Warp & Weft: Weaving Tradition and Innovation in Filipino Textile Architecture

June 11, 2024

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By 

Albert Aycardo

CSB’s Design Exploration class presents a different approach to architectural education. It challenges the conventional notions of the practice in pursuit of the creation of imaginative works from its students. Janelle Gan presents her thesis,Warp & Weft, a rural architectural development that aims to address the woes of the Philippine’s textile industry. Gan utilizes traditional forms and adds a contemporary twist to bolster the industry with contemporary sensibilities. 

A Thread of Progress 

Indigenous weaving is an art form passed down through generations and treated as sacred. The intricate patterns and vivid hues of Filipino textiles are more than just adornments; they are a visual language that speak of the rich tapestry of our stories, beliefs, and customs. Each thread is shaped by the identities and cultures of the people who create them. 

Despite the valuable cultural contributions of Filipino textile weaving, the industry finds itself at a crossroads. Weavers now have to grapple with the challenges posed by an increasingly industrialized and globalized world. It has resulted in the proliferation of mass production and machine-made textiles that has led to a decline in demand for traditional and handcrafted products. Unfortunately, this situation threatens the livelihoods of artisans who remain dedicated to their heritage.

Alongside this, the lack of access to resources, markets, and capital has left many weavers struggling to sustain their work. The absence of dedicated cultural education facilities is another hurdle that endangers the transmission of this tradition to future generations. 

Architecture as a Loom 

Gan’s thesis formulates solutions that empower weavers and ensure the longevity of their art form. It comes from a place of profound respect for the indigenous practices that have shaped the industry over centuries. The proposed project aims to find a balance between the traditional indigenous practices (the warp) and the relevant present-day interventions (the weft).

Within Kalibo, Aklan lies the Barangay Nobo Farm, a 17.3 hectare haven dedicated to the textile industry. The farm holistically caters to the needs of the indigenous weaving communities with a slew of components. Its produce are the raw materials necessary for the creation of pina fabric while also housing its indigenous weaving communities within. 

Firstly, the project draws upon the architecture of traditional Panay houses as it integrates responsive elements to the locality. Secondly, the design celebrates the heritage of the craft while also embracing the potential for innovation. Lastly, the project makes room for the local community to flourish together and nurtures a deep relationship with the rich environment around them. 

Braiding Together the Past and Future

The site is divided into zones surrounding a central weaving center, allowing for future growth and development. Within is an orchestration of spaces that are interwoven to connect the various stages of textile production. Ritualistic dyeing practices are juxtaposed with intimate weaving looms as every element of the design serves to elevate the craft. The inclusion of a bridge over the river within the grounds doubles as a washing area that forms a poetic connection between nature and the art form that draws from it. 

An intentional spatial organization makes room for collaboration between artisans and designers. It aims to bring together the skillful craftsmanship of traditional weavers with the designs of contemporary creatives. Warp & Weft seeks to spark new ideas, patterns, and designs that push the boundaries of Filipino textile weaving. This cross-pollination not only breathes new life into the craft but also opens up opportunities for economic and cultural development.

The project not only preserves the past but also safeguards the weaver’s futures as well. The use of locally-sourced materials and eco-friendly features ingrains sustainability into the design’s ethos. Its familiar forms makes it an inviting venue for the community by virtue of how they can identify with it. Embracing a circular economy model, spaces for education and training are included to thread together a brighter future, one in which the art of Filipino textile weaving can thrive for generations to come. 

Cut From the Cloth of Heritage

Warp & Weft proposed development is akin to a living, breathing entity that evolves and grows alongside the community it serves. By weaving together the warp of indigenous knowledge and the weft of modern techniques, the project aims to revitalize the textile industry. It does so in a manner that takes care of the weaving communities and preserves this rich cultural heritage for future generations to partake in. 

Read more: CSB’s Design Exploration: A Unique Approach to Architecture Education

Photo credit: Janelle Gan

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