Royal Pineda Edited by Judith Torres
Images BUDJI+ROYAL Architecture+Design
- 2021 September 6, Monday
- 06:00 PM
- DTI conference room, Bangkôta
I’m here in the DTI conference room. From here, we can see the Portugal Pavilion on the right. Unfortunately, Portugal is one of the countries that won’t open their pavilions in time for the Dubai Expo 2020 opening on October 1.
The weather’s been hot—36 degrees—but they say the last few days have been much cooler than the past couple of months (the summer months are July and August) when it can reach 47 to 48 degrees Centigrade. For the safety of the men working outside, the government imposes a break from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. I think it’s a Dubai regulation. The cool season runs from October to March—which is when they scheduled the Expo, so it’s safe for visitors to walk outdoors.
Yesterday was my first day at the site. I really wanted to want to see whether Bangkôta would perform the job as envisioned. I was happy to find that the mesh served well as sunscreen. I got the sense that the architecture was sheltering and protecting us from the heat from the sun while being very permeable.
That’s what I did my first day in Dubai; validate the design and see right away if there was anything I needed to fix.
We do have two critical quality control issues. The first has to do with the heights of the hanging sculptures. We’re asking the contractor to bring them down as per the original plan because they did not follow the heights specified.
Overseeing the installation of all the art pieces is part of BUDJI+ROYAL’s job. We put the creatives under our scope to make sure that everything would be tightly coordinated. We’re helping them execute their pieces because the work is remote and the artists don’t do technical drawings.
The second critical concern has to do with landscaping. Bangkôta had a reduction in budget and one of the items that got cut was landscape design. Thankfully, the Filipino community here said they would sponsor the plants. Still, the landscape architect and I have redesigned the landscaping so it won’t look like we ran out of foliage. Instead of covering a large area sparsely, we’ll cluster the plants in one area to have a generous volume of foliage and then, some areas would be sculptural, and the rest would just have clean surfaces.
Today was punch listing day with the Dubai project manager. I was with ASEC Rosvi (Department of Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Rosvi Gaetos) and others from DTI and the Philippine embassy. We checked the café, the interiors, the lighting, the workmanship, and all the works.
I was complaining about a drop wall. I was asking the PM to make it black because it was supposed to be black. They said they didn’t follow the drawing because it was gonna be messy and difficult because they would need to cover the furniture and that might delay us further.
So I said, “Okay, but then can you fix all the black spots? Because you painted it gray. And now you have all these black spots from the sealants and everything.”
And then he said, “No, because the black sealant was specified.” And now he tells me it’s not a paintable sealant. But he has to do something, right? Kailangan sabihan.
Another example of how strict they are is I wanted to have a nice clean pond in the setting for a boat. When they found out the pond would be more than a foot deep, they said, “Oh, that’s dangerous, you need to put a railing.” Hindi na maganda yan, diba? So you have these situations that really challenge design.
Grabe, mahigpit dito. Parang lahat hindi puede. For example, we hate these fire boards and electrical panels. Over here, you’re not allowed to paint over them or cover them. Whereas in the Philippines, we can clad them, it’s okay. But here, they not only have to be exposed, but they also have to be highly visible. And they’re not pretty, you know?
It’s going to be exciting tonight when we set the “crown” on Bangkôta. A crane will put Toym Imao’s sculptural trees atop the Imaginarium. Imagine putting a tree that’s almost two stories high on top of the building six stories high. There are seven trees, so the men will probably work past midnight.
The trees were made here in Dubai to keep our carbon footprint down and be consistent with Expo 2020’s subtheme of sustainability. With the technology available, none of the artists had to stay in Dubai. They made their drawings and renderings and BUDJI+ROYAL translated their intents into plans and maquettes for the local contractors to build the sculptures.
Toym and his father, National Artist, Abdulmari Imao, are famous for their brass and metal sculptures but the blue trees and the yellow and orange birds are made of fiberglass. They have to be, otherwise, it would raise structural costs. Fortunately, there are no strong winds here in Dubai—nothing like the cyclone winds we get in the Philippines. But they do have the occasional sandstorm.
I’m also super excited because we’ll get to see what Bangkôta looks like with lights. We’re just waiting for the blue hour which comes around 6:30, 6:45 PM.
Tomorrow, we’ll see all the trees in place. Simultaneously, we’ll finish all the interiors of the café and the Marahuyo shop, and check what the workers do about the gray walls. There are textures and curves that need cleaning up and refinishing—it’s all about quality control now.
I can’t wait for Marian Roces, our curator, to get here on the 17th. Budji will be arriving on the 27th. And then, we’ll all fly back to Manila on October 3rd.
On Wednesday, we’re being interviewed by Steve Harvey! If he calls this the Colombia pavilion, I’ll remind him it’s the Philippines Pavilion, haha!
Every day is an exciting day. It’s hard to sleep at night! But I don’t mind not sleeping—I am super, super excited. I really hope that the pandemic eases up and people can come and see the Expo. I’ve been telling architect friends that when they feel comfortable about traveling, the Expo is a must-see. Not because of my work. Although I really do believe we’ve been able to achieve here a truthful expression of the modern Filipino.
The construction isn’t perfect. Siyempre, gusto natin perpekto, malinis, kung anong naisip mo, eksaktong ganun ang gusto natin. Striving for perfection—there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s the ideal. But there is no compromise on the impact, so that’s what makes me happy.
That and my journey as an architect involved in nation-building—it just keeps getting better. From NAIA 1 and then the SEA Games, then working with the government for exhibitions, working on Clark airport, and Mactan airport. It’s a different challenge each time. But this time, I feel, the architecture is as honest as it can get. And the whole world will see it, Judith. •
Modern Bayanihan Philippine Creative Team
Artistic and Thematic Direction
Curation and Content Development
Marian Pastor Roces
Design & Build, RAQ Contracting Co.
Landscape Architecture, Al Shomoos
Exhibitions, Creative Services by Christopher Draye
Exhibitions, Audio-Visual Content by Beyond Limits
Exhibitions by Star Springs
Cultural Expressions & Design
Furniture & Fit-Out Design by Budji Layug, B&R Solutions
Artisanal Objects by Bros Mastermind
Arts & Crafts by Common Room
Arts & Crafts by Go Lokal!
Arts & Crafts, Fashion by Marahuyo Designers
Fashion by Ezra Santos
Gastronomy by Jovy Tuaño
Abdulmari Toym Imao
Baby & Coco Anne
Riel Jamarillo Hilario †
Scott “Gutsy” Tuason
Original music by Dr. Ramon Pagayon Santos
Show Production (dance, music) by Nestor Hardin & Silang Communications
Dance and Choreography by Denisa Reyes & JM Cabiling
Music by Tereza Barroso
New Media & Audio-Visuals
Animation by Avid Liongoren, Rocketsheep Studios
Video Production by Manny Angeles, Twenty Manila
Game Development by James Palabay, Digital Art Chefs
Film, Advertising, Software by BBDO Guerrero
Exhibitions, Audio-Visual Content by Beyond Limits
Media, Broadcasting & Audio-Visuals
News Creation, Publication by New Perspective Media
Broadcasting, Television, Advertising by ABS-CBN TFC Dubai, Metro Group
Broadcasting, Television, Advertising by GMA, CNN