in The Loop this Holiday


Wishing you all a great Holiday!
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Abstract Language: Taliesin to Tagalog


The Wright Filipino Protege
(images by Mika Kondo + Nipa Patel): "The flags represent the generations of apprentices of Frank Lloyd Wright coming from all over the world. Standing right next to the Philippine flag is the Philippines' representative to Frank Lloyd Wright's laboratory."

A Giant Leap for the Philippines

Ten years ago, the vision that a Filipino architect would be part of the historical legacy of America's most celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was just that---a vision. Even the foundation of the Taliesin Fellowship started off with a vision for twenty-three apprentices in 1932. These generation apprentices span 75 years who in this day, live the legacy that Frank Lloyd Wright initiated.
(Read more about the recent "75th Taliesin Fellowship Reunion: Living the Legacy", in Metropolis Magazine)

The photo above illustrates a very poetic gesture. Numerous flags flanked the entrance to Taliesin West, the winter Home and Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright, during the reunion celebrations. The flags represent the generations of apprentices of Frank Lloyd Wright coming from all over the world. They came from the north to the south and the east to the west. But not until 1997 did this historical fellowship have a representative from the far eastern islands of the Philippines. I had just graduated from college, gotten my license as an architect, and worked with one of the biggest developers in Makati City, when I decided to act on this vision.

I remember this vision had meager funding but profuse ambition. When I went back to Taliesin West this November and saw the Philippine flag standing right next to the historical architectural landmark that is Taliesin West, I thought to myself: "This is like landing on the moon for the first time". It is like "one step for the Filipino architect, one giant leap for the Philippines."
To see more images of the recent Taliesin Celebrations, see:
1. Candid photos
2. Taliesin Reunion website

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............Taliesin Break Away

Next week, the Taliesin Fellowship will be celebrating its 75th Reunion: Living the Legacy. In light of this event, I would like to share an article I wrote 10 years ago for the Wisconsin River Valley Journal's Taliesin Fellowship News Section (September/October 1997 Vol5, Issue 2). Keep in mind that I wrote this piece exactly 5 days after I arrived in Taliesin from Manila, Philippines.

A few months back, I decided to break away from a very typical architectural lifestyle. Being a practicing architect from the Philippines, I would go through the normal routines of the profession---designing, revising, designing, revising, and doing more designing and revising! I guess no matter what part of the globe an architect practices, these are inevitable aspects of the profession. The more I get involved with architecture, the more I want to comprehend its complex nature. With this yearning, I packed my bags, gathered my guts, and flew willfully to Taliesin to satisfy my thirst for architectural knowledge.

Although much of Taliesin was in deep slumber when I made my entry, I was greeted by the stunning Hillside studio. I could not believe that I was actually inside this picture perfect structure that I had only seen in pictures! I remember vividly that sleepless first night at the "shining brow". I had mixed emotions. I was excited with what the next day would bring. At the same time, I was concerned with what I could make of it.

The very first morning, I decided to explore the magical mystery of the school. Possessing a very academic background, I started to look for my classroom---just as a normal graduate student would on the first day of classes. There was none. Yes, there are no classrooms, because every corner of Taliesin is a classroom! Learning is achieved by experience. The concept of "learning by doing" is so foreign to me that it sparked my interest. I have wanted to break away from the confines of a four-walled classroom, and take a more revolutionary way of learning. It is because my academic background has trained me well enough to be a good student that I now want to know the meaning of apprenticeship. The challenge is how to apply the theoretical knowledge in actual practice and learn from it. I realized that even a very mundane task such as scraping paint off the ceilings can become a source of information. It is during these times that I have the opportunity to view ceiling and roof connections that would be helpful in drawing details of these. It becomes much easier to draw something that is familiar just because one has seen it before.

There is so much to learn not only about the buildings in Taliesin but also the environment. It is amazing to realize that even the trees and sparrows relay knowledge and inspiration. The community setting supplements the learning process of apprentices. Activities are geared towards their relation to architecture. As a result, Taliesin-trained architects become equipped with a more well-rounded architectural sense. The place is a haven for artists desiring to have architecture as a means of expression. Never in my academic training have I experienced architecture in its purest intensity, the way Taliesin has let me. No other place educates the way Taliesin educates.

