Architecture… FOR A BETTER WORLD
What do you do when you wake up each morning? Maybe you wake up to a hot cup of coffee, a cup of hot coco perhaps? Or gobble a glass of water. But quite a few read the newspaper or its digital counterpart in his I-pad looking for the latest news to hit the headlines, “Bigas isda, gulay taas presyo!” screams the front page of one tabloid paper, “Gasolina tataas” headlined another and “At least 95 dead due to Ompong” says the Rappler. Each day we wake up with all the negative news slammed at our faces that we may have become and callous to all the negatives around us,
We make up each day not realizing that we are in a constant and perpetual struggle against the daily grinds of life- stupid drivers blasting through stop signs, UV-Express Vans cutting through traffic, smoke belching buses, uncollected garbage at street corners, scruffy construction workers lining up at the entrance of posh villages, street vendors plying their wares unmindful of the dangers of the road, the homeless making streets their home, an old lady sitting by the roadside not knowing where her next meal might come from, and this is just the start of the day. You will still be confronted by your personal problems at work, family, or perhaps even health.
And with a wistful eye, you hope and pray for a better world. An ideal society in which human civilization lives a pleasant life without any limitations or hardships. A seemingly utopian society where laws, government, and social condition are in a state of ideal perfection- a vision a dream.
As an architect I dream of building sustainable cities of the future. According to the World Bank the number of Filipinos living in urban areas is expected to more than double 33 years from now. With about 45% of our population living in the cities, the rate of urbanization brings with it challenges to housing, transportation, basic services, and environment measures. That is why everyday see people living in the streets, 3 hours travel to work is becoming a way of life, tap water unfit for consumption, and with air quality so poor we ranked 3rd highest in the number of deaths due to air pollution based on a study by the Word Health Organization (WHO)
As an architect I dream of better designs that are aesthetically, environmentally, and economically viable to address the growing needs of densely populated cities. We strive to keep abreast with the latest technologies and integrate it to our designs to develop sustainable cities that focuses on clean energy and less dependent on non-renewable resources. We hope to see a better world where green living makes cities more livable all the while enjoying the benefits of modern technology.
But then at mid- thought you stop and ask to yourself, is this the ideal society? Is my idea of a better world the same as that of the person sitting next to me? Then it dawned on me what Aling Nena, a street sweeper, once said, “Aanhin naman namin ang magandang bahay o malinis na kapaligiran kung kumakalam naman ang sikmura namin” This is simple thought of daily survival may be shared by some 26 million Filipinos who remain poor with almost half, or a little over 12 million, living in extreme poverty according to an article by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Of this, 4.5 million are homeless, 3 million of which are living in Manila according to the National Statistics Office.
Contemplating on this thought, while there is nothing wrong with the noble idea of planning for a sustainable city, perhaps embarking of more modest scale which can affect quality of life of small communities equally underscore the role that architects play in creating better place.
According to Kathrine Sophie Viner, a British playwright, journalist and first female editor-in-chief of The Guardian, “If people long to create a better world, then we must use our platform to nurture imagination - hopeful ideas, fresh alternatives, belief that the way things are isn’t the way things need to be”. As architects our platform is to design and to create. We could put forth fresh ideas in the fields of shelter design, ecology, food production, etc. The role of architecture in creating a better world lies in the relevance of architecture to the needs of the times.
And one of those pressing needs is to improve people’s quality of life, especially the poor and underprivilege. As Architects we could spare some of our time to lend a hand to shelter advocacy groups such as Gawad Kalinga and Habitat for Humanity whose advocacy is to influence changing existing policies and systems to eliminate barriers to adequate, affordable housing in order to create a world where everyone has a decent place to live. If we cannot do it as an individual professional, we could likewise do it as a group. UAP Marikina Valley has recently expressed its support for “Bahay- Tao” a shelter development project espoused by Congressman Bayani whose aim to provide the necessary tools, equipment and technical guidance for people of Marikina living in blighted areas. Its objective is to impart proper design and construction knowledge so people living in unsafe, unsanitary, and unsustainable conditions could properly improve their homes and ultimately improve their respective communities.
The significs of architecture may not always be in the form of buildings but also in the form of knowledge that we, as architects, can offer and provide. Architecture is a multi-disciplinary field which involves physical, social, environment, economics, and governmental aspects. While we, based on our technical training, are predisposed to inspire the built environment, we can also use our knowledge and experiences to influence public awareness on certain social and takes more than concrete to build a sidewalk, the same applies to community planning. The architect must wake up to the realization the profession likewise has social responsibility. Aside from designing cost efficient shelter for the poor thereby invalidating the grossly exaggerated notion that the architect’s services are only for the rich, the architect also has the social obligation to go beyond his practice and raise public awareness to the plight of the homeless and the underprivileged, to the lead uplifting blighted areas, to protect the environment, or simply to ensure the wellbeing of its construction workers whose sordid living condition in their barracks run in stark contrast to the lavish surroundings of the house they build.
While designing a sustainable, green, economically viable, and livable city is the architect’s ultimate goal, taking small steps in the community they belong yet having big and meaningful impacts, emphasizes the significance of architecture to the needs of the needs of the times as well as the role it plays in creating a better world not just for you and me, but also for the likes of Aling Nena, the street sweeper, and the other 12 million marginalized Filipinos.
Architects are people who have extraordinary services in our future lives, with the services of architects, we can get a nice and sturdy building, with a good and sturdy build we as home owners will get our own satisfaction.