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In Search of the Wow Factor

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[Photo of Leandro Locsin's Architecture]My favorite course back in college was the History of Architecture series. No matter who the professor, I always looked forward to the course. It was always Wright (Frank Lloyd) versus Corbu (Le Corbusier), even after we were long done with their era.

I was a fan of Wright, mainly because I reported on him twice. But I also enjoyed the stories about him.

My favorite was the one where SC Johnson Wax Co. CEO Hib Johnson angrily phoned the architect shouting, “I'm sitting here with some friends and distinguished guests, and the roof is leaking right on top of my head!”
Wright reportedly replied, “Well Hib, why don't you move your chair?”


Wright is known to have famously quipped, “If the roof doesn't leak, the architect hasn't been creative enough.” The funny anecdotes about him were a breath of fresh air to an architecture student wrestling with half-understood Physics and Calculus.

But I always, secretly, liked Corbu's designs better. Although Wright coined the design philosophy 'organic architecture,' Le Corbusier's designs seemed more organic to me. Blasphemy to my fellow Wright fans, but there it is.

[Photo of Leandro Locsin's Architecture]I especially loved seeing Corbu's influence on the local architects of the era, most memorable of whom was Lindy Locsin via the Philippine Pavilion at the 1970 Osaka World Expo.

Reminiscent of Corbu's Philips Pavilion at the 1958 Brussels World Fair or maybe even his famous Ronchamp Chapel, the 1970 Philippine Pavilion in Osaka reflected the undulating architecture of the era. Yet, Locsin's Philippine Pavilion, among the top 10 most popular pavilions at the Osaka Expo, was undoubtedly original.

Geometrically, it seems inspired by the vinta; but it is popularly known as Locsin's shell pavilion. The majestic sweep of the roof lifts the spirit of the beholder. Architecturally, it was progressive, representing the up-and-coming nation that was the Philippines ca. 1970, the home of a proud and creative people.

The 1970 Philippine Pavilion was crafted from our nation's most elegant building materials—Philippine hardwood like narra and capiz shells—which told the world just how rich our natural resources were.

It is sad that our generation of architecture students had nothing but old photos to remember a time when Filipino architects truly wowed visitors at the World Fair. I'm hoping that changes within my lifetime.

 

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