How Architect Ned Carlos envisions the future with a nostalgia

Ned Carlos is a modernist who has verified over and over again that simple and practical are not adverse. His aptitude to invoke commercial and institutional architecture without excess has made him the architect of choice for local corporations and schools, including St. Paul University, Don Bosco, and RUSI main, for whom he fashions buildings so alluring in their details, so corporeal, and so spatially captivating.

Architect Ned Carlos is an alumnus of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, the Philippines and received valuable involvement in several of Cebu City’s top firms before débuting his own studio. He started out with Espina, Perez-Espina Architects and Guanzon Architecture & Design, two of the biggest firms in Cebu responsible for Cebuano landmarks. He then worked for Brittany Estates Corporation, a developer of themed subdivisions where he collaborated with some prominent names in the country’s design industry including Danny Silvestre, Sonia Olivares, and Benny Velasco. 

BP: What made you establish the office?

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The 1997 Asian Financial Crisis was an opportunity to start the practice.  While big construction came to a halt, the furniture exporters in Cebu were thriving primarily because their market was in Europe and America.  The exporters were looking for young upstarts to design their houses and condominium interiors and we jumped in to ride with the tide.

BP: Can you expound on the architectural practice or design approach of CARLOS & ANTIQUE ARCHITECTS, the tone embraced in the works of the firm?

Our approach in design has always been progressive.  We always wish to be forever young and forever bold, to try things that are new, exciting and daring.  Every year, we forcefully absorb the spirit of innovation.  In 2021, our tone is that we are rebellious, experimental, customized, personal, young, creative, and Filipino … in that order.

BP: What were the challenges encountered during the construction process of the Bi-Centennial School Building, St. John Bosco Chapel, and the RUSI Building in Dumaguete City?

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St. John Bosco Chapel’s foundation was difficult because the site was swampy and water was already present after 1 foot of excavation.  Each excavation always collapsed after only a few hours so we had to pour concrete immediately after excavation.  Also, we had to add tie beams connecting all columns to brace the entire structure and prevent it from tilting.

A large overhang with louvers ensure classrooms are cooler, while the berms elevate the entire building from flood, and provide opportunities for landscaping.

For the Bi-Centennial School Building, replacing sand with lime for the plaster mixture was a challenge because the mixture ratio had to be the same all throughout; otherwise, the natural color of the plaster finish would be at variance once exposed to the sun.

With the RUSI Building, workers were unaccustomed to the polished concrete floor finish.  Our specification was to smoothen the floor immediately after pouring because the building was to be 80% without tiles.

BP: How do you find balance between aesthetic appeal and function?

Frank Lloyd Wright said it best when he said that “form and function are one”.  We always follow that principle.

BP: How important is sustainable architecture and design today, especially taking into account the status of the Philippines, which is frequently affected by natural disasters, namely earthquakes and typhoons?

Today, sustainability is as important as the air we breathe.  But sustainability should go beyond architecture and should contain all areas of engineering, town planning, city planning, urban planning, and even transportation. We see sustainability systems working very well in Singapore.  Why can’t the Philippines do the same?

BP: What for you is the biggest weakness or area one can improve on in the green building sector.

Green building is still vague for many.  Propaganda for green building has had no impact on many Filipinos.  It’s time to play the lion instead of the fox: to force it upon the citizens to build green. Singapore is successful at playing the lion and the fox altogether.

BP: How can architecture and design tackle the many issues currently facing the world?

Because health is one of the biggest factors determining the economy and business, one of the most direct ways but seldom addressed in solving the current pandemic is to retain what psychologists call “personal space” of each individual.  And there is no better way but to create an environment that retains that space.  An environment with high-risk contagion creates wildfire in infection.  Informal settlements like slum areas can only increase contagion.  But architecture like a good housing plan can reverse that effect.  Or well-designed educational spaces that reduce or even deter an epidemic.  Environment is everything!  

 Architect Ned Carlos proposes to turn all roads into parks.

BP: For CARLOS & ANTIQUE ARCHITECTS, what is considered great design?

We are awed and inspired by the ruins in Greece and Rome or overwhelmed with mystery at the sight of the pyramids in Egypt, and moved with admiration of the sculptural space that is the Guggenheim Museum.  For us, timelessness is something that we would reason greatly about!

In spite of the on-going coronavirus pandemic and the present state of work-from-home life, Dumaguete architect Ned Carlos displays no sign of deceleration.  Case in point is his relentless proposal to make Dumaguete City into a walkable, functional, and healthy city for several years. Amid these is the LUNGS Urban Plan which highlights employing trees as infrastructure.

Presently, Architect Ned Carlos and his firm are teaming up with The Bank of the Philippine Islands-Bayanihan para sa Inang Bayan advocacy project to construct dry toilets in Apo Island, off the coast of the town in the southern part of Dauin in Negros Oriental.   A project that applies bamboo inclusive and concrete as its groundwork, it was planned with an X-brace to bear typhoons and earthquakes. With bamboo walls, the structure exploits natural ventilation and has a solar panel for night illumination. As a justifiable project, it can be a prototype for community-based coastal resources management.

These days, he unswervingly works as a devotee for green building and is enthused by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, Malaysian architect Ken Yeang, and Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia, three connoisseurs who are, at this time of the pandemic, shifting the style to designing buildings and spaces through their credence in ecology and sustainability.

Says the architect, “it’s time we regard trees not as a luxury in design nor as an afterthought, but as an infrastructure.” 

“Also, we really need to be thinking about rural settlements at this time of the pandemic,” continues the architect.  “How can we make living in townships nourishing again?  We are going to need farmers.  Industrial farming depends too much on fossil fuels; that is not sustainable.”

Roof deck pocket forests will be mainstay to replace lost greeneries on the ground where a building will sprout.

He also said car parks could be outdated and went on a conjecture that farming could make a reappearance to cities as one of numerous ways that urban areas could become greener.

“We should all be discerning about urban agriculture,” adds the architect “about vertical food production, looking at food that can be grown vertically on the walls of structures, on the roofs of buildings.”

Glass skyscrapers and enclosed malls are outmoded as well.  “We should learn how to live and work without air-conditioning,” argues the architect.  “Buildings subsidize more to the demise of planet Earth than planes and cars combined apart from dispersing the feared virus within enclosed walls.”

The dry toilet is an all-bamboo contraption, with a concrete base and can be pre-fabricated in the mainland of Negros Oriental and shipped to the nearby Apo Island.

Parks of the future may include reforesting roads and closing these in favor of al fresco restaurants; highways will be lined with a new-found infrastructure:  trees.

“We now have scientific evidence to demonstrate that access to greeneries is not only virtuous for your health, but they empower you to accomplish better,” he said.

“We now have scientific evidence to demonstrate that access to greeneries is not only virtuous for your health, but they empower you to accomplish better,” he said.