Carlo Calma Scores Double Win at WAFX

Calma gets Food and Construction Technology Category nods for a futuristic eco-tourism complex in Cagbalete and a stilted highrise in Laguna, designed by Sou Fujimoto

Images Carlo Calma Consultancy is an official media partner of the World Architecture Festival 2021
Juan Carlo Calma; Sou Fujimoto, JP Calma, Juan Carlo Calma and Ed Calma for Philippine Tatler. Photography by Marc Go

Filipino architect Carlo Calma of Carlo Calma Consultancy has done the unprecedented by nabbing two category wins at this year’s WAFX Awards, one for Food (Cagbalete Sand Clusters) and for Construction Technology (Museum for Architecture + Residences, with lead designer Sou Fujimoto Architects). He joins World Architecture Festival veteran WTA Architecture and Design at the WAFX winners table, the latter getting the plum prize for the Water category with Horizon Manila. The WAFX Awards, which was launched back in 2017, is given annually to “the world’s most forward-looking architectural concepts” with twelve projects awarded for their responses to some of the world’s most challenging issues: Climate, Energy & Carbon; Water; Food; Ageing; Health; Re-use; Smart Cities; Construction Technology; Cultural Identity; Ethics and Values; Social Equity; and Digital Technology.

No Pinoy entrant has so far won two category prizes for individual projects during the World Architecture Festival (WAF) till Calma’s WAFX showing and this marks the first time two wins are netted by individual Pinoy firms in the Future Projects category. This is only half the battle however as the three winning entries are automatically granted shortlist status at this year’s much-delayed edition of the WAF, booking its architects a ticket to the live crits. The projects are up for both category wins and the coveted Building of the Year award under the Future Projects division, all of which are to be decided in front of a live audience and jury in Lisbon, Portugal, from December 1 to 3, 2021.

Coming from the illustrious Calma clan, Carlo Calma is no WAF newbie; he gave a memorable performance at WAF’s previous edition back in 2019 with a short film showcasing both his architecture and propensity for creative cross-pollination; he gave the jury and his live audience a cinematic tour of his Future Project House category entry, Infinity House by way of an entrancing dance sequence performed by Ballet Philippines, with costumes by renowned artist Leeroy New. Calma’s WAFX winning projects are every bit as daring and forward-looking as his previous WAF submission; it is not hard to see why the WAFX jury decided to bestow him the two category honors.

Carlo Calma’s short film on WAF 2019 Future Project House Category entry, Infinity House
Snaps from the World Architecture Festival’s 2019 edition, where Carlo Calma’s Infinity House was shortlisted for the Future Projects House category. Fellow Pinoy shortlisted firms include Alero Design Studio, Zubu Design Associates and Kenneth Cobonpue, and JRS + Partners.

GROHE Philippines Country Manager Joralyn Ong, who was present at the crit session in Amsterdam was pleasantly surprised: “Carlo is just super creative, artistic and his ideas are out-of-the-box and unconventional; he was really nervous at first but his enthusiasm eventually came through and he had a beaming aura throughout his presentation. He just enjoyed the crit. I recalled when he said, it is ok if I will not win today, I will just join next year!”

Rosemarie Ong, SEVP and COO of Wilcon Depot, WAF founding partner GROHE’s exclusive distributor in the Philippines, offered her congratulations and support to both Carlo and William Ti, Jr. of WTA with a short message: “It was a great feat, making it again (to the WAF) despite all the challenges in these uncertain times. You guys are indeed a force to be reckoned with, someone our future architects can really look up to. May your recent awards inspire more Filipino architects to push themselves and bring Pinoy talent to the global stage.”

Kanto was able to do a quick interview with Carlo Calma a day before the WAFX winners announcement where we talked to him about his wins, learnings from his previous WAF experience, and got to know his two winning projects a little more intimately.

On Joining the WAF

What changes or preparations will you do for your second stint at the WAF Future Projects category deliberations in Lisbon? We (and the jury) were entranced by the avant-garde dance sequence you helped orchestrate to showcase your shortlisted entry last 2019!

We are truly honored to represent the Philippines with our two winning WAFX entries! We are slated to present at the WAFX Futures Event on July 13, 6:30-8:00 pm (for our Construction Technology winner, Museum for Architecture + Residences) and 9:00pm-10:30pm (for our Food category entry, Cagbalete Sand Clusters) Manila Time. For our presentation in Lisbon, we aim to share with the WAF jury status updates for the two projects, as well as additional experimentations or processes we’ve performed for each. Museum for Architecture + Residences is slated to have its groundbreaking by September 2021, and we would have completed the first phase of the Cagbalete Sand Clusters (the private house component) come December of this year. While we are still in the mockup and prototyping phase for the projects, I’m sure we’ll have a chance to produce another fun and cool film a little later!

