds for walls and ceiling. Brass and copper were also recommended for the finishes. “Depending upon the type and concentration of pathogens and the medium they are in, brass kills these microorganisms within a few minutes to hours of contact. Copper, which is brass made together with zinc, is biostatic and has natural properties that destroy a wide range of microorganisms.” The team shares that non-porous and organic materials will inevitably be present in their proposed homes. “These recommendations may change as our scientists understand the nature of the virus more but this is one of the topics that we will constantly keep in view, as it may lead to advances in material technology in the future.” 

Life in small spaces after the pandemic

Primarily, EASt’s design consideration was to “make sure that the layout is comprehensible to an ordinary person—one that is relatable and can easily be associated with real-life situations. It must be one that is applicable to, if not all, many users.” Considering the reality that many Filipino students and employees reside within apartment or condominium complexes, the architects, designers, and planners also crafted a layout for a post-COVID-19 22-square meter space. They also identified how this scheme can be applied to small and narrow spaces where low to middle-class Filipinos reside. The Facebook post was published on April 17, about a week after their first entry. 

Emerging Architects Studio-22sqm-model
“We wanted to propose design ideas which do not require considerable expenses, or though would require one, but are design ideas of greater worth,” Emerging Architect Studio says.

Patterned after a basic residential studio unit, the structure is composed of the essential areas for everyday living. Despite its reduced size, the scheme did not sacrifice certain spaces that the architects, designers, and planners deemed as important. The unit holds smaller but the same features: a sanitation station; a foyer; a convertible area that can be used as an office, gym, or second sleeping space; and a garden to plant on. “While it will really depend on the users’ preferences and capabilities, our team believes that creating or setting-up an area for sanitation upon entry should be given higher priority. This intervention serves as the users’ first line of defense before entering the house,” EASt shares. They also underscored the importance of providing a place for exercise or meditation, as they believe that the mental health of the users will always be one of the top priorities. “Natural light and ventilation must always be available to increase mental and physical well-being, especially for a person in isolation.”

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The EASt Bahay-Bahayan model

Emerging Architects Studio-bahay-bahayan-model
The complex designed by Emerging Architects Studio will be comprised of a sanitation facility, open spaces for parks and playgrounds, and commercial and communal spaces for livelihood.

Considering the situation of Filipinos with lower income and capabilities, EASt also designed a social housing plan and posted this last May 23. “We believed that this proposal is in need of equal and immediate attention and consideration because our fellow Filipinos living in unfavorable and unfortunate settings are likely the ones at most risk to contract and possibly transmit this disease.” The housing unit is composed of three phases: the core, the vertical expansion, and the horizontal expansion. The core, which is a modified version of their 22 square meter design, is a one-story structure ideal for five to six users. Emerging Architects Studio also provided a variety of iterations for the core to be able to accommodate a specific population. The vertical and horizontal expansions are both anticipatory spaces. “The design grows along with them, thus, following an incremental and iterative approach.” Bahay-Bahayan is envisioned to be sustainable, self-sufficient, and disaster-resilient. The presence of community gardens, rainwater cisterns, and high-ceilings for adaptive ventilation aids in the allowance “for future growth, expansion, and modification that would permit each house to gain value over time, flexible to the financial and technical capacity of each family.”

EASt shares that it was important for them to propose a scheme that will not only provide the basic necessities of Filipino families but one that will also empower the end-users. Apart from the costing, they also evaluated the essential implications of designing a structure “aimed to be simple, relatable, intuitive and flexible to different site conditions to pave way for repeatability and quick production, even for non­skilled end-users that may be engaged during the construction of their houses.” Through these projects, EASt reminds the public that architecture has always played an important role–with or without a pandemic. 

EASt in an online meeting. From L to R: Kim Pullante, Marc Virtucio, Dean Ramos, Ayn Ong, Don Sebastian,
Karen Dionisio-See, Kristine Culaba, Lian Santos, and Jason Fajardo

Emerging Architects Studio has been linked with the Taytay municipal government and the provincial government of Dinagat Islands. Appointments with some city and municipal governments within and outside Metro Manila are also being planned and arranged on behalf of the team. For inquiries, you may email [email protected].

READ MORE: Post-Pandemic Deconstruction

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