Nature, creativity & the bahay kubo

A building is like a living organism, and there is no living organism that does not work in symbiosis with its environment.

One of the best structures I have seen in the Philippines is the bahay kubo. It is completely green, built with readily available materials, and detached from the ground to give protection and vertical ventilation. The floor is made of bamboo slats so it acts as some sort of filter, and the hut itself offers horizontal ventilation all around. It can withstand flooding and earthquakes, but if it gets damaged, say by a major typhoon, it can be easily rebuilt. This, to me, is what good architecture should be.

The bahay kubo shows us that in architecture, and perhaps in other artistic and creative fields as well, nature offers the best inspiration. Everything about nature can inspire the mind: patterns in trees, leaves, the animals, waves, and so on. Moreover, since nature has been around for billions of years, it really is the best teacher as far as adaptation is concerned.

As an architect, I like to take my cue from the place, the culture, the tradition where the structure is located, and of course, from nature. My creative process — which also echoes the creative process being employed in our organization — involves creating structures that are very much related to the environment where they are found. This is what performance-based design is all about. A building is like a living organism, and there is no living organism that does not work in symbiosis with its environment.

When a design is inspired by nature, it can solve different problems because nature can teach us how to do that. For example, when we designed structures eight years ago to provide easy access to outdoor areas, we did not anticipate that this design would offer solutions for a problem of today, i.e., the need for structural features to fend off the coronavirus.

Coral City, a winning architectural design concept that we entered in the Design Against the Elements international architectural contest was, as can be surmised from its name, inspired by corals. To design a socialized housing community that could withstand major calamities, I went to study the corals because, as we all know, corals are themselves made of “communities” or colonies that behave in certain ways to withstand calamities under the sea.

The bahay kubo is built with readily available materials and detached from the ground to give protection and vertical ventilation.

And speaking as the head of a real estate development company, I can say that the three projects closest to my heart are all green structures that work with the natural environment of their respective locations. These are Primavera Residences in Cagayan de Oro, Primavera City in the same area, and Miramonti in Sto. Tomas, Batangas. The three high-rise towers of Miramonti, for example, are like three giants looking at the majestic Mt. Makiling.

A sound creative process in architecture has to do with finding and establishing a visual and conceptual relationship between what people can build and what nature has built. Integrate it with passive and active green features and you’ve got yourself a grand design.


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