UST Architecture hosts ‘Defining Modern: A Discussion of Modern Built Heritage in the Philippines’

The UST College of Architecture recently organized “Defining Modern: A Discussion of Modern Built Heritage in the Philippines,” held at the UST Beato Angelico AVR. The activity was made possible through the support of the modern ASEAN architecture (mASEANa) Project and the University of Tokyo. 

The mASEANa Project is a six-year initiative to document, analyze, and define modern architecture in Southeast Asia. Since 2015, the mASEANa Project, which is coordinated in part by the University of Tokyo and International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement (Docomomo), has been conducting yearly workshops, surveys, and conferences in different ASEAN cities.

The activity held in October of this year brought together participants from different schools of architecture such as Mapúa University, National University, Adamson University, Far Eastern University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Benilde Architecture, and the University of Northern Philippines. It was attended by representatives from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), ICOMOS-Philippines, Philippine Green Building Initiative, Heritage Conservation Society, and Intramuros Administration.

The objective of the event was to help define modern architecture in the country—-an important yet under-represented phase in the developing narrative of Philippine architecture. This is in acknowledgement of the vulnerability of these structures, as their urban locations make them susceptible to decay, inappropriate adaptive reuse, or demolition. Thus, there is a pressing need to assess and document the Philippines’ modern built heritage in order to underline their significance and aid in their conservation.

Providing the lead to the discussion were presentations from invited speakers: Assoc. Prof. Eric B. Zerrudo, Ar. Lorelei De Viana, Ph.D.; and Ar. Dominic Galicia.

Zerrudo , the director of the UST Center for Conservation of Cultural Properties and Environment in the Tropics (USTGS-CCCPET) discussed “Conservation Policies in the Philippines,” which dealt with the  relevant international and local laws that affect modern heritage. He acknowledged that modern heritage is a relatively new construct and addition to the UNESCO World Heritage List and that in the Philippines, there were little or no legal basis that protected them. 

In her presentation, “A Timeline for Philippine Modern Architecture,” De Viana discussed the development of modern architecture in the Philippines. She took time to properly differentiate modernity, modernism (styles), and modernization (process of constructing moderning). She further noted that the current definitions of modern architecture are predominantly American and Euro-centric and that non-western countries are challenging this definition. She also suggested that modernity has been an incipient factor throughout the development of Philippine architecture, but perhaps the true blossoming of modernism happened during the post-colonial period.

Finally, Galicia of ICOMOS Philippines presented “2020 20,” a list of twenty modern heritage buildings that would be included in the mASEANa exhibit / publication in 2020. Galicia acknowledged that the list he presented was by no means definitive and that there are very good examples outside Metro Manila. However, due to the logistics of documentation, which will be done by the official mASEANa photographer, the list was set within Metro Manila. 

“Defining Modern: A Discussion of Modern Built Heritage in the Philippines” served as the opening activity for mASEANa_PH2020, an International Student Workshop which the UST College of Architecture will host on February 25 to 28, 2020. This workshop is also part of the mASEANa Project and will be participated in by students from different universities in the Philippines, as well as the University of Tokyo.

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