[This post has been updated to accommodate request of architect Jason Buensalido to change the name of the Freedom Memorial Museum to "Fragmented to Free" so that there is no confusion to the museum that will soon start construction.]
Buensalido Architects’ design concept of a Martial Law memorial is one of the 180 finalists from 40 countries that will compete at the prestigious World Architecture Festival 2021 in Lisbon this December. The firm’s design of a Freedom Memorial Museum will first be competing against 14 other entries in the Future Project category in order to vie for the world title.
"Fragmented to Free" is a visual representation of the Martial Law era, a dark chapter in the country’s history. It honors the lives of the victims of human rights violations during the period. The project was actually the firm’s entry to a local design competition back in 2019 for the Freedom Memorial Museum, which was organized by the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission. It was the design of Architect Marc Anthony Pait’s team that won the said tilt and whose design will be built at the UP Diliman Campus.
According to Jason Buensalido, principal architect and chief design ambassador of Buensalido Architects, his structure depicts our fragmented society, as suggested by the overlapping cylindrical forms which appear to be in disarray. He says the building was really designed as proof that the Martial Law years took place. Because some of the younger people (the Gen Z and younger millennials) don’t even know the reality of Martial Law,” Jason tells ANCX. “Some think it was a propaganda, that it was not true.”
The design hopes to be a physical, tangible reminder of our past. “The idea is that peace, closure, justice cannot be achieved overnight. The fragments that our society is existing in, have to be pieced together towards peace,” he adds.
The whole memorial was designed to be experienced in a circular fashion—with circular rooms (the galleries), that would surround a circular atrium. “The circle is constant in the experience, to symbolize that democracy has its balance of power, and it’s for the greater good all the time.”
While the design interpretation may lean towards a gloomy perspective in some parts, Jason says the design also illustrates hope through what he calls the “healing façade.” It’s named as such, as it would be built with two-toned stone blocks, to pay homage to the the unexplained disappearances or Desaparecidos. “The hope is that eventually, people who haven’t had closure yet will have closure. People whose relatives have not been recognized will be recognized,” says Jason. Over time, as each person is recognized, the stone blocks will be turned one by one, from dark to light. It may take years for all the stones to be turned, the architect says, just as healing takes time.
Jason says it’s a huge honor for their firm’s design to be shortlisted among more than a thousand entries from around the world, and to represent the Philippines in the world’s largest architectural event. “To communicate that essential truth, that portion of our history, is such a big deal for us. It’s our way of saying may pinagdaanan kami, and it’s real,” he says.