What lessons and learnings from your previous WAF experience struck you the most?

Last year was my first time joining the WAF. I originally didn’t know what it was but when I saw one of my teachers from the Architectural Association, Alison Brooks. I was like, maybe it would be interesting to join! I’ve been practicing for 12 years here in Manila, privileged to work with a great team of architects, engineers, and artists…and now my old mentor has become a colleague in the field! We made sure to have dinner in Amsterdam during WAF last year. I think she is again one of the guest panelists for the WAFX Construction Technology session.

Okay, back to the question…I originally submitted ‘Infinity House’ in the Completed House category but was surprised when I got the email that the jury has decided to include it in the Future category instead. I no longer questioned it, but looking back, maybe the photographs I submitted of the project looked like rendered perspectives. This time I made sure that our WAF boards were clear and precise, from the manifesto text to the type of visuals used to communicate the project accurately. It’s definitely a learning experience! I’m glad to share that the Infinity House has since then won recognition in other design and award-giving bodies.

You one-upped yourself this year with two project wins at WAFX, one for food (Cagbalete Sand Clusters) and for construction technology (Museum for Architecture + Residences). What pushed you to join WAF again and what convinced you to enter these two projects in particular?

Both projects are developments of Calma Properties Inc.—–Cagbalete Sand Clusters is actually my brother’s pet project (C Ideation), one that was started at the onset of the pandemic last year.

He was looking for an island and a place to escape; it was a time where people were very isolated in their homes and this sudden pause in the daily grind gave us time to ponder existence and the bigger issues at hand. The biggest threat looming on the horizon of course is climate change, and this is something we wanted our developments to address.

For Cagbalete, my brother found this place that was three hours away by car, with a 15-minute boat ride, and saw a lot of potential in the location and surrounding context. We saw a chance to do something great and different here. We are presently working with experts from different fields for this project—award-winning chefs, botanists, historians, anthropologists, local fishermen, and of course, the immediate community. We seek to create a new eco-tourism typology, one grounded in sustainability, self-sufficiency, and community, uplifting the area’s culture of farming and fishing but also offering new and innovative ways of construction, food production, and leisure.

Our work for The Museum for Architecture + Residences, designed by Sou Fujimoto, also seeks to question present norms by daring to explore new ways of facilitating and supporting life; the unique design pushes the boundaries and capabilities of construction technology but also our preconceived notions of the residential tower typology.

Has the pandemic in any way changed how you approach design? Has it hampered you or opened you to new ways of designing spaces?

We have always believed in integrating sustainability plugins into our projects on different scales—but even more so now, and on a much larger scale. Our present situation encourages one to reevaluate and question our present building standards: what did and didn’t work? What can we do to innovate and do better? This is especially vital in the areas of MEPF which sometimes just uses what is standard. I would say that our studio’s belief in cultural authenticity, being unafraid to experiment, and always viewing projects with a sustainable lens has enabled us to be nimble and prepared in this ‘new normal’; One thing that did hamper us a bit is the work-from-home setup; we are implementing a sort of hybrid system where alternating teams go to the office weekly.

What would you say is the importance of joining competitions?

Competitions are a great way to promote and encourage discourse on architecture and its implementation around the world; it also offers a chance for practitioners to learn and collaborate with each other.

Cagbalete Sand Clusters (WAFX Food Category Winner)

Our proposal is to create a new sustainable typology for eco-tourism, one that uplifts the local culture, which revolves around farming and fishery. We desired to create an ecology that is community-building and nurturing towards its surrounds, a dynamic space for both its inhabitants and visiting tourists. This intermingling is vital to us as an archipelagic country of 7,641 islands, each with its own distinct cultural and natural identities.

We want to clearly explore the inherent values of locality and sense of place in this project but through more ethical means of development. Our project integrates the programmatic and cultural context of its locale into the architecture, essentially a unit system, pre-fabricated set of parts that could grow horizontally or vertically.

The client wanted to create farm lots in a 3.8-hectare property in Cagbalete Island, Quezon province. With a radial site development, we created a hyperbolic cluster unit system largely inspired by corals since the location boasts rich marine life and biodiversity.

