The Philippines’ Architectural Triumph at the Venice Biennale 2021

September 8, 2021



Micah Mongcal

The Philippines’ pavilion in the Venice Biennale 2021, “Structures of Mutual Support”, the Filipino value of bayanihan is expressed in a structure reminiscent of a bahay kubo. The design story is revealed through a compact volume, solid wooden floors, ceilings and walls, maintaining openness to the surroundings. The structure is simple, modest, and built to last. Those who are familiar with the Filipino design vernacular can immediately perceive the building’s intended use: a community center, housing a library, a conflict-resolution space, and a place for individuals to gather and interact.

The Filipino design language is clearly shown in the simple, warm exterior.
Venice Biennale 2021

The design’s early phases were guided by the architectural concept of the grid, which enabled the architects to efficiently delineate the spaces for various purposes. The local concept of Maaliwalas was demonstrated through the building’s delicate latticed doors and walls, which fill the interior with softened light and ventilation.

Venice Biennale 2021 winner
Latticed doors create an intriguing play of light on the floors and walls.

The installation was recognized in the prestigious art and architecture event, La Biennale di Venezia (Venice Biennale 2021), as “an exemplary community project that creates a rich archive and experience of collaborative construction practices.” The Special Mention was the Philippines’ first-ever award from the event, an especially impressive feat considering that the Philippines had just re-entered the competition in 2015, after a 51-year hiatus.

Architects Sudarshan V. Khadka Jr. and Alexander Eriksson Furunes led the design team.

Architects Khadka and Furunes reiterated the structure’s themes of mutual support and upholding traditions of community and collaboration. “We want to thank the Venice Biennale 2021, for recognizing that bayanihan and dugnad can be real alternatives to how we can live together,” Furunes said. “The way we build is the way we live. So this is really important to us.”

After the Venice Biennale 2021, the pavilion will be returned to the Philippines, where it will serve its purpose in the GK Enchanted Farm community in Bulacan.

“Mutual support is a way for communities to build resilience and to support each other through adversity or crisis, such as the changing seasons, natural disasters, and armed conflict. It exists in many forms around the world and its principles are rooted in empathy, care, and reciprocity,” the designers said. These merits of Filipino culture are recognized in the Venice Biennale 2021, and remain vital and relevant in the structures we design for our communities

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