Anthology Festival 2020 Director William Ti, Jr. on planning and ‘thinking architecture’
“Talking without thinking gets you nowhere,” reasons William Ti, Jr., Anthology Architecture and Design Festival Director and WTA Architecture + Design Studio Principal, when asked about the fifth Anthology Festival’s theme, Think Architecture. The Anthology Festival 2020 theme, according to earlier press releases by Anthology, is an “invitation to explore and ponder the ideals and frameworks that shape the structures built to house people’s needs and desires,” which hopes to “refocus efforts on architecture itself and encourage and improve awareness and understanding of the practice.” Six thousand festival-goers, including invited speakers within Asia, and from Europe and America, are expected to troop to Intramuros, Manila from February 7 to 9.
With the festival just around the corner, BluPrint spoke with Ti to discuss the planning of Southeast Asia’s largest architectural gathering, and the new activities we can expect in the annual festival. Here’s an excerpt from the brief interview.
BluPrint: Please tell us how you formulate or decide on the themes each year.
William Ti, Jr.: It’s very casual. The first one was tied to the festival’s name, ‘Anthology.’ It was about narratives, so it’s really everyone’s own story being shared with each other. The next one was ‘Context and Intent,’ which is basically what every architect talks about. The next one after that was ‘Social Architecture,’ which is something I always push for. I really believe that architecture has to help build communities. Last year was about ‘Impact Architecture.’ It’s about the impact architecture has on our community. This year, it’s back to ‘Think Architecture.’ We really want people to just ‘think architecture’ right now.
How did the Anthology Festival 2020 theme come to be? What were your considerations? Why is it timely or relevant?
I noticed that when architects talk about architecture, we tend to segue and end up talking about urbanism. I think we should re-focus on architecture and try to talk about space, materiality, and all the things that make up architecture. Also, before we do urban plans for Metro Manila, we—the architects and the different stakeholders—can start talking to each other about the smaller things, like how architecture itself can create a better plan or environment for us. That’s when I said, ‘Okay, let’s just think architecture.’ For one moment, let’s not talk about the politics involved, the different advocacies, the various stakes. Let’s talk about architecture with specificity and how these actually affect change and what we can learn about it in particular. That’s why it’s ‘Think Architecture.’
Tell us about how you’re organizing the fifth Anthology, especially compared to the past.
I think one of the good things this year is that after all the other architects, especially the foreign architects, have come and gone to the past runs of the festival, every single one of them is quite happy about it, saying, ‘I’ve been to hundreds of events, but I’ve never been to something like this.’ And so, they share it with their friends, which then makes it quite easier for us to get speakers. And of course, we’re also getting the more prominent speakers because they’ve been hearing about this for five years.
Also, with the way that the sheer size of the festival has grown, I think it becoming of a certain size has allowed it to have a bigger impact or gravity. The sponsors have become more and more interested as well. Because, let’s say I’m a sponsor, I’d rather be associated with something that’s fun. Given the choice between serious and fun, fun always kind of works. I think they see our passion for it and the passion that the different architects have about it. That also made running the festival easier.
And of course, we’ve grown the program, we’ve added quite a number of events. We have Installations now from different architects. Then we have the Sessions. We’re coming up with a white paper like a manifesto. And we have Anthology Raw. These are the three new Anthology events.
There are over a hundred speakers, right? Was the original number of speakers at the festival that large?
There’s more or less 150. For the talks, I think we have 9 speakers a day. No, in the first Anthology, we didn’t have talks; we had Dialogues. The Dialogues were actually earlier than the festival.
What are your criteria for choosing a speaker?
We want a thought leader, who is introducing new things, contributing to the global discussion, and moving architecture forward. I think that’s important in architecture, the forward momentum, the things that are changing, or developing new ideas. We’re always looking for these. And then we give them the theme while they choose their own topics to discuss in relation to it.
Which talk are you looking forward to the most?
Of course, our three keynote speakers. Wong Mun Summ, he’s like the starchitect of Southeast Asia, the biggest architect in the region right now. And then, Liu Xiadu of URBANUS, the biggest architecture firm in Southern China, which is bigger than the ASEAN region, so it would be interesting to learn from him. We also have Ricardo Bofill. Simply, with the history of that office, what they’ve done with postmodernism, materiality, regionalism, and all that, they can definitely help us in developing a Filipino identity. I think that’s very important.
Another special thing this year is the Dialogues, which will be moderated by really cool architecture critics, like Li Xiangning, the curator of the Chinese Museum of Architecture. He has his own architecture magazine, while also being the editor-in-chief of a Chinese architecture magazine. We also have the head of ArchDaily China coming in. Then, we have the curator of the M+ Museum in Hong Kong and the former editor-in-chief of Architecture Record flying in. So, all the moderators this year are awesome for the panel section.
Oh, and one of the cool activities we have at Anthology Festival 2020—if I may add—is the zorb balls. We bought a couple of zorb balls for the festival.
Speaking of cool activities, why is it important for the festival to carry on the past activities and then add some more every festival?
I think it’s simply the idea that there should be this festival, and someone has to do it. Personally, I’m a believer in putting your money where your mouth is. I mean, you can complain about something, but then you should do something about it because if you don’t do something about it, you have no right to complain. I feel like there should be a change in our industry, in the way we engage with other people, and it’s why we started this festival. And I think it’s as important to keep it going because we’d want the other architects to see it.
Which activity do you find most fun?
I’ve always liked Dialogues. I always look forward to it. I go to so many talks. My talk, for instance, is always the same thing. But, when you go to the Dialogues, you’re reacting towards other people, so every time it’s different.
With 5 or 6 thousand festival-goers, how would you be handling such a large number?
Well, I think it’s grown incrementally. Every year, there was a bit of growth. So I think we’ve kind of learned through the years. I think the first festival was about 800 people, and slowly we’ve grown. Kind of like, when you get to the 2000 level, it’s basically the same.
What do you want festival-goers to experience or take away from the Anthology Festival 2020?
I really want them to see that architecture is fun and that it’s something that they can be passionate about. A lot of these guys are young people. I want to fan the flames and I want them to build on their passion for architecture. And of course, think architecture.
Photos courtesy of Anthology Architecture and Design Festival