WTA Architecture explores ‘architecture with no drawings’

The idea of building something fast is not something typically associated with architecture, a discipline that’s more known for emphasizing deliberateness over immediacy, erecting stand-out structures over utilitarian spaces sometimes.

The WTA x Boysen pavilion at the recently concluded Anthology: Architecture and Design Festival turns this notion on its head, emphasizing the need for architecture to build sturdy, dignified, and sustainable spaces without the need for “massive amounts of blueprints and documents.”

Erected on the lot by the entrance of Fort Santiago in Intramuros, the WTA x Boysen pavilion is proof of this concept. It was built only days before the Anthology festival, using recycled and upcycled easily constructible and available materials, and positioned following the limitations — and advantages — afforded by the site.

“Something we’ve been pondering for quite some time now is the possibility of architecture without drawings — the idea that we can build something like the architects of yore without massive amounts of blueprints and documents,” said William Ti Jr., principal architect of WTA Architecture + Design Studio and festival founder and director.

“With this pavilion, we explore the closeness that we can have with our built work onsite and how a more direct way of executing our ideas can be brought forth. It enables us to imagine a future where ideas can be given shape without much hindrance and with increasingly fascinating and frightening immediacy.”

Erected on the lot by the entrance of Fort Santiago in Intramuros, the WTA x Boysen pavilion used recycled and upcycled available materials.

The WTA x Boysen pavilion used old electric posts for frames, shipping pallets for the flooring, and recycled plastic sheets for the walls. All told, the materials used for the pavilion cost only about P500,000.

Using Previously Used Materials Makes Architects More Creative

The idea of using recycled and upcycled materials is attractive not only for its sustainable value but also for the creative possibilities it offers.

WTA senior architect Arianna Rodriguez explained that the design concept behind the pavilion was to play with light coming through the varying transparencies that recycled plastic offers.

“We did that by using plastics of different opacities,” said Rodriguez, explaining that opacity is determined by the amount of recycled material used in the manufacture of the plastic sheet. The pavilion used recycled plastic sheets of three different opacities — 100, 65 and 30 percent.

Upcycled materials don’t come in “standardized sizes, shapes, and colors. It takes a little more effort, a little more love, to work with materials that have been used before,” said Ford Julio, an architect at WTA who also worked on the pavilion project. “We learn to adjust.”

The team also had to change the orientation of the building, given the actual lay of the land and its surroundings. “In terms of design, we actually had the whole thing oriented (differently). But during the build and when we were staking the perimeter of the site, we noticed that it would be so much better if (a certain) wall would face the street,” said Julio.

By utilizing previously used materials and working within the confines of the build site, the pavilion leaves very little footprint on the environment. “It is meant to have no footprint and leave behind the setting as it was found,” said Ti.

Program — Not Materials — Should Determine Design

While the pavilion may be exceptional for the materials it used, Ti said that, more than anything, the WTA x Boysen pavilion “shows how we value program in our design.” Program, in architecture, can refer to two things — it may refer to what happens on or within the site and to how the elements, zones, and spaces are organized.

By utilizing previously used materials and working within the confines of the build site, the pavilion leaves very little footprint on the environment.

The WTA x Boysen pavilion has three wings emanating from a program of three conjoined spaces — workroom, lounge, and café. The varying transparencies of the walls provided both privacy from and visual connectivity with the festival grounds.

“The program determines the space. The architecture exists inside the pavilion, the spaces that are being sheltered and not the shell,” said Ti.

A proponent of “social architecture,” Ti says emphasizing immediacy in the erection of structures can literally bring places to today’s urbanites who are too harried to venture beyond their smart phones and 24-hour news cycles. Such architecture will have the effect of bringing culture and social engagement back into people’s lives.

“We propose to bring libraries, museums, and other institutions closer to us. Make these places come to the people by inserting them everywhere into their daily paths. Through downsizing and strategic insertion, these microforms have the potential reach and stark convenience of a mobile app,” WTA says in its website.

“These places become landmarks by their ubiquity and repeated usage. Instead of forcing people to go to the institutions, we bring the institutions to the people.”

Ti and his associates at WTA look forward to a “future where ideas and the built form are ever closer together, where the lines between architect and builder blur.”

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The Anthology Festival gathered over 150 thought leaders in the architecture and design space from various countries to exchange insights and information on the trends and issues that face their discipline today. The festival itself ended on Feb. 9, but the WTA x Boysen pavilion will remain in place until April 2020 to serve as a space for various events and activities.