17th Venice Architecture Biennale: Philippine Pavilion Opens Structures Of Mutual Support Exhibition
The Philippine Pavilion opened an exhibit that values the Filipino bayanihan and the Norweigan dugnad at the historic 17th Venice Architecture Biennale held 20 May 2021. Dubbed the Structures of Mutual support, the exhibition seeks to shape modern architecture by involving people who value the principles of mutual support, especially amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The exhibit was curated by architects Sudarshan V. Khadka and Alexander Eriksson Furunes together with 32 representatives of the Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm community in Angat, Bulacan.
For architects Sudarshan and Alexander, “mutual support” means self-organization and collaboration done by communities to support each other through periods of adversity or crisis, such as the changing seasons, natural disasters, and armed conflicts. It exists in multiple forms around the world and its principles are rooted in empathy and care.
"When mutual support is required, people come together for collective work to achieve a common goal. It is a process that builds social relationships, reciprocity and community cohesion. However, these traditions are fading away in a modern-day society where the currency of wealth is measured by money rather than relationships built in a community," the curators said. "Re-evaluating and reviving mutual support traditions provides an alternative way to consider the values, resources, and knowledge that shape our built environment."
How it worked:
The GK Enchanted Farm, which is composed of farmers, carpenters, housewives, students, and other labourers, were briefed about the project through a workshop. The 22-day workshop focused on the discussion of the merits of building a structure within the community and where the final form project would be located, as well as the components to be included in it based on the common needs of the community.
"The workshop topics correspond to a six-step process that we have developed from our experience with community-based projects. These steps are learning, questioning, making, concept, design, construction," the curators disclosed.
The community library that was built on-site in Bulacan was then dismantled and carefully shipped to Venice, Italy. It was reconstructed as the centrepiece for the Philippine Pavilion in the Artigliere Arsenale. Beside the library is a raised platform that takes people inside where there is a small exhibition about stories of mutual support.
“Before the total lockdowns were put into place, the Philippine Pavilion already shipped the exhibition’s structure to Venice. Last April, with a lean team, we flew to Venice to install it and open the exhibition. We felt it was our responsibility that no matter what happens, we would represent the Philippines this year,” Khadka explained.
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According to GK Enchanted Farm community member Aliza Mae Antonio, the experience of creating a structure with the architects was not only new but it was memorable. She said that “One day, when we look at the structure, we’ll remember how we took part in building it.”
For the curators, the essence of architecture is not space but instead the meaning ascribed to space. "Architecture becomes more than an object when it becomes a symbol of values, knowledge, and relationships built in the process of its creation. It is hoped that applying the principles of mutual support will improve the diversity of values that architecture represents by involving people directly in the determination of values that are embedded in it," they said.
Click here to learn more about the exhibit.
The Philippine Pavilion will be made accessible through its digital programs and virtual tours, which will be accessible to the public, anywhere in the world. To learn about the digital agenda and offerings, go to philartsvenicebiennale.org