The Philippine Pavilion presented in the prestigious 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in Venice, Italy last year is coming home and will be on view starting July.
Known as “The City Who Had Two Navels,” which drew inspiration from Philippine National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s classic novel The Woman Who Had Two Navels published in 1961, our country’s contribution to the exhibition highlighted two “navels”—how colonialism impacts the formation of the built environment and how the process of neo-liberalization alters the urban landscape.
Curated by Architect Edson Cabalfin, it featured works by contemporary artist and filmmaker Yason Banal, and selected students from the University of San Carlos’ School of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design; University of the Philippines Diliman College of Architecture; University of the Philippines Mindanao Department of Architecture; and De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, plus the sole association Technical Assistant Organization Pilipinas, Inc.
The participating artists, innovators, and organizations took part in a think-thank consortium and were commissioned to research on the present state of Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao. They tackled the questions posed by the curator: Can we escape the colonization we’ve been through? (1) and Is neo-liberalism the new colonization? (2)
After months of conceptualization, analysis, and discussion, the team from DLS-CSB, mentored by its roster of sterling faculty, including Environmental Studies Associate Dean Architect Cynthia Funk, Arts Management Program Chairperson Din Din Araneta, Architect Harry Serrano, and Architect Walther Ocampo, posited the query “Can architecture be a vessel to transcend the global colonial presumptions of our nation?”
They came up with a well-documented study and successfully produced “Futures of a Past,” a 3D-printed piece that reflects specific turning points in Philippine history designed as alternate realities. It engaged the viewers in dialogue about the country’s urban condition with theoretical patterns that addressed Filipinos’ relationship with their colonial roots.
In Lusong 2050 narrative, Raja Sulayman defeated the Spaniards at the first battle of Manila, and the sovereign Philippines was born. The trade relationships with other Southeast Asian nations flourished, and the Pasig River became a major thoroughfare. The prevailing Malay and Chinese influences dominated cultural developments, and large cantilevered spaces provided calm public areas and shaded walkways.
In Intramuros 2050, Spain won the Spanish-American War in 1898 and the Philippines returned to Spanish rule. Heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, Intramuros adopted the urban planning system of walls torn down and city streets in supreme favor of pedestrians. Zoning laws enforced height restrictions with the exception of cathedrals, and these dotted the Baroque architectural style skyline. As a testament of the Church’s impact, a site was destroyed to give way to a huge monument named The Sky Cathedral.
In Manira 2050, the Axis won the war and the formation of the Japanese South East Asian states ensued. Fully decimated by American artillery and carpet bombings, Manila was ripe for Japan’s experimentation. Thus, the birth of the Japanese Manira, a highly industrialized port city with strategic military and commercial locations, and with Panopticon-like sentries that governed and monitored all the urban activities. Industry became the top priority with rapid rail transit systems, and elevated pedestrian walks.
In Manila 2050, neo-liberalist functionalism became the new dominant architectural paradigm due to mass adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The notion that typology and form are related have been destroyed and the concept of form, dead. The disregard for exterior treatment resulted in pure white facades that served as canvases for the city. The gaming, casino, and entertainment industry transformed Manila into the Las Vegas of Asia and overpopulation welcomed the production of vertical super blocks that formed a new type of tourism: Augmented Reality Tourism. The realities of AR and AI generated a dynamic urban experience tailored to each pedestrian.
The City Who Had Two Navels will open its homecoming exhibition on July 2 at 6:00 p.m. Regular viewing starts on July 3 and will run until October 19, Mondays to Saturdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Malate, Manila. Admission fee is P100 for adults and students and P80 for senior citizens and differently-abled individuals.