A residence is indeed the most “basic” type of building that pops up when thinking about architecture, perhaps due to the fact that shelter is among the top essentials for man. That is why it is very important for architects to be sensitive to the activities, needs and even the personalities of their prospective building users for them to conceptualize and realize the best design for a building and planning of its spaces.

Early this semester, the second year architecture students of the University of San Carlos (USC) designed interesting rest houses, programmed for a family of five in a mountainous location south of Cebu. The top student designers also had their works recognized in the USC School of Architecture, Fine Arts and Design (Safad) Awards, done recently in a virtual platform.

Houses with a View. Building with the environment became the guiding philosophy of Rolaine Pearl Valiente, gold awardee for the sophomore category. She felt satisfaction from her “Slab House” since it fitted well to the slopes of their project site.

“I enjoyed doing the layout and experimenting on contrasts such as how the structure turned out to look light and floating even though the material used is mostly concrete. A mix between privacy and openness is also present,” she confided. Consultations with mentors, she said, were also vital in helping shape her design.

Better layout strategies was also employed by silver awardee Lou Henrick Tomross Cabanero in his “Maison A Deux Etages” (Two-Storey House), resulting into dynamic roof design and efficient zoning of spaces that also adapted to the entry of natural light and ventilation.

“I also considered the building’s accessibility with the presence of two roads at both ends of the lot as well as the functionality of each space to fit the user activities,” said the future architect, who also dabbles into pottery and coffee-making as recreational diversions. He reveals that the award was something new to him noting that he was quite carefree during his high school and senior high days. This serves as a motivation for him to always do his best. “I do not settle for the bare minimum,” he added.

A balance of work and play was also the key to getting through the design plate for bronze winner Seth Aubin Brice Alatraca. In his design, he had to research brutalism and tropical design to justify the building form. “Architecture is really dramatic and sophisticated, but it’s fun,” said Brice, who also teaches dance. He admitted, though that what he envisioned for his design was not achieved to “the full extent” but acknowledged that he had learned valuable lessons.

However, houses are not the only forms of “built environments” that architects are capable of designing. The third year architecture students ventured into different non-residential building types, including their plate for a “Proposed Senior High School Building.”

Learning Environments. “As a part of a wider network of buildings within the USC, the design follows the surrounding buildings’ direct visual connection to nature allowing for a more positive learning environment. It encourages more interactions between users with its wide hallways, social spaces and atriums. This makes for a brighter and airier environment, taking advantage of natural daylighting and cross-ventilation where circulation and public spaces are open with views to the surrounding landscapes,” explained gold awardee, Faith Ann Go.

Bronze awardee Rachelle Joy Tan came up with three schemes during her initial studies in solving the design problem.

“I wasn’t sure of how to arrange the structure without cutting big chunks of the site in order for the structure to sit flat and to not cover any of the detention ponds,” she revealed, “I was able to overcome these problems by designing three smaller structures sitting on different levels of the site all connected by bridges and ramps.” A similar approach was made by silver awardee Jean Golisao, where she made sure that the natural flow of the water and the airspace above the ponds are unobstructed making the building mass is wrapped around the pond creating a wide green atrium.

Going through the meticulous design process, these students picked up a lot of useful lessons moving forward. “We must opt for architectural solutions which will create the least negative environmental impact. In designing structures built on sloping terrain, the designers must minimize any disturbance made in the natural stability of the slope to prevent natural disasters,” said Jean, “the designers must not forget that it is our role to be good stewards of our environment.” With these students always striving for excellence in their craft, the future indeed looks bright for architecture and design here in Cebu.