The resulting structure is a mixed-use development: a private family home and a farm-to-table restaurant that focuses on using endemic plant species and seasonal mudcrab farming. We’ve found that mudcrab farming can help prevent soil erosion and that the activity can also help protect the existing biodynamic mangroves in the area. We have also introduced local hapa nets into the design as a kind of membrane that gets mixed with local sand, soil, and mud, resulting in a new and localized patina, a biophilic membrane that creates an interesting footprint with the hyperbolic possibilities it offers. The hapa nets also function as a ‘veil’ over the structure, a translucent skin that masks sun and rain but also serves as informal sleeping areas (mosquito beds) for afternoon siestas. We have elevated the humble hapa net into something beyond its utilitarian origins; it is now both part of the structure’s construction membrane, a tool for food production, and a web that facilitates the daily activities of the structure’s inhabitants, enmeshing time, culture and space.

We envision a farm-leisure community that is self-sustaining, where electricity is produced from bespoke solar umbrella pods, and where the spaces largely utilize natural ventilation. We want to blur the boundaries between what is natural and artificial in this structure, opening it to transformation throughout different seasons, rain or shine. A wellness grotto with salt water is also present, together with mud and dipping pools where a sensorial experience awaits its users.

At night, the development shines and transforms into this glowing, plankton-like space with multi-level galleries, performance spaces, and lighthouse functionality.

Calma on the Cagbalete Sand Clusters

Are the bespoke solar umbrella pods existing innovations that can already be utilized?

The bespoke solar umbrella pod is an innovation we are crafting to get around the limitations of standard solar panels, which are flat and inflexible. The solar umbrella pod consists of a sculptural umbrella module whose curved, sculptural surfaces are wrapped by a thin, flexible film.

The structure’s organic shapes are eye-catching and hardworking at the same time; have you done mockups or feasibility studies/research into technologies that can enable the practical production of these forms?

Yes, we are currently doing the molds, mockups, and prototype testing as we speak. We are making them in GFRP (Glass Fiber Reinforced Polymer) but we are making experiments using hapa nets (a material tied to the cultural identity of Filipino fisheries, mud-crab farming, and the kulambo mosquito nets) as both the interior and exterior membrane. The process is actually similar to doing papier mache!

GFRP is a sustainable material because you are mixing recycled materials with local sand. We also made an efficient way to prefabricate it by having only five modules that you can reconfigure and rotate. The construction methodology for creating the GFRP modules involves having that special admixture, formworks, and unit system prefabricated and assembled on site. GFRP is also very lightweight so it can be easily sited in various locations or islands. We are also experimenting with doing away with standard steel rebars for less corrosive and rust-free alternatives that can help the structure last more than a hundred years.

What really excites me though is the resulting materiality of the hapa nets we are experimenting with and its cultural and biophilic potential!

This project is heavily inspired and shaped by its context but one wonders if such an approach to sustainable tourism can be replicated in other locations as well?

We actually want this to happen; we want to know the necessities and possibilities of seeding this idea in different locations. Our proposal began as a family home that then expanded to a farm-to-table restaurant, then to multilevel galleries, wellness saltwater grotto pools, plant and mudcrab farming spaces, and even a lighthouse! The possibilities are exciting! The structure’s hyperbolic system allows for horizontal and vertical growth.  The island, with its almost thousand-strong community of fishermen can even use the existing molds of the development to create a unique village. What is interesting and sacrosanct to us is that amidst the multitude of functions and configurations in our design, we want to make sure that our ethical and social responses are undiluted; this is an approach that is seldom seen in leisure, agricultural, or resort-type destinations. We definitely want this model to succeed and see it applied amidst the various cultural and natural identities that we harbor in our islands.

The Philippines is one of the world’s most volatile places to live in terms of natural disasters; what are the ways you’ve fortified the structure against the forces of nature?

The structure is designed as a unit-system, lightweight, with prefabricated parts and a GFRP hyperbolic shell structure, GFRP being a strong material that can withstand natural disasters. The structure will also have strong foundations in its pivot points as well. The usage of local sand not only provides contextual patina but also contributes to the structure’s strength by mixing with the GFRP, a hybrid material that has also been used in boat construction.

  • Project Team
  • Client: C Ideation
  • Lead Architect/s: Carlo Calma Consultancy Inc. (CCC Inc.) (Philippines)
  • Consultants: Multi Development & Construction Corporation (MDCC) (Philippines)
  • Gallery by Chele (Philippines)

  • Museum for Architecture + Residences
  • (WAFX Construction Technology Category Winner, Designed by Sou Fujimoto Architects)

The cultivation of terraced fields have been practiced by indigenous Filipinos for over 2,000 years. It embodies a sustainable relationship between humans and their habitat. The site for this project also used to host rice paddies. Our desire for the Museum for Architecture + Residences is to characterize this integration between the built and natural environment.

