Issue of September 20, 2015
Mt. Province

65th Courier Anniversary Issue
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Architect says time to rethink Baguio’s master dev’t plan
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

Using the bahay na kubo concept, current city planners should design Baguio in tune with the current needs of its people without forgetting its roots that reflect its unique image or identity, a seasoned Manila-based architect suggested.

John Patrick Anthony L. Buensalido of the Buensalido Architects firm said it is time for the city to rethink the master plan designed by Daniel Burnham in the same way the architect’s plan for the City of Manila has been rethought in order to keep with the needs of its current dwellers.

Buensalido was in the city to talk on “Contemporary Filipino Architecture” upon the invitation of Arch. Sheila Tan, president of the United Architects of the Philippines Baguio-Benguet chapter, to the group’s regular meeting last Sept. 16. It was aimed to raise awareness among architects and the academe that they have social responsibility to help the city in keeping up with the standards and be competitive.

“The bahay kubo was a response to the need at that time. Now, there is a need to understand the current needs of a people and a city before coming up with solutions,” Buensalido said. He added solutions should always be progressive, especially when dealing with the need for new constructions or improvements.

He said old buildings are testaments to particular time. “If you take out that building, it’s like erasing history. It stands for something – a leader or a time in the history – so you need to preserve that. But when you build something that’s new, you have to understand the local culture, the local context, available materials, the people and their taste, and the market,” said Buensalido. 

“Preserving old buildings doesn’t necessarily mean replicating how it looked in the past. There are different techniques that can be used to be modern but with a local flavor.”

He said preservation techniques include adoptive reuse, which he defined as a mixture of new functions with traditional aesthetics or urban planning, in which the original design of an old structure can be maintained but it is intended for modern uses, such as call centers.

Buensalido suggested mixed use of development master planning, where everything that one needs in the city – place to live, work, worship, recreation – is within a five-minute walk. “If people do not have to live 10 kilometers away (from the things they need), we could prevent traffic and not cause  pollution, for one, by making people use cars less,” he said.

“The plan for Baguio needs updating because people’s needs are no longer the same as before,” he said.

To make this possible, Buensalido said Baguio City’s attitude towards development and leadership has to change. “It has to be a bottom-up approach to understand what’s happening on the ground before you even came up with a solution. This principle can be applied in everything, including architecture,” Buensalido said.

He explained in master planning, Baguio for instance, one does not hire an architect and have him make a plan without talking to the people. “He has to understand the local culture, the qualms of the people. He should talk to everybody, the stakeholders from low, middle, to the high income members to the business owners, employees all of them must have input into the master plan even before one strategizes.”

Arch. Joan Tuazon-Colcol of the Saint Louis University Department of Architecture also suggested for the city to “build with nature and not be misguided by the use of technology.”

Hindi lahat ng bago, maganda. When we design, we design with the environment,” she said, adding, “We should still start with the principles of the bahay na kubo, because that is sustainable.”

She said the true essence of architecture is to preserve the past and combine these with the new architecture. In doing so, there is a need to preserve structures that have become Baguio’s icons, and apply adoptive reuse.

She said there is also a need to understand construction more, and make it in tune with nature due to global warming. “We just do not build in spaces, cement spaces, or build around spaces. We should consider its effects,” Colcol said.

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