The knowledge I absorb is worth the thousands of kilometers I traveled to acquire it. I am being molded to become an architect armed not only with theoretical knowledge but also practical training. When the time comes for me to leave the place, I would know that every minute spent in Frank Lloyd Wright's "organic classroom" would remain with me. A part of me has become a part of Taliesin, and a part of Taliesin has become a part of me.

Mr. Wright may no longer be around physically, but his creative spirit is very much present today as it was during his lifetime. His contribution to architectural education by way of Taliesin will continue as long as nature continues to educate. Taliesin breaks away from the classroom just as Mr. Wright broke away from the box.
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Color My Life Green


Almost more than five weeks ago, I decided to change the color of my life. After living the bold strokes of the natural Painted Desert for the past ten years, there was a yearning for different shades of Green. I took my cue from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and found myself moving to a "Sustainable Site" that would allow me to have an almost zero carbon and low-carb lifestyle.

The guidelines I chose in making this life-altering decision was molded by the five environmental categories of LEED. In this specific blog entry, I'll focus on the first of five: Sustainable Sites.

My sustainable lifestyle (Site) is centered in an urban area where there are more than 10 basic services that include a bank, convenience grocery, day care, cleaners, beauty salon, laundromat, library, medical/dental, park, pharmacy (there's one in every block!), post office, restaurant (the whole street level is flooded with good places to eat), supermarket, theater, fitness center, and museum---all within less than a half-mile from homebase. Access to these services are pedestrian-friendly. Because of this strategic location, I am able to utilize alternative transportation: my shoes. I find that my vehicle-dependency became less and less and this results in reduction of my contribution to pollution and other adverse impacts of automobile usage. By this bold move alone, I've realized that I have drastically reduced my carbon emissions by more than fifty percent.

This new home I refer to is Chicago, dubbed as the "Greenest City" in the USA. An architecturally-rich palette that became the canvass for a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark buildings.

LEED(r) is a registered trademark of the US Green Building Council
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Social Architecture: Reinventing the Pod

"Architects Without Borders"

For a Feature Article in the June 2007 issue of Cadalyst Magazine, editor Kenneth Wong reached out to me to share ideas about the Open Architecture Network, Technology Trends in Architecture, and the social implications of humanitarian projects in architecture.

I shared my thoughts about my project, The Portable Transient Shelter Pods, a housing solution that was first designed for homeless seafarers in the Philippines. When that engagement fizzled, a non-profit NGO in British Columbia quickly grabbed the opportunity to use this idea for one of their disaster-stricken areas. Then came the Asian Tsunami that found another use for the Pods.

The design of the Pods was developed utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) Technology where everything is drawn parametrically. I used the software ArchiCad by Graphisoft, where it allowed me to make design decisions on materials, height limitations, and building connections, in the earliest phase of the project development. This streamlines the architectural phases that originally was driven by 2-dimensional thinking and production.

To read more of the article "Tech Trends ---Architects Without Borders" by Kenneth Wong, simple click on the title of this post above. Or copy + paste this link to your browser's url address box:

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Target Stores Sell the Wright Stuff


The audio book I launched last year about my Taliesin Experience is now available at all Target Stores in the USA. Target, in my opinion, is one of the leading stores that has a strong focus on making "good design" available to the general public---as opposed to limiting design to only a few in society. As they say for their store: "Step into any Target store in any city in the country, and you know exactly what to expect: high-quality, stylishly designed items plus all the essentials for your life, displayed in a clean, organized and welcoming environment."

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What It Takes To Create A 21st Century Design Culture

A request was made that I post my recent speech for the United Architects of the Philippines' 33rd National Convention.

I'll let you in on one secret: These days, whenever I give presentations or deliver speeches, I rarely write a full text. My speeches are carefully prepared but delivered without notes or text. This is something I learned as a member of the Toastmasters International Club. What I do write is an organized Speech Outline* that contains 3 main points broken down to: an Opening, the Body, and a Conclusion. My speech during the convention was delivered using a combination of an Organized Speech Outline and Extemporaneous Speaking.

