Kengo Kuma

At the beginning of this month, I had the great opportunity of attending Kengo Kuma’s lecture at UC Berkeley, as part of the CED arch lecture series for the fall semester. I was pretty excited too, since this is the first time that I went to an architect’s lecture. To make things better, I get to see Kengo Kuma! Indeed, he is one of the more reputable architects of this generation.

To be honest, I was not really familiar of his projects prior to the lecture. The lecture was definitely an eye-opener, for it gave me a good sense of his design principles. Plain and simple, he is an innovator in the field of architectural design. The most prevalent thing that I noticed in his projects was the strict usage of materials, and the repetition of elements. He also does not shy away from experimenting with unconventional materials.  He strives to be as innovative as possible, either through technology or design. However, he still maintains connection with his cultural roots through integrating traditional Japanese architecture and construction techniques, and this is what I really admire about his projects.

There is something about his projects that entice the senses, especially in terms of visual appeal. I hope that I’ll be able to visit some of his projects someday. Truly, Kengo Kuma will be one of my inspirations in the years to come.

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Architecture and the City

Architecture and the City Festival in San Francisco is just around the corner! It will be happening from September 1-30. This is definitely a great opportunity to get involved with the local design community, and a good resource to explore more about the city’s rich architectural heritage. One of the most interesting aspects of this year’s festival is the Unbuilt San Francisco exhibition which is made possible through the collaborative efforts of AIA San Francisco, Center for Architecture + Design, California History Society, SPUR, San Francisco Public Library, and the Environmental Design Archives at UC Berkeley. Indeed, the exhibition will provide a glimpse of an ‘alternate world’ of the city’s architectural landscape.

There are various way to get involved — lectures, exhibitions, films, tours, and other fun activities are in store for everybody. Looking to help out in one of the events? Well, there are a lot of volunteering opportunities available. I myself would be volunteering in some of the events, and I’m definitely looking forward to it! Please visit the Architecture and the City Festival and AIA San Francisco websites for more information.

Reference: AIA San Francisco

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Saynatsalo Town Hall

We can say that architecture always contains a human error, and in a deeper view, it is necessary; without it, the richness of life and its positive qualities cannot be expressed.” These are the inspiring words of one of my favorite architects, Alvar Aalto. I am dedicating this blog post to feature one of his works, the Saynatsalo Town Hall.

As the name implies, it is located in Saynatsalo, a former municipality in Finland. I believe that this building is a perfect example of what Aalto meant by ‘richness of life’ and ‘positive qualities’. Its most distinctive characteristic is arguably the use of red brick for the building envelope. The use of red brick evokes a sense of visual presence, which is typical of a public building. Other great qualities are the courtyard and ‘grass stairs’ which allow the building to mesh with the surrounding landscape, and as well serve as a public space. Through this building, Aalto brings the users/visitors to an exploration of two different realms – the social and natural realm of the town. The courtyard’s proximity to main spaces such as the library, town offices, and council chamber reflects Aalto’s design intention of making the town hall easily accessible to the public.

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A few weeks ago, I visited Dayton, Nevada for a short family trip to reunite with some relatives. These photographs were taken at my aunt’s front yard.  There I was standing in the middle of the vast open space, enjoying the nice warm weather, and looking over the natural beauty the place has to offer. I spent the majority of my life in an urban environment, so the rural feel of the town was somehow new to me.

As I was relaxing in my aunt’s porch, I can’t help but think about the various ways to utilize the aforementioned open space, which appears to be underused. Maybe they could plant more trees, crops, or other types of vegetation. Perhaps they could build a gazebo, or some form of shelter where visitors could socially interact and relax. Indeed, the opportunities are ‘endless’. But to what extent can we alter nature to accommodate our needs — in a design sense, our design intentions. As architects, we are responsible in designing buildings and spaces which adapt to the environment and promote a better quality of life. More often than not, this is usually achieved, primarily through the use of green design methods.

However, there are instances when we fail to commit to this responsibility because we are too consumed in developing our often ‘biased’ design concepts. Sure, I’m just making assumptions here. But if we look at the level of urbanization in our world today, especially in developing countries, we could easily see how once open spaces have been transformed into a cluster of buildings (usually skyscrapers). We tend to over-design because the options are endless. The natural environment is taken for granted and so-called public places lack access to walkable paths, connection to nature, reliable public transportation, and spaces which promote a sense of community. Urban design is at the core of these issues, and there are various cities around the world which have successfully developed their urban planning to create livable cities. In our modern world, urbanization is the norm, so we should strive to make our future cities more livable and sustainable. We have different preferences in terms of the places we want to live in. As for me, I would always treasure places where I could enjoy nature (even in an urban setting), and interact with the larger community.


The Nipa Hut, or known locally as Bahay Kubo, is considered as an architectural and cultural icon in the Philippines because of its native origin. This dwelling type was already in use even before the Spanish colonization, so its historical significance is beyond compare – no wonder it is the national house of the Philippines.

The construction of the house is fairly simple and economical, and is perfectly suited to the country’s tropical climate. Primary building materials such as bamboo, nipa leaves, and coconut leaves are locally accessible. Bamboo serves as the structural framework of the house, due to its “strong, lightweight, and flexible” nature — bamboos are tied together with “tree strings with dried coconut leaves or cogon grass”. The walls could either be constructed with bamboo slats or nipa leaves, and the “floor is  made of finely split resilient bamboo”. The house is structurally “raised with thick bamboo poles “, which give protection from wild animals, and natural occurrences, such as floods. Truly, the construction of Bahay Kubo symbolizes the resourcefulness and simple lifestyle of Filipinos, especially those living in rural regions. It is also a representation of the close-knit Filipino community, since its construction usually involves cooperation among the village people.

Growing up in the Philippines, Bahay Kubo is the first ‘architectural knowledge’ which I learned in school. It holds a special place in my heart. It reminds me of my cultural heritage. It reminds me of the moral values which were instilled in me during my childhood years. It reminds me of my humble beginnings. It reminds me to always look back to where I came from.

Reference: Bahay Kubo (from CNN iReport) by RonaldDJ. May 8, 2012.

bahay kubo by _rmx, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  _rmx 
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Professional Relationships

Yesterday, I attended the 2013 AIA SF Mentorship Speedmatch. In preparation for the mentorship program, this event gave me the chance to meet other participants which comprise of emerging professionals (0-5 years of experience), mid-level professionals (5-15 years), and seasoned professionals (+/- 15 years), in the architecture and design industry. Honestly, it was exhausting since there were a lot of participants for this year’s program – I probably talked to around 90 people in a span of two hours! But it was all worthwhile since I got the opportunity to get to know the other participants.

As how AIA SF describes it: “This is a program for architects of all levels. By creating a forum for cross-generational interaction, mentorship seeks to build a network for established and emerging professionals beyond the office environment, promote personal and professional development in the areas of leadership, mentoring, and relationship building, and provide supplemental tools for emerging professionals to fulfill the requirements for licensure.”

Through participating in the AIA SF mentorship program, I hope to gain additional knowledge and exposure in the field through building professional relationships with experienced architects, and other young professionals like myself. I believe that fostering these relationships is very important in our personal growth as architects. Also, I hope to share any architecture and design knowledge and perspective I have. Looking at the bigger picture, this program is essential for the development of the architecture community in the Bay Area. This is my first time being part of the program, and I am really excited with what this year has to offer for all of the mentor groups!

Reference: AIA San Francisco