Philippine pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale closes with lecture-workshop tour to Filipino communities

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November 25, 2018

Venice, Italy – “Architecture is not just about buildings and structures, it’s about designing spaces to support how we live our lives,” said Ar. Edson Cabalfin, the Philippine Pavilion exhibition curator for the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. 

The Philippine Pavilion is a collaborative undertaking of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda. 

Cabalfin’s exhibition The City Who Had Two Navels ended its six-month run with a lecture-workshop series in different cities in Italy that started last November 17. It concluded the series with a final lecture-workshop and closing ceremonies held at the Philippine Pavilion at the Arsenale in Venice, Italy.

These venues were: November 17, 5:00 pm, Padova (Sanctissimae Trinitatis Church compound); November 18, 2:00pm, Milan (Office of the Philippine Consul General); November 20, 5:00pm, Venice (Fava Church); and November 25, 10:00am, Treviso. 

“The exhibition reflects how architecture responds to our needs, conditions and dreams as Filipinos, which is why it is important that in closing The City Who Had Two Navels we bring this exhibition to Filipino communities in Italy,” Cabalfin explained. 

The lecture-workshops were held in venues selected by representatives of Filipino communities in Padova, Treviso, Milan and Venice. The Pavilion’s management team, the Philippine Arts in Venice Biennale Coordinating Committee (PAVB), worked closely with leaders of the Filipino communities. Participants of the lecture-workshops were composed of mostly Filipinos who benefited from increased awareness in Philippine architecture. 

In the series, Cabalfin explained the basic details about Philippine architecture and highlighted the following points: (1) Architecture as Response to the Environment; (2) Architecture as Placemaking; (3) Architecture as a Process of Creativity; (4) Architecture as a Production of Meaning; and (5) Architecture as Reflections of Society. 

In the workshop section of the talk, the participants were asked to draw a space, structure, or building significant to them. The process enabled Cabalfin to draw-out and capture memories in relation to spaces and structures. 

“This activity reminds Filipinos that they have a stake in our built heritage, even if they live abroad now. First they have families that still live in the Philippines and would benefit from architecture that serves the people. It’s also where their memories are tied,” Cabalfin explained. 

Each session ended with a Filipino salu-salo feast that brought the communities together while also sharing with them not just a meal but also the experience of the Philippine participation at the Venice Biennale. 

The 2018 Philippine Pavilion exhibition highlighted two “navels” that are in constant dialogue: first, how colonialism impacts the formation of the built environment; and second, how the process of neoliberalization alters the urban landscape. 

The central part of the exhibition, was a video installation by contemporary artist Yason Banal that explored the intersection of the two forces of colonialism and neoliberalism. The juncture of these two “navels” represents an emergent wave of postcolonial anxieties born out of the process of exiting the colonial condition. 

There was also a consortium invited to respond to Cabalfin’s themes composed of selected architecture, art and design organizations. These are the TAO (Technical Assistance Organization) Pilipinas, Inc. a women-led non-government organization that assists urban and rural poor communities; De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde; University of San Carlos; University of the Philippines – Diliman; and University of the Philippines – Mindanao.