WHAT makes an airport world class? OK, it must have all the needed up-to-date facilities and equipment, plus the perks. It must also have hardworking, efficient and passenger-friendly work crew. But of course, the architecture must stand out.

As one of Cebu’s fledgling architects, Kris Elix Zalavarria, gladly took home something valuable after he attended the United Architects of the Philippines National Convention last year in Manila. It was an opportunity to take part in the Annual Visionary Design (Avid) competition organized by Bluprint Magazine, thanks to the prodding of his friend, architect Sherwin Abad. Abad was working at a well-known architectural firm in Manila. The task was to come up with an architectural design for the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in one of the country’s main tourist destinations, Boracay.

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With barely three weeks to work on his entry, he submitted his design. One of the top finishers in the June 2005 architecture licensure examinations, Kris considered himself a “one- man army” sans the office staff and apprentices, but he said that his family helped him out especially in making the scaled model.

“The goal was not necessarily to win but represent Cebu in a national design competition,” he says. When the results were out in December last year, Kris got second place.

So how did this architect go through the conceptualization of this prize-winning design for an airport? Kris thought that a world-class destination must have a world-class airport that must reflect the locality’s character and culture.

First, there was the “typical airport layout” aspect. It was indeed a challenge since airports always strictly follow a conventional plan and layout. But just like his fellow architects, he turned this dare into an opportunity.

“My design solution still follows the linear arrangement of primary spaces for future expansion and for security. The big difference is the massing of the buildings,” he explains. The “kinetic” look and the incorporation of wavy, undulating elements not only mirror the waves that kiss the island’s shores but the hustle and bustle that keep airports alive.

Another challenge that Kris had to hurdle was how to make the roof spark interest, knowing that it is usually the first part of the building, which the visitors would see as their plane make its descent on the runway. He thought of a skim board’s dynamic form adorned with tribal tattoo design made by henna artists who dot Boracay’s vibrant beach front.

AVID was his first national competition but when he was still a college student at the University of San Carlos, he took part in a local contest here in Cebu initiated by a resto bar. He was among the finalists in that too.

Kris’ feat proves that there is not a dearth of architects to inject beauty and a strong identity in our cities and towns through great-looking and functionally-efficient buildings, here in Cebu. They just need their opportunity to weave their magic and unleash their creativity more as professionals.

What better way to provide the stage to them by recognizing and putting trust in the architects and their services. Moreover, government and large companies should conduct more design competitions for their next building projects. Cebu could have the next world-class building, which is also distinctly Cebuano, rising somewhere in our island in no time.