Lessons from Anthology: Architecture is not just about visual and functionality
One of this year's Anthology Shelter Dialogues concentrated on why perception matters and how our senses affect architecture
February 19, 2020
Written by Gabrielle de la Cruz
Photographed by Rochelle Padilla
“Awakening the senses is the beauty of architecture. It’s not always about visual and functionality” said Buck Sia, principal architect of zubu design associates. He was joined by Anthony Nazareno, president and managing director of Nazareno+Guerrero Design Consultancy; Wong Mun Summ, key architect of WOHA Architects; and Chatpong Chuenredeemol, founder of CHAT Architects on a dynamic discussion on Perception and Sensibility. The Shelter Dialogues was moderated by one of this year’s festival directors, Rica Plaza of Plaza+Partners.
Speaking to an audience of both professionals and students, the four architects gave their individual thoughts on designing spaces in line with what clients/users would want to experience. “With everything going digital, entertainment and anything that’s experiential has started to become more important,” said moderator Rica Plaza. The four architects agreed and revealed that in order for an architecture to convey a certain emotion, you have to consider two main things: who are you designing for and what materials and elements are you employing.
On valuing the client’s perspective
As architects, the panelists expressed how they assess the needs of clients and how this initiative usually becomes one of the keys to a good architecture.
“If you give even just a tiny hint that you don’t agree with it (client’s perception), the client walks away and the entire journey becomes torture,” said Wong Mun Summ. He furthered on how healthy architect-client relationships reflect the harmony inside and outside a particular structure.
Recalling how their firm designed De La Salle Dasmarinas’ College of Architecture and Engineering building, Anthony Nazareno stated that there is a certain sensitivity that one has to meet when coming up with a structural plan. He revealed that apart from ensuring that the building is secure, they wanted to create a building that is suited for the physical, emotional, and mental stability of the users.
With the dialogue directed to educational buildings, the architects also addressed the educational system, saying that architecture classes focus too much on visual and functionality. They called to and challenged architecture schools to teach students how to design cautiously and sensitively, one which will enable students to actually extract a substance from their lessons.
On choosing spatial materials
How do you choose your materials? “If there’s a certain emotion in you, there would definitely be spatial materials to do that,” Chatpong Chueredeemol answered. He elaborated on finding the perfect texture, the perfect colors, and the perfect furniture depending on both the client’s personality and your personal sensibilities. “You don’t just ask them what they want, you also challenge yourself: how will I make what they want to happen? From there, you will be able to select what colors, shapes, and texture will you use”.
The architects emphasized that materials are not always physical objects. Sometimes, the best materials of a structure are actually its elements.
Wong Munn Summ happily shared how bathrooms of the structures he designs are always important to him, and how he uses his sensibility to design these. According to him, in Japan, some ladies do not want people to know that they are inside the cubicles. The trick, he said, is employing special measures to control the sound of the toilet flush. “You see, in architecture, even the sound of water is important,” Munn Summ exclaimed.
Towards the end of the conversation, members of the panel, including moderator Rica Plaza, enumerated how materials appeal to the senses. According to them, some materials have their own scent, colors feed the eyes, textures are made to be touched, and some installations create certain sounds. Combinations of all these, they say, is how our senses affect architecture.
Form follows function, yes, but this discussion tells us that architecture can do more: form follows function, function follows feeling.