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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

How Slater Young pushed the envelope in architecture and design

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When Slater Young announced his real estate project, The Rise at Monterrazas, last August, it drew an unexpected controversy. Nestled on a mountainside and inspired by the Banaue Rice Terraces, this ambitious condominium project faced a wave of environmental concerns from netizens.

Slater, an engineer and media personality, found himself in the challenging position of addressing these concerns head-on.

“At first, I was shocked, but it was a learning experience for us. Maybe this project was not really meant to happen, but eventually, I realized that the concerns they were raising were the same concerns we raised during the planning stage of the project,” Slater told Manila Standard Life following their prestigious Architizer A+Awards 2024 win.

The Rise at Monterrazas emerged victorious among entries from over 80 countries, winning the jury award for Unbuilt – Multi-Unit Housing (L >10 Floors) at the 12th edition of Architizer A+Awards. This award, one of the most significant accolades in architecture, celebrates the best architecture and spaces of the year. Winners will be featured in the upcoming edition of “The World’s Best Architecture” and the A+List, a definitive guide to the year’s best architecture and design firms.

Social media personality and engineer Slater Young was met with controversy when he first shared his ambitious project

“Winning this award is important because it puts the spotlight on Filipino architects and talents. But this was totally unexpected, to be honest. We just submitted our entry knowing it was a long shot to even be recognized because we were competing against 80 countries with big, high-profile developers and architects who win all the time,” the 40-year-old entrepreneur said.

“We won an award for sustainability. When it comes to our approach to sustainability, it’s an incredible feeling that an international body checking our work means we were doing the right things,” he added.

The project drew inspiration from the Banaue Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, aiming to complement rather than oppose the natural terrain of Guadalupe in Cebu. This vision, however, was met with a barrage of misinformation and environmental concerns from the public.

“A lot of comments were coming from a lot of misinformation. This project is new in the country, which is why there were fears. They were coming from a place of concern,” Slater explained. “If this project was done outside the Philippines, say in Singapore, I don’t think there would be too many questions.”

“We need to push the envelope forward and actually prove that we Filipinos are capable of accomplishing something of this level of artistry and innovation. We talked to the United Architects of the Philippines, and these were the same issues discussed,” Slater said.

One primary concern was the project’s environmental impact, specifically the fear of deforestation.

Young’s controversial design takes home the jury award for Unbuilt – Multi-Unit Housing (L>10 Floors) at the Architizer A+ Awards 2024

“The place is a residential area. It’s 15 minutes from Ayala Center Cebu. If you put that context in Manila, it’s 15 minutes from Makati,” Slater explained.

The developers took these concerns seriously, delaying the project to ensure compliance with environmental standards. They enrolled in the BERDE program of the Philippine Green Building Council (PHILGBC), part of the World Green Building Council, to certify the sustainability of the project.

“There’s no forest to cut down. We hired green consultants to document the species in the area to ensure no flora and fauna would be affected by the project. We approached this with a clear conscience,” Slater stated.

Despite the financial risks and challenges, the developers remained committed to their vision.

“Our sense of mission deepened. We’re inspired to do more projects like this. What keeps us going, even during the whole issue, is receiving messages from renowned architects that we are doing the right thing, that we are pushing architecture forward,” Slater shared noting that the messages came from the people they look up to.

The condominium project is one of Young’s innovative projects

The Rise at Monterrazas is just the latest in Slater’s series of innovative projects. His other ventures include producing lightweight and eco-friendly concrete and educating homeowners through his YouTube channel. In 2021, he partnered with 8990, a successful low-cost housing developer, to form The Mont Property Group. Together, they aim to create globally recognized, proudly Filipino products, pushing forward local artistry and design.

“We want to be your Monique Lhuillier, we want to be your Cary Santiago,” Slater said, referencing renowned Cebuano fashion designers. “Dapat Pinoy, dapat yung tipong may gagaya sa atin. Gusto naming may gagaya sa atin.

Slater is grateful for the support of his partners and board of directors, who have embraced the project’s ambitious vision.

“They can say, this is too ambitious, let’s go for the tried and tested, but our agreement was, we should be different. It has to push something forward, it has to strike a chord and it has to say, ‘Kaya pala natin ‘to as Pinoy,” Slater concludes.

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