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World Architecture Day

The Suzhou Museum by I.M. Pei seeks to harmonize traditional architecture with modern geometry. — PHOTOS BY AR. WILLIAM TI, JR.

When this pandemic ends and I finally get to travel once more, I will be looking to visit some new cities I’ve never been to. Traveling for me has always been about finding new sights and indulging my thoughts and senses with a diverse procession of architecture and culture.

Most of the top tourist destinations in the world are cities that can boast of stunning architecture landmarks that are unique and unforgettable. While we enjoy and visit the natural wonders of our own country, foreign travel has always been about places that captivate and amaze us.

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This coming Monday, October 5, is World Architecture Day with this year’s theme being “Toward a better urban future.” While each year the architecture community strives to highlight relevant themes that help shape our world, I’d like to take this opportunity to just celebrate architecture itself. Architecture in many ways is unrelatable and removed from the daily concerns of most people.

Filipinos, being a most passionate people, are especially good at expressive arts like the visual or performing arts, but they find it more difficult to embrace the intellectual arts like literature or architecture. So I’d like to point out the value of architecture and why we should all learn about it and celebrate it.

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In Sydney, the Dr Chau Chak Wing by Frank Gehry is a school building that combines various programs in an organic arrangement, with multiple planar viewpoints.

The oculus of the Pantheon in Rome, which still has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, was built by Marcus Agrippa.

‘The Mother of All Arts’

Architecture is the most visible and most permanent expression of a society’s culture and identity. When you think of certain cultures, whether they be contemporary or in antiquity, it is their architecture that you picture in your mind. The quest to strengthen or define our Filipino identity will not have any foundations without architecture. In a country dotted with churches and plazas, it is important to remember that it is these works of architecture that gave succor to all the arts.

Culture without architecture is like a people without a homeland. Lost and drifting with no place of anchor. Most of the grand cathedrals and churches of the world are not just architectural wonders but contain priceless works of art that tell the story of its people. What are the cathedrals of today? The performing halls and opera houses, theaters and stadiums where we all gather to share a communal experience.

The National Museum of Qatar by Jean Nouvel, which was inspired by the desert rose, seeks to help define a distinct Qatari identity.

The cloister at the Church of Santa Croce in Florence with the Capella dei Pazzi by Filippo Brunelleschi

Why architecture matters

Architecture is the only art form in which we have no choice but to participate. Everyone who lives in the built environment is experiencing architecture. Every movement we make, every place we stay in is architecture. The first place we encounter in a country is an airport or a train station, a ferry terminal or maybe even a bus station.

Architecture is all around us. As our country continues to develop rapidly, all the more will our lives be impacted by the new places and edifices that are being built around us. From the homes that we live in, to the buildings being built on our way to school or work. We cannot escape our changing built environment or even the visual imagery that so dominates our daily lives. Knowing and understanding good architecture allow us to make critical decisions about our built environment and voice out intelligent concerns about the changes that affect us all.

The Port House in Antwerp by Zaha Hadid restores and preserves the existing fire truck hall.

The De Rotterdam by OMA is the largest building in the Netherlands with 160,000 sqm of floor area.

Architecture we know

Many people neglect the value of architecture and how it shapes our lives. They see it as unrelatable and unknowable unlike interior space or decoration. Yet the most amazing spaces in the world are always great works of architecture. Architecture is not the shape and form of buildings, but rather the artful organization and manipulation of space.

Not all works of architecture are created equal. The most tasteful decor or the most comfortable furnishings can never make a bad space work. Architecture is not a luxury but an integral part of our lives. Good architecture allows us the luxury of living in a place that fits our lifestyles in a built environment that enhances the urban experience.

Let us be aware of the architecture that surrounds us all. Let us celebrate the beauty that human civilization has been able to achieve. Architects spend their entire lives grasping to find mastery of their craft. A few moments of regular contemplation should allow us to develop a better understanding of this most essential human endeavor.

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