However, if you missed my speech and want to watch it, I think the UAP has a video-recording of it---I'm not sure but one can always check with them. Here's a commentary by Philippine Daily Inquirer editor Sylvia Mayuga about the speech:

Here's the Outline of my speech:

What It Takes to Create A 21st Century Design Culture

I. Introduction: The role of architects and design in the 21st century is changing.

II. Body

A. Acceptance

1. of Yourself: personal + cultural
2. of your Strengths and Limitations
3. of Change

B. Revolution: a design revolution

1. Building Information Modeling (BIM): ArchiCad
2. Historical Revolution in Architecture: by Frank Lloyd Wright +
3. New Materials and Methods

C. Environment

1. Global Warming and Climate Change
2. US Imperatives: An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore + 2010 Imperative**
3. Philippine Imperatives to engage: Architectural Schools, Building Industry, Government Policy

III. Conclusion: What does it take to create a 21st century design culture? It's what you A.R.E. You can conquer the Goliaths in your life/profession just like David if your God is as big as David's God.

There you have it. You asked for it therefore you got it.
* Competent Communication Catalog No. 225 of Toastmasters International, Inc.
** www.2010imperative.org
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Convention and the Unconventional

The week before I was to deliver my seminar speech on "What It Takes to Create a 21st Century Design Culture" for the 33rd United Architects of the Philippines National Convention, I found myself flying from Phoenix to Dallas to Phoenix to New York City to Philadelphia to New York City to Chicago to Phoenix to Seattle to Phoenix to Manila. Whew!

Now what did I get from all those traveling? A really bad cold and worst case of allergies. The high-altitude cabin pressure from the plane made my congested sinuses worse, and gave me some good beating of airplane-ear. When I landed in Manila, I was literally on medication. True to the work ethic that was instilled in me while living at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin---"adding tired to tired", I still proceeded with my travel despite the advice of my doctor to forego the event.

What It Takes To Create A 21st Century Design Culture

I emphasized 3 main points:


Revolution - a design revolution


Summing it all up to answer: "It's what you a.r.e."

I metaphorically described the Philippines like the biblical character of David,(showing a sculpture image of David by Bernini) during my presentation

conquering the giant Goliath (showing a painting of David and Goliath by Caravaggio).

Message of the speech: You can conquer the Goliaths in your life/profession just like David if your God is as big as David's God.

This weekend, I head off to San Antonio Texas for the National Convention of the American Institute of Architects. We are now celebrating our 150 years of existence, with approximately 80,000 members strong.

This convention is of the unconventional where Green Is In. One of the highlights of the speaker sessions is the theme presentation of former Vice President, the honorable Al Gore. More on this topic later.

The Honorable Al Gore's speech at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Convention in San Antonio, Texas
May 5, 2007

As a licensed/registered architect in the USA and member of the AIA, I attended our national convention in warm and humid Texas this weekend (reminded me of my recent visit to Manila the week earlier). One of the highlights of this event was environment-rockstar Al Gore. His speech was powerful and his presence captivating. He left this wonderful message to the AIA:

"You are in this profession (architecture) at the time (of climate change and global warming) when civilization is asking you to play a key role."

He added:

Architects are in a position to lead the way in solving climate change issues. This is a collective challenge where architects need to share information with other architects. Are we willing and capable of rising to this challenge in spite of inconsistent and discouraging government policies? Don't get tired. You're needed now than ever before. Architects are going to design key roles---being problem solvers of the built environment. You are affecting change through advocacy. Have the moral courage to do what they say is impossible. These are moral imperatives disguised or described as problems.
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My fellow Filipino Architects and Builders

In 2 weeks I will find myself back in my homeland to present at the 33rd National Convention of the United Architects of the Philippines at the World Trade Center-Manila. My acceptance of their invitation to speak, though I have others in the pipeline, is on the premise that my presentation will be an honest yet vulnerable attempt for a dialogue between a Filipino Architect (wanting to achieve her dreams), to another Filipino Architect who is creating the next generation of design culture.

Here's how I will start off our dialogue, to be continued when I actually arrive in Manila this April:

Building Industry Professionals today live in one of the copasetic centuries and at the same time one of the most uncertain periods of the Third Millennium. This dichotomy presents synergistic challenges where technology and building science continue to influence design and define the benchmark of a civilized nation. The potential for unintentional and undesirable outcomes based upon inter-disciplinary considerations is always present.

As fast-paced changes in the built environment continue to evolve in global economies and societies, it necessitates that urgent considerations be made on how we delineate our own ethos amidst the integration of various influences and the growing Pinoy Diasporas.

