‘Build a Better Normal’ live sessions reveals first panel of on-screen reactors

July 22, 2020



Gabrielle De La Cruz

Design DeepDive™ Live Sessions is an Asia Pacific region activity of housing and water technology global industry leader, LIXIL, which began with India’s ‘Designing Safer Cities’ live session last June 13, 2020. This July 22, from 2:00PM to 3:15PM (UTC+8), the Philippines is hosting the first leg of the second Design DeepDive™ Live Sessions, themed ‘Build a Better Normal,’ which will be streamed live on American Standard Facebook page. The three-part live session will discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the real estate, construction, and design industries, the challenges, and the ways forward to building better. The next two live sessions will be on August 5 and 19, streamed live on GROHE and INAX Facebook pages.

Typically, webinars, webcasts, or live sessions are conducted with a resource person discussing a particular subject while audiences on the other side of the screen watch and react via the comment section. ‘Build a Better Normal’ live sessions will be different. For each live session, a panel of on-screen reactors is invited. These on-screen reactors are tasked to react to the presentations and raise questions or issues, challenging the speakers’ assumptions and recommendations.

READ MORE: Are you ready to build a better normal?

The first live session, ‘Advising Clients in a Brave New World,’ features Asia Pacific Real Estate Association CEO Sigrid Zialcita, AIDEA President and CEO Jojo Tolentino, and M Moser Associates Director, Dr. Christine Bruckner.

Zialcita’s presentation, ‘Asian Real Estate: From Resilience to Reimagination,’ will discuss the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on developers and their most pressing needs from the design industry across Asia. Tolentino, who has always been eager to help his clients succeed, will be sharing how AIDEA manages to keep this mindset in his ‘Survive or Thrive: Partnering for Success’ presentation. Bruckner will deliver her expertise on workplace design, focusing on best practice, sustainability, and wellness. Her presentation is entitled ‘Embracing a workplace paradigm shift prioritizing human wellbeing and planetary stewardship through design.’

Reacting and initiating the Q&A segment of the live session will be Toni Vasquez, CEO and Principal Architect of T.I. Vasquez Architects & Planners (TVA&P); Dexter Lee, Managing Director of Luana Lifestyle and Leisure Hotel and co-developer of Lotus Central Mall; and Cherie Fernandez, Vice President for Developments of Federal Land.

Toni Vasquez, CEO and Principal Architect of T.I. Vasquez Architects & Planners

Panglao Island - Live session reactors - Toni Vasquez
“Like a river that cuts through a rock, the meandering pool carves through as both a centerpiece and an architectural solution to this beautiful sea-side property deprived of its own beach access,” says T.I Vasquez Architects and Planners. Vasquez designed this project with team members Alysa Par, Tobi Vasquez, and Danielle Llamasares. June 16, 2019. Image from TVA&P Facebook page.

“As the pandemic continues to wreak havoc beyond thresholds, it has, in a way, also become like a corrective tool—an opportunity to amend our approach on pertinent issues that would otherwise be overlooked. The exposure of vulnerable, defective, and failing systems that our society accepted as ‘normal’ is resulting in stronger public demand for truth and accountability,” Vasquez tells BluPrint after confirming her participation in the ‘Build a Better Normal’ live sessions. 

“As architects belonging to an industry filled with narratives, we need to be more discerning on what really matters and earnestly recognize the importance of research. Our challenge is to merge market-driven requirements with design concepts that are sustained with performance and evidence-based solutions. There is beauty in Architecture that is honest and based on truth, and that we should unceasingly pursue,” she furthers. Her statement is a nudge not only to the speakers but to every architect, designer, planner, industry leader, and decision-maker.

Lyceum of the Philippines University, Cavite. TVAP designed the campus to be formed in the shape of a bay leaf, alluding to the family name “Laurel.” Photo from Lyceum of the Philippines University Facebook page.

In an earlier interview with Vasquez, she shares that she was dreading the work-from-home setup. Although Vasquez has been working remotely for a decade, she admitted that placing an entire workforce in a virtual setting unexpectedly is challenging at first, considering the Philippines’ internet speed, staff’s computer hardware, and office culture. Vasquez managed TVA&P Cebu while based in Manila and is now managing its main headquarters while based in the US. “I quickly learned that businesses can strike a balance between leniency and expectations,” she says.

Toni Vasquez-Shawan, CEO and Principal Architect of T.I. Vasquez Architects & Planners has 20 years’ experience in the company founded by her late father 27 years ago. She is active in the academe, serving as the first dean of the School of Design & Communication, Southwestern University in Cebu from 2017; the chairperson of Lyceum of the Philippines’ architecture department in 2015; and design professor at the College of Saint Benilde in 2014. She was twice invited to be a design critic for the UCLA Master of Architecture Program in 2010 after finishing her graduate studies as a Provost Scholar at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in 2008.

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Dexter Lee, Managing Director of Luana Lifestyle and Leisure Hotel and co-developer of Lotus Central Mall

Belonging to the tourism industry, Lee is well aware of the financial impacts brought by the pandemic. Invited as a reactor for the first live session, he shares that he is eager to learn more about property design and development, and how these can contribute to the rise of businesses post-COVID-19. “The burning question that I would like to ask is: Did this pandemic actually expose any weakness in best practice that needs to be changed immediately moving forward?”