The spaces within the tower can be utilized in a multitude of ways, so that when assembled, it enables a new typology for living. The modules offer a range of culturally and personally significant programs that harbor the needs and wants of the 21st century denizen. We also took inspiration from the space programming and form of the traditional Bahay Kubo (cube house), an elevated home constructed from a bamboo grid structure; our take derives from its essence and allows the modules to be stacked on top of the other, offering the desired flexibility to host the demands of a modern lifestyle.

When combined with fauna, the tower then becomes a vertical forest. This connection to nature in an urban context makes for a dwelling that relates both to the human scale and that of expansive landscape that has inspired its design vision.

Calma on the Museum for Architecture + Residences

Curiously, you have chosen to build this intriguing structure far from the reaches of the city. Why so? Why is its current location the best one for it?

Nuvali in Sta. Rosa, Laguna is a gateway development to the holiday town of Tagaytay, and there’s a growing number of people who want to live outside the city (especially since the pandemic) to be more connected with nature. It helps that the location is just a 30-minute drive from Makati City and the newly-opened CALAX Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay expressway. There is already a sense of community there, with top schools, and major retail and commercial establishments. Nuvali is also a great fit for our development in that it also champions sustainability and offers healthier environs for living. You also can’t forget the immaculate views of both Mount Makiling (facing east and the highest feature of the Laguna volcanic field) and the Sierra Madre mountain range, the longest in the Philippines. Like much of the development, our project site used to be home to rice paddies. The gridded forms of the tower are a homage to the language of architecture, and also a literal frame for the majestic mountain views its inhabitants can enjoy; because of the building’s light construction, in a sense, it blurs with the surrounding, becoming one with the view.

One can see both Filipino and Japanese influences in the design; in what ways do Filipino and Japanese sensibilities cohere and differ?

Designer Sou Fujimoto calls his creation, “Cloud Tower” but also found inspiration from the natural and very rural surrounds, a scene that is not altogether different from Japan. He also drew from the bamboo grid system of the traditional ‘Bahay Kubo’, modernizing its essence to form the stacked modules that characterize the structure. The tower also showcases how the two cultures mentioned both have a rich tradition in crafting and are both home to great craftsmen.

Putting trees on buildings is an often-used trope in architecture; how does the design account for the weight of the vegetation alongside the expected loads of each floor? How will the vegetation (and its inhabitants) withstand the inevitable natural disaster as its open location leaves it at the brunt of the elements?

The intent was to have potted plants and trees instead of having soil on the balconies; this would require less maintenance and the point loads of each pot can be individually identified already.

Currently, the areas for trees come in three different heights: 4.5 meters, 7 meters, and 10 meters. With the help of the wind tunnel studies we’ve conducted, we were able to locate each of the trees with the actual simulated weather on the site, assuring that the forces of the elements are minimized. Each pot is anchored to the cantilever slab and supported by cables for extra support. Moreover, the design of the grid that extends like branches actually helps in mitigating the brunt of typhoons and natural elements since they create deep canopies and are porous.

The tower’s modular grid design is eye-catching for both its simplicity and complexity; will new construction methods or technological advancements be utilized to expedite the creation of the modular elements?

There are various modular lengths and the maximum length allowed is up to 5 meters only. In consideration of the stringent manufacturing processes and practicality of mobilization, these grid members will be prefabricated and assembled on-site (no welding on-site). The connections are inspired by chidori which is a traditional Japanese joinery method that can be used to create structures of various scales through the seamless interlocking of beams.

Will there be future complementary facilities for development around the tower?

The ground floor wooden plinth actually acts as both public and private space—it can become a car canopy, even a submerged museum entrance that doubles as an arena for performance and exhibitions spaces. The site is encircled by a planned jogging path and in the east, since we have an open garden, I can see this space developing into an art hub for the community, hosting events like Art in the Park, local markets, exhibition spaces, or even artist’s stalls! •

  • Project Team
  • Client: Calma Properties Inc. (CPI)
  • Lead Architect/s: Sou Fujimoto Architects (Japan)
  • Local/Coordinating Team: Carlo Calma Consultancy Inc. (Philippines)
  • Lor Calma & Partners (Philippines)
  • Sy2 + Associates Inc. (Philippines)
  • RDA Engineering Consultants (Philippines)
  • PCS Philippines Inc. (Philippines)
  • Multi Development & Construction Corporation (Philippines)
  • AIT Solutions (Thailand)
  • Fugro USA Land, Inc. (USA, California)

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on linkedin

9 Responses

  1. Bravo, Carlo! I love the way you and your brother think. How wonderful you have the means–and more importantly, the guts and fortitude–to experiment and reach for the ideal!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *