The Cultural Center of the Philippines’ masterplan states that ”The CCP Complex shall be a center for arts and culture in Asia. Primarily, it shall be the centerpiece of artistic expression of the Filipino soul and spirit, created for the Filipino artist and all sectors of Philippine society. The CCP Complex shall be the major cultural, ecological and tourism landmark of the Philippines. It shall be a home for the Filipino artist and an urban oasis for the Filipino people.” In relation to this vision, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, recently held a design competition for two new iconic buildings within it’s complex –a New Performing Arts Theatre, and an Artists’ Center, located within the Arts Sanctuary Cluster of the 62 hectare property. Buensalido Architects recently shared with us their entry for this competition.
Design Concept: “A TAPESTRY OF THE FILIPINO CULTURE” Weaving as Core Concept The Philippines is known for its hybrid of cultural identities. The descendants hailed from different countries, eventually forming intricate layers of diverse characteristics which now define Filipinos. Their distinctiveness, therefore, lies in that hybridity – they are a unique tapestry of interwoven cultures.
Weaving is a manifestation of coming together to bind, intertwine and strengthen materials. With the help of many interlaced threads, a single thread can form part of an extremely stronger fabric, as evidenced in many artifacts of vernacular culture: strands of Buri thread can form a banig; otherwise delicate Jusi Fiber can form an intricate Barong Tagalog; and a united people can overthrow unjust leaders. This symbolism of coming and standing as one– weaving together different parts to form a coherent and strong whole – is applied in different levels of Buensalido Architects’s design proposals to serve as a constant reminder of their collective strength as a country.
Weaving Architectonic Threads
The two structures create a tapestry of architectonic “threads” originating from various locations mapped out within the Cultural Complex, then connected with imaginary splines that wrap around the given sites. All “threads”, after being interwoven, culminate in an upward sweep towards the sea at the New Performing Arts Theatre site, signifying the project’s important role to stir a sense of cultural aspiration in the hearts of Filipinos. As a contrast to the harsh rigidity of the box-like top of the old theatre, the threads eventually become the volumes of the two new structures which echo the curves of the existing Performing Arts Theater’s curvilinear lines to visually blend with the pre-existing architecture of the complex.
Weaving Commerce and Culture Filipinos have grown accustomed to the comforts of the mall, foregoing the urban spaces of Manila. The buildings are therefore envisioned to be urban spaces as much as structures, where Filipinos can converge, celebrate and re-connect.
The elevated bridges and ramps shoot in and out of the two buildings, expanding and contracting to accommodate public plazas and al fresco dining areas. These “threads” shall infiltrate even the cultural spaces within the theatre, morphing into commercial spaces at different levels that pull people in and out of the two structures. The steady flow of people makes the structures seem alive and vibrant, as well as ensures the structures’ financial sustainability through the subsidy of the building’s maintenance.
A new urban design language is created—one that engages everyone to reconnect with urban spaces through a perfect balance of commerce and culture. This physical and metaphysical network introduces interrelationships that allow people from all walks to co-exist and experience culture, and inversely, for culture to reach out to its people.
Weaving Open spaces into the Architecture (Pedestrianization) In contrast to the design of the old performing arts building which is dominated by a vehicular ramp for the chauffer-driven, a strong sense of pedestrian empowerment is integrated with the new design to symbolize the idea that culture is accessible by everyone.
Ensuring that pedestrian routes do not intersect with vehicular roads, the proposed structures shall hover above the ground plane, connected by a network of steps, ramps and bridges that also form the over-all architecture. This frees up the entire ground plane to be expansive pedestrian-free parking spaces. The spines expand to become interactive spaces for outdoor activities such as al fresco dining, interactive art installations and performances. The two buildings rest on elevated parks whose steps reach out towards the open spaces that surround it. This projects a welcome and accessible atmosphere- a true democratization of cultural access.
Woven Massing I. FORM Consistent with streamlined architecture, the architectonic “threads” gradually morph in function. The bridges and ramps weave together, become the structure’s walls and eventually curve further up to become its roof. This act of “weaving” of the threads (representing their culture) into an upward-swooping entity (representing globalism) inspires the Filipino to rise “upward” as well in the global scene, while being adamantly grounded to his roots and culture.
