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Architecture Where People Feel They Belong

“Winning is a blessing that was not expected,” says Benjee Mendoza, one of the principals of BAAD Studio, which the World Architecture Festival Super Jury awarded Highly Commended Future Building of the Year after BAAD won the Future Building – Civic and Community category last year in Amsterdam. “To be honest, my partner and I never joined to compete. We were intrigued by the idea of sharing who we are and how we respond to our local situations, and wanted to see how people from other countries would take it.”

The winning entry

BAAD Studio’s submission was a redevelopment plan for the Sunken Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes of Cabetican, a massive Brutalist church five to six meters buried in ash and lahar after the horrific explosions of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 and a disastrous decision by the government to divert lahar flows away from neighboring Angeles City. The trapezoidal structure, built in 1985 by Pampagueño engineer Julio Macapagal, had a sloping roof with an apex which locals claim stood 18 meters high and entrances six meters tall before the mudflows submerged the parish and surrounding towns.

Rather than denying the cataclysmic events that buried the church and excavating to restore its lofty peak and majestic entrances, BAAD Studio decided to preserve the temple as a ruin. The sunken yet beloved shrine would stand testimony to the community’s unsinkable faith and hope in the face of nature’s wrath, man’s folly, and death. BAAD followed conservation principles to ensure the integrity of the structure and redeveloped the site with infrastructure to serve the community’s needs while providing an inspiring environment in which people would seek and find solace and serenity.

On joining competitions

Asked what they think helped them win, Mendoza’s partner, An Bermejo answers: “We feel that we brought something truthful—both the story and our role in this community. We focused on the purpose and the efficacy of the solutions to the problems, rather than on defending aesthetic. Aesthetics is a subjective topic, which the WAF jury did not really care about. They cared more about the buildings’ role and functions, and how it would impact the community it serves.” Mendoza adds: “I really believe it was the pure honesty and clarity of the intent, explained thoroughly in sync with the execution of the work.”

“We focused

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