This presentation will cover information on the overriding cultural constraints and environmental issues that undermine a nation’s potential for creativity. Investigations are made of the critical pedagogy of those who have defined design movements in history. A “reshaping” of thinking about architecture and forward-thinking initiatives are posed to foster a new design-thinking, process, and inspired responses that intersect with the next generation of technologies. It provides guidance for confronting design choices made by architects that potentially act as a catalyst for the creation of a design culture that pushes boundaries. This results in an inspiration to develop movements that allow our homeland to be considered one of the most important emerging cultural centers in the world. One of the most influential architects and father of Modern Architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, once quoted:” The mother of art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own, we have no soul of our own civilization.”

Together let's realize “What it takes to create a 21st Century Design Culture”. My presentation will offer innovative content which will be of interest to building owners, those planning to build, those in academia, policy makers, and industry professionals relative to today’s built environment.

Some members of the Taliesin Fellows (also graduates of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture) will be joining me in Manila to install a surprise "Retrospective" that was originally installed at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin East home in Spring Green Wisconsin during the fellowship celebrations.

I look forward to an open exchange of ideas with you. See you in Manila! I will speak on April 27, 2007 at the World Trade Center-Manila.
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Our House Project

On exhibit at The Gallery of New York School of Interior Design
161 East 69th Street, New York, NY 10021
beginning January 31 – April 21, 2007

I collaborated with Navin Pathangay AIA, Chris Ilg AIA, and Steve Soenksen on the design of an affordable housing solution we dubbed as the "M.O.D. House" for the International Design Competition the HOME House Project.

Steve Soenksen and I were graduates from Taliesin while Chris and Navin were coworkers in a leading architecture firm in Phoenix. Together, we explored an innovative housing solution for the future of affordable housing in America. Our MOD House entry is a finalist out of over 440 entries in The Home House Project:The Future of Affordable Housing competition organized by the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) three years ago. The project challenged artists and architects from across the United States to design single-family houses using Habitat for Humanity's basic three- and four-bedroom house plans as a "point of departure." Criteria for the designs include the use of environmentally conscious materials, technologies, and methods.

The MOD House has since been traveling together with select 100 entries across America in prestigious venues like the El Paso Museum of Art in Texas, Museum of Design in Georgia, Frank Gehry’s Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minnesota, and at The Gallery of New York School of Interior Design (located on 161 East 69th Street, New York, NY 10021) beginning January 31 – April 21 2007.

It is also featured in the 128-page book “The HOME House Project” published by MIT Press, and includes essays by Michael Sorkin, Ben Nicholson, and Steve Badanes.

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Trading Places

Last Feb. 23, 2007, I had the opportunity to speak about my cultural background and how it relates to attitudes about healthcare, role-reversal, and high-performance buildings built with the associated needs in mind. (In this case, Assisted Family Living facilities.) I had a very engaging and enthusiastic audience---the staff of the Alzheimer's Association Desert Southwest Chapter in Arizona.

When I got the invite from the Alzheimer's Association to be their speaker, I thought to myself, why me? I'm in architecture, what can I speak of about caring for the elderly? Then I realized, why not me?

I can draw from my personal experiences of the gradual role-reversal that I am currently experiencing with my aging parents. Plus, I have briefly worked on Assisted Living Facilities projects of Taliesin Architects, so I can draw information from these. My topic centered on how typical Filipino families deal with aging and a growing disease called dementia.

Elderly healthcare in Filipino communities, whether they are living on-shore or part of the Pinoy diaspora, is strongly driven by cultural traditions and values. There is a strong dependence on family which, more often than not, results in financial, emotional, and cultural stresses on the family member acting as care-giver. This is further compounded by societal pressures associated with a close-knit family culture and the emphasis given on respect for elders. Filipino parents have a difficult time letting go of grown-up children, which is why we often see them still living with the parents as long as they want. Children normally keep their close relationship to their parents by staying until at least before getting married. This creates a unique dynamics in the Filipino family where it is common to see grandparents living with grown-up children with their own families.

The advancement of science and technology enables humans to live longer in this day and age. By year 2010, it is estimated that there will be twice as much Filipinos at age 65 who, at the same time, will be at risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease (based on the Philippine Government statistics). This necessitates that urgent considerations be made on how we deal with healthcare issues associated with a longer lifespan and aging. Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation No. 1136 declaring an Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Week occuring every third week of September every year. However, based upon inter-disciplinary considerations, there is still limited access to facilities in the Philippines that cater to this growing disease normally associated with aging. This presents extremely synergistic challenges to Filipino healthcare professionals and architects who must work in this healthcare arena strongly driven by cultural attitudes, information or lack thereof, and economy.

