When one thinks of low-cost housing in the Philippines, what comes to mind are row houses with poor architecture, subpar materials and terrible ventilation—not to mention faraway location.
Aware of the country’s prevailing housing problems, Carlson Chan—an entrepreneur, design enthusiast, and owner of Cubao’s boutique cinema Sine Pop—was challenged by an idea: Is it possible to apply an architect’s sensibility to low-cost housing? Could he build frugal housing for his employees without sacrificing aesthetics and comfort? Chan found the answer in “wabi sabi.”
“Wabi sabi is about what’s natural,” Chan says in a new video produced by Uncommon, a YouTube channel by the writer and photographer Jar Concengco dedicated to making sleek and informative documentaries about design and architecture. The concept of wabi sabi is a little tricky to explain but for this purpose let’s says it’s a Japanese philosophy that finds beauty in simplicity and puts a premium on authenticity.
Chan’s project consists of six units of two-story Brutalist housing in 45-square meter lots located in Imus, Cavite. The residential lot cost P350,000 each while the construction set him back P800,000. Which means that for a total of 1.15 million, Chan was able to make affordable housing not only sensible and aesthetically pleasing but, to use his words, “sexy and sensual.”
According to allproperties.com.ph, a low-cost home these days is tagged at anywhere between P1.7 million to P3 million.
“With good space design, you don't need to have expensive stuff in your home. Sometimes having expensive stuff can even detract from the beauty of whatever space you built,” says Chan, who admits to adopting many of Sine Pop's design techniques to the all-concrete Imus homes.
The layout of the house is very simple, Chan offers. “…we don't even have partitions for rooms, but the reason we do that is that we want to enjoy the cross ventilation.”
Chan and his architect put a lot of thought in coming up with the best design for the space. “A right-sized space for its use is the best design. Anything bigger than the size required is excess. It diminishes the impact of the space,” he says.
Joanes Rapal, one of Chan’s employees who recently moved in to one of the units, says it’s a dream come true for him and his family to have a house of their own. “Ang sarap ng feeling,” the padre de familia says, beaming. “Kumbaga, abot ko na. Panaginip lang [noon] pero ngayon nandito na, nakatira na ako.”
Watch the full video below.
Photos courtesy of Jar Concengco