Design ideas from nature

Photo by Karl Aries Emerson F. Cabilao
Photo by Karl Aries Emerson F. Cabilao

FOR many years now, the term “green” as applied in design and architecture has been a staple among professionals in the built environment. Moreover, there are some companies, local government units and even private entities, that claim to know “green” as seen in their intensive use of vegetation in their projects and facilities. But this has been a pervading misconception about “green” since it clearly goes beyond the superficial, whether it’s color or the amount of grass, potted plants and trees that one introduces to spaces and buildings.

In design, “green” connotes an approach, solution or strategy that is sensitive to the dynamics of the natural environment. This means that its characteristics are not only manifested through what is tangibly seen on the finished output but also on the processes involved in coming up with it. This allows designers and planners to think about each strategy, especially in developing urban environments, and assess its impact on the environment, from upstream to downstream.

This was the key idea that supported this year’s theme of the Green Initiatives Week Conference, which is “From Ridge to Reef,” held recently in Cebu. Co-organized by the University of San Carlos, Archi-Depot of Japan and the Japan Foundation, the conference focused on the developmental implications on the watershed and coastal environments.

“Green” architecture was the highlight of the intellectual exchange among Japanese, Indonesian as well as local speakers. The presentations particularly zoomed in on the value of using wood and bamboo as a building material. Typical of their tradition in building, the Japanese speakers showcased their research and applications of wood materials to design incorporating nature-inspired concepts.

One Japanese speaker presented an actual project, a roadside station, which infused inspiration from the natural landscape of the locality. It made use of engineered wood which produced a structural frame that allowed large, flexible spaces as well as framed beautiful natural sceneries from outside. A professor from Indonesia complemented it with his own study of coming up with reciprocal frames of bamboo, underscoring the material’s role in construction as not only as mere cladding or decoration but also as a main structural component. Similar presentations that showcased wood and bamboo added relevance since these materials are considered as the most sustainable in terms of production and are abundant in many regions in Asia, including the Philippines.

Capping the conference was a tour of the Bojo River in Cebu’s southwestern town of Aloguinsan, where the speakers and visitors were immersed in a truly tranquil side of nature. The river was among the Top 100 Sustainable Destinations in the World back in 2016 by Green Destinations, and it is just inspiring how the local government and its residents cooperate to make sure it lives up to that prestigious tag. Wading through the river course lined with different species of mangroves, the experience reminded everyone the value of thinking, planning and designing “green.”


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