Cultural Attitudes

Because of the tradition of a close-knit family, the Filipino family provides most of the healthcare of elders. This forms their support system. Traditional long-term care is disregarded or unheard of. There may also be reluctance in seeking professional services for impared elders due to the cultural perceptions of stigma and shame associated with having an impaired family member. These family member-caregiver who are not skilled to care for those dealing with Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease often dismiss the ailment as forgetfulness---a part of growing old.


Some Filipinos would rather ask their neighbor or friends about health issues and its treatment rather than seek professional help. Also, the facilities that cater to this societal market is a very small fraction of business that appears unappealing to developers in Asian markets who want a quick return on their investment. There needs to be a balance of communities that cater to both start-up families and to those in their golden years.


The average Filipino parents are not trained by their parents to put money away for something like this because their major concern is to live and survive on a day-by-day basis. Therefore, healthcare is limited to those who can afford it.

Two sides of the Coin

As far as the Filipino's approach to healthcare is concerned, I am in a strategic position to be able to view two sides of the same coin. I live permanently in the USA and will soon be part of the growing population of dual-citizenship holders in Filipino communities. So for me, healthcare is as important as having a paycheck.

It is the driving force for people to seriously consider their retirement plans. There is a boom in the market of Adult Living Communities. Asian communities who carry with them cultural baggages in their approach to healthcare are realizing the need for a good healthplan and health insurance benefits.

More on this topic in my next posts...

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Architectural design can help reduce global warming

Phoenix has a daily temperature of extremely cold mornings and evenings and extremely warm daytime at 40 to 80 deg F. This is common in this latitude (32 +- degrees North Latitude). But last month, we had a thin layer of snow! Imagine that. It’s not supposed to snow in Phoenix, only in the northern elevations of Arizona. But it snowed – for some reason. Phoenix and Scottsdale are marked by knobby terrain and localized series of elevated hills.

So I support your (ref. Inquirer article by Sylvia Mayuga) advocacy for a livable, more sustainable environment.

People now spend an average of about 90% of their time indoors. Look at a recent survey of buildings of commercial, institutional, and residential buildings that account for, approximately:
 40% of global consumption of raw materials

 30% of primary energy consumption
 60% of electricity consumption
 12% of potable water consumption including 5 billion gallons a day for flushing toilets
 35% of carbon dioxide emissions, a greenhouse gas
The source of these stats is the Whole Systems Design of the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

Think about Makati

When you ride the MRT on EDSA from Quezon City, you literally have no need to go to outside to an even more polluted outdoors when you reach Makati. Just get off in one of the air-conditioned drop-off points (refrigerated with substances containing CFC a.k.a. "Chlorofluorocarbon" causing ozone depletion) and walk your way through the shopping mall to the center of the city hub.

This clearly delineates the potential for buildings to either adversely affect or positively support human health and productivity in a significant way. We architects, who are the definers of the built and natural environment, need to clean up our act. Those stats and an alarming analysis of global warming indicate that architects create one of the biggest problems but possibly also the best solutions to greenhouse gas emission, global warming and climate change.

From what I observed when I visited Makati last year, it’s flanked by cookie-cutter buildings designed by foreigners who have displayed a total lack of understanding of a tropical country in a lower latitude close to the equator. Why did we allow this to happen? Part of it - again - is that Filipino mindset of colonialism and branding. Anything imported, in this case designed by a foreigner, must be good. Pardon my language, but we have become suckers for this.

This is contrary to the Organic Architecture I’ve learned.

A building needs to be site-specific. One can’t just pluck the floor plan of a building from out of an industrialized nation like America then build it in a country in different latitude. It’s like buying a fur coat in New York because it’s hip and trendy then wearing it in Manila where it’s 30 ++ degrees C outside. Trendy and hip? I hardly think so.

What I think President GMA needs to aggressively support are initiatives that create an awareness of environmental responsibility in Filipino communities. The government needs to actively engage Filipino architects in order to establish a national benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance buildings.

Architects need to help solve the environmental problem through design. I’m currently pursuing accreditation from LEED to become a professional Sustainable Design Expert. Government projects/ buildings are now required to be LEED-certified in the U.S. There are also efforts in this direction for commercial, institutional, and residential buildings which have been implemented.

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