New PH Awards: Architect Sudarshan Khadka makes architects out of a community

Sudarshan Khadka champions the cause of sustainable architecture by going beyond materials and forms and by making community involvement intrinsic to the process of spacemaking

  • June 12, 2019

  • Written by Patrick Kasingsing and Faye Yoingco

Rural communities have largely been indifferent towards the importance of architecture because of more pressing needs. Architecture is seen as a luxury, something one views as a spectator, its effects on the users unclear. Add in the concept of sustainable architecture, which is often discussed in technical terms and it gets even harder for the man on the street to comprehend.

It is this lack of comprehension and appreciation that architect Sudarshan Khadka seeks to bridge with his architecture. His spaces are the product of immersive partnerships: not just with architects and contractors, but also with the clients and communities he builds for, helping them understand the importance of architecture by involving them in the process early on, and in every step of the way. Suddenly, the far away spectator, who’s long wondered how spaces are being conceptualized and made, becomes a co-creator, a collaborator in spacemaking, oftentimes being its eventual user. His efforts were instrumental in triggering and fostering a community of architects.

World Architecture Festival Small Project of the Year award winners Alex Furunes and Sudarshan Khadka
View through the Streetlight Tagpuro function hall
View through the Streetlight Tagpuro function hall | Photo by Alexander Eriksson Furunes

Sudarshan Khadka has found renown, along with project partner Alex Furunes, in his collaboration with Streetlight, an Norwegian-founded NGO that supports local children and their families. The architect and Streetlight Philippines rebuilt structures to replace the ones they have lost during Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The project has yielded a community center and classroom for the community’s use.

Alexander Furunes and Sudarshan Khadka at Arena Berlin, the venue of WAF 2017.
Model making community workshop

“During our collaboration with Streetlight Philippines and the local community of Tacloban, we learned that in the long run, those things matter a lot,” Sudar explains pertaining to the structures that have long been pushed back as secondary needs for the community. “At the end of the day, while we were doing the process for the community—collaborating with them—over time, they are effectively becoming architects; so they are concerned about the same things that we had our concerns for.”

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As much as the community learns from the architect, in truth, an exchange occurs: the architect learns just as much in the experience, debunking the image of the solitary designer in an ivory tower. While the community begins to appreciate the value of architecture to their betterment, the architect adheres himself to the values that the community places on its people and space.

On the subject of sustainability, Sudar points to the vital role the architect plays in crafting spaces that work with and foster nature. “I think materials inherently are inert. So, they are neutral. It’s how you use them, it really makes powerful. I think the value of sustainability there is that we are able to get you to the value of space. Let’s say bamboo; it’s obviously a sustainable material… or so people think! If you use it all to build—let’s say—a gigantic mansions only to cater like five people, is that really sustainable? Even if it’s built with bamboo, it’s not. It’s really not good for the environment,” Sudar explains.

Opening the doors of the orphanage
Opening the doors of the orphanage | Photo by Alexander Eriksson Furunes

This sensitivity to man and nature in spaces truly makes Sudar an architect of sustainability. He understands the role both plays in crafting spaces, and more importantly, regards both with equal importance. He also understands that he cannot achieve his mission alone. Awakening an interest and appreciation of architecture in the local community, Sudar has planted the seeds of a more informed public that understands how architecture is vital in helping shape lives for the better. It is with these achievements in mind that Sudarshan Khadka is rightfully bestowed a place in our pantheon of Philippine pride and talent at the New PH Awards 2019.