“I love how the streets of Manila are so much more alive,” says Rica Plaza. “The authenticity of its streetscape and the greater variety of its architecture.”
Having lived and worked in the country’s capital for a long time, the young managing director at Plaza + Partners has a deep appreciation for the city’s vibrant nooks and crannies. “I like walking around the core districts of Tondo, Binondo, Sta. Cruz, and Quiapo and being part of a thriving city. I love how the sunset falls upon the faces of the buildings along Roxas Boulevard and creates a golden shoreline by the bay.”
She translates her love for Manila in her work as well as in Anthology, the annual architecture and design festival she organizes with industry colleagues. The three-day event showcases architecture and design within the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia, bringing together architects, urban planners, interior designers, developers and government officials to figure out and share solutions on sustainable urban development.
Since it started in 2016, the festival lectures, panel discussions and workshops have become an avenue for everyone to question, provoke, inspire, innovate and learn about all aspects of architecture. “We aim to bring global ideas to the local context, in the hope of building better, future-ready cities,” the 28-year-old shares. Her vision for creating socially-relevant architecture to improve daily life led her to champion the festival.
Plaza believes that good design is based on a rational process, which can be explained and made evident in its built form. “It is not a slavish application of style or technology but a carefully constructed narrative told in deep and meaningful spaces that enrich the human experience,” she says.
Stories in the Walled City
And if you would ask her, she would say that there are many narratives to share in Intramuros, the walled city that serves as a venue for Anthology. What started as a partnership with the roving Book Stop Project in Plaza Roma across Manila Cathedral became a growing event that attracts tens of thousands.
“I thought if we could do all these for various arts why not for architecture when after all architecture is the mother of all arts,” she says. “We wanted to highlight the importance of Intramuros in the development and history of our country. We wanted to show to all the architects and developers how heritage sites can be utilized for various purposes.”
This year’s edition brought together thought leaders to give their take on “Impact Architecture,” the overall theme. The discourse at the spacious location at Fort Santiago revolved around the role of architects in harnessing creativity and imagination to jumpstart urban development, social inclusion, and cultural vibrancy. Apart from the talks and presentations, there are also activities such as photography competitions and foot races.
The issues discussed at the event fall under architecture on a macro-scale, the art and philosophy of architecture, and the practice and profession of design, led by the likes of Ole Schereen of Buro Ole Schereen, Kenneth Cobonpue, Roland Schnizer of Foster+Partners, William Ti, and Hans Sy Jr of SM.
Creating our future
Sustainability is the key, and with a growing global population, the need for space-saving innovation become more imperative. “I’m really excited in the verticality of pencil towers. I believe that we need to have a smaller footprint housing more people. This allows us to decrease sprawl and occupy less of our open spaces,” Plaza says.
Ti, whose WTA Design Studio conceptualized the Book Stop Project, agrees and adds that, “restoration and preservation must come with properly managed commercialization so that its value will be better appreciated.”
Every time they hold Anthology, Plaza is amazed to see her community and industry come together and “celebrate” the joys of architecture. “I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats and together we can increase the level of architectural discussion and practice in our country.”
She describes her profession as the most public and socially dangerous art; this is not just a job for her, it is a mission.
“We can switch off the television or close a book, but we cannot ignore our built environment. The buildings that we create will outlive us; they will stand testament of our time.”
For more information on the event, visit anthologyfest.org.