The faces of the resultant volumes are pleated, achieving an interesting play of shades and shadows, especially when hit by the famous Manila Bay sunset. The windows are rendered as glass to expose activities going on inside the structures to the public, making the building seem even more alive and interactive.
II. ICONIC ARCHITECTURE The Artist’s Center is divided into four wings—Music, Dramatic Arts, Dance, Arts Education—which morph into a “heart-shaped” composition (aptly because a heart typically has four chambers) that represents the “Puso Ng Pinoy”, symbolizing that when Filipinos commit their heart into their craft, they are bound to excel at it.
Because the Philippines is known as the “Pearl of the Orient”, the new performing arts theatre is inspired by seashell-shaped forms, symbolically housing their country’s most important treasure – their culture. Representing Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, three seashell-like forms face the sea and culminate in an upward swoop, exuding an aspirational spirit and inspiring the Filipino to step up and rise among the ranks of globally competitive countries.
III. MATERIALS The “threads” shall be clad in CCP Travertine, the same stone as the existing performing arts theatre, to blend with context and give importance to the national artist-designed structure. Concrete and grey granite stone are used for the podium and plazas, similar to the base of the existing structures.
The best traits of Filipinos are their optimism and festive nature, and these are realized in the structure by the triangular shape of the “banderitas” (an omnipresent element in all Filipino fiestas) made by triangulation of the mullions in the glass panels. Also, the different festive colors of some triangular glass panels infuse a sense of optimism and happiness in a dramatic prism. These finishes, coupled with the resulting form, achieve a very sophisticated, elegant, world-class, yet deeply Filipino aesthetic.
IV. LIGHTING CONCEPTS Though Philippine culture is a very colorful one, natural materials are used throughout the structures’ majority to ensure a certain degree of timelessness in the design. Color is carefully and thoughtfully used as an accent. At night, however, LED lighting with changing colors can be washed against the building façade for a festive ambiance. In fact, digital light shows could be projected regularly—another event that will bring people together.
V. SUSTAINABILITY / ECO-FRIENDLY DESIGN B.E.R.D.E. (Building Ecologically Responsive Design for Excellence) Integrating green architecture to the design, the structures should be B.E.R.D.E. compliant (Building Ecologically Responsive Design for Excellence – Their local LEED counterpart).
Passive Cooling Efficient cross ventilation and shading principles shall be employed so that people will want to linger in the public areas, especially in the outdoor spaces. The use of Atria throughout the two buildings makes it easier for the wind to enter from one side and exit from another, lessening the need for artificial cooling.
Natural Light Natural light lessens the need for artificial lighting and consequently saves energy. Side lighting is ushered in through bands of windows that wrap the entire perimeter of the building shell while the integration of atria in otherwise deep floor plans achieves top lighting. The roof structure of both buildings also allows natural light to penetrate the interiors through the provision of horizontal slits between its terraced form.
Water Management Rainwater is harvested via “rain funnels” that double as atriums and light wells. Rain becomes a very interesting water-fall feature as it is encased in an enormous glass funnel, and is then collected into a central cistern for re-use in irrigation or other non-potable uses. The collected water can be used to supply “mist systems” to cool the temperature in outdoor spaces. Greywater is also recycled for water management.
Solar Heat Gain Prevention To prevent the penetration of heat, walls are angled inwards and pleated so that the surfaces facing the sun are solid, blocking the heat. The downward facing surfaces which do not receive direct heat are in clear glass panels that allow panoramic views of the city skyline and the sea to be enjoyed from inside.
Alternative Power The abundance of decks and open spaces is a good opportunity to install solar panels to use the sun as an alternative source of energy. The combination of all these principles are highly recommended to further lower maintenance costs of the proposed structures. Development should also include different programs to promote sustainability in terms of commercial viability, even during non-performance periods.
VI. RE-ORIENTATION TOWARDS THE BAY As the front of the Performing Arts Theatre now faces the sea, the theatre shells’ entry lobbies are directed towards true west. A dramatic reflection of the sunset is mirrored in the faceted glass panels of their facades. View decks, elevated plazas, sky gardens are all scattered throughout the building in different levels, where Filipinos can re-appreciate the beauty of the sea and the famous Manila Bay sunset. The enthralling view provides a premium for the commercial spaces or function halls in these levels.
Architect: Buensalido Architects Location: Philippines