As the pandemic drags on, online education for both students and teachers has become notorious for its struggles and doubts on its effectiveness of learning delivery. However, looking at this year’s annual design exhibit of the University of San Carlos School of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design (USC Safad), one could dismiss the challenge as one that could be easily overcome.
Completely cancelled last year because of quarantine restrictions, the USC Safad Design Awards and Exhibit recently held virtually—aptly tagged as “Libkas” (“break out”)—showcased design excellence through the works of students belonging to the school’s architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, advertising arts, painting, cinema and fashion design programs.
The freshmen of the Bachelor of Science in Architecture program were off to a great start amid starting their foundations in this rigid “course” online (yes, they all anticipate learning in the physical design studios of the school with their teachers soon when it’s safe). The top five winners in the architecture freshmen category further attest that their creativity cannot be restricted by the way learning is done these days.
Tasked to conceptualize and design a pavilion for exhibits, winners Flor Vincent Tan, Saskia Navarra, Carl Joemari Tagaro, Mildon Manuel Ladia and Yuki Yamaguchi lived up to the design (as well as quarantine) challenge, taking into heart that the design process is important in coming up with truly meaningful and functional spaces and buildings.
Tied for the top spot (good for Silver Award), Flor Tan and Saskia Navarra were not afraid to step up and go beyond the usual concepts used by their classmates. Inspired by the critiques of her design teacher, Flor came up with a wing-like structure made contemporary with the use of sleek lines and planes. She created a shed-like space where displays were to be installed. On the other hand, Saskia related the profile of the shell to certain notable qualities of the Filipinos such as resiliency, producing a circular model of an exhibit gallery using strips of wood forming the skeleton of the structure.
Bronze awardee Carl Tagaro got partial inspiration from his dad’s work as draftsman for a naval architect, conceptualizing a gallery inspired from a wrecked ship. White planar surfaces combined with strips of wood reflected a deconstructivist character to his pavilion.
Mildon Ladia and Yuki Yamaguchi were the two honorable mentions, and rightfully so. As they explained their concept, one could feel the depth of their design process. Taking inspiration from the megalithic structure from the ancient civilizations, the dolmen, Mildon abstracted a “stone-age” form creating an enclosure for exhibit displays and a space for gatherings and programs related to the event. Yuki got his cue from the dynamic ripple of water, creating a circular structure made of barbecue sticks and abaca rope with the core space as a communal area and the surrounding pathway as gallery space. He said the pavilion’s design is better appreciated by the visitor walking inside it.
Architecture may not be the first choice for the majority of these students when they chose their college programs last year, but they are showing a lot of promise in this fun and challenging academic life. Their work and their attitude toward their training as future architects remind everyone that even with the online learning platform, creativity and hard work are not meant to be “locked down.” They inspire their peers, who may be struggling dealing with “pandemic” education, that design excellence can still be achieved amid adversity.