“We wanted something design-friendly that people in the community will be proud of, because Puerto Princesa is really booming. You have tourism up North, and business and agriculture down South. Five or 10 years down the road, I think the city will really grow,” Lee said in an interview with Philippine Star last June 17,2017. Their concept for the Hue Hotel in Puerto Princesa is to “bring the beach into the city.”

“For many of us in the tourism industry whose businesses have endured significant financial impact due to the pandemic, capital expenditure is primed to be reduced dramatically. Architects who will shift their focus on maximizing the client’s capital through more cost-efficient designs can help developers continue to pursue expansion plans during or shortly after this crisis,” Lee shares. He furthers that he is curious whether architects and designers are currently pushing through with their tourism-related projects, as he is hopeful that tourism businesses can rise from the sudden downfall brought by the pandemic.“I hope I am not wrong in saying that the tourism industry will bounce back and return stronger than ever. I am interested to learn if the speakers’ clients have requested any significant changes from their plans, or if their designers have recommended any changes to cater to the world post-COVID-19.” 

As a father to a growing 1-year-old, Lee shares that being able to “work and dad from home” 24/7 for the past 4 months has helped him cope with the situation. He remains optimistic towards a better normal, saying that a telling sign of it “is when more developments are designed and built to be more inclusive; Where it benefits the community and its members from across a broader range of economic status and gives a more equal opportunity for businesses of varying sizes.” 

Luana Lifestyle and Leisure Hotel -Live session reactors-Dexter Lee
Hue Hotel in Boracay. In an interview published in Manila Times last December 7,2017, Lee shared that just like all their present and future Hue properties, Boracay’s design is forward and culturally rooted. “The design, concept, and even the facilities reflect the personality of the destination and its cultural identity.”

When asked what he is looking forward to hearing from the three speakers, Lee responds: “In an environment where tragic news is reported constantly, it will be a refreshing change to hear experts, who have made careers out of improving cities and communities, speak about the positive changes or effects this pandemic will force designers, contractors, and developers to adopt.” 

Dexter Lee is the Managing Director of Luana Lifestyle and Leisure Hotel, Inc., the company behind Hue Hotels and Resorts in Palawan and Boracay. Lee says his aim is to elevate the hospitality industry in the country through design and sustainability. In 2018, Hue Hotel Boracay was awarded a sustainability award by Rethinking The Future. Lee is also involved in the development and construction of retail spaces under Lotus Central Mall. The advocacy behind this brand of community malls is to empower people through building projects that allow them to Gather and Grow.

Cherie Fernandez, Vice President for Developments of Federal Land

“I’ve worked with Jojo, I love most of his principles. I’m interested to hear Sigrid’s because hers is more on the business side. From Christine, I expect some validation on the design approaches which we need to revisit. It’s very hopeful. Hopefully, we can get to that time that we’ve surpassed this pandemic already,” Fernandez tells BluPrint in a phone interview. She said that she’s excited to hear about the three speakers’ versions of healthy buildings, sustainable approaches in the full life cycle of buildings, and discussions on real balance in creating a better normal alongside good financial plans.

The Seasons Residences - Live Sessions reactors - Cherie Fernandez
The Seasons Residences by Federal Land and Japanese partners Nomura Real Estate Development Co. and Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, Inc. “We believe in our Japanese partners not only because they have made name for themselves, but we have gone through learning and thorough design with our partners just to give a better product,” Fernandez said.

According to Fernandez, “a better normal should be flexible, functional, and resilient.” She emphasizes the importance of flexible working arrangements and output-based performance indicators and functional and social-distancing-compliant workspaces. “Intangible design aspects should be considered because office workers need to feel safe.”

Fernandez acknowledges that “there is no formula for this one,” because everybody is new to the ‘new norm.’ Still, she believes that there are “basic principles when we talk about healthy buildings and wellness, so I’m excited to hear about each of the speakers’ takes on this.”

Cherie Fernandez has been the Vice President responsible for the Residential Business Unit of Federal Land since 2016. She is responsible for the Master Planning of all Townships and Planning of all Project Developments. Fernandez holds a silver medal master’s degree in Business Administration from De La Salle University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering. She also worked for Ayala Land from 2007-2015, where she served as Ayala Land premier Makati’s Project Director for 5 years and Project Control Head for 3 years . 

Mi Casa was designed by Federal Land with a clubhouse concept to provide residents with all the facilities that they need. Fernandez says that it “is tailored to give homeowners their very own rest house in the metro without sacrificing their cosmopolitan business lifestyle” and that it can provide clients” a home they can retire in without necessarily giving up the advantages of living in the city.”


Watch ‘Build A Better Normal,’ the three-part LIXIL Design DeepDive™ Live Sessions – Philippines, and join the discussions. Stream the first live session, ‘Advising Clients in a Brave New World,’ live on July 22 from 2:00 to 3:15 PM at the American Standard Facebook page.

BluPrint is the exclusive media partner of LIXIL Design DeepDive™ Live Sessions – Philippines, co-presented by LIXIL brands American Standard, GROHE, and INAX.

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