A response to: “Building Community – Architecture as living
conversation between people, place, spirit and time.”

By Alexandra Abo-Hamda

“The first space we encounter is our mother’s womb and ever since then, we’ve been longing to return to this sense of oneness.” Ar. Gregory Burgess started off with this line and much of his talk involved not only his work with communities, but stressing on defining this “oneness”, and it was curious to see how that connected later on or why it would be so important.

He went on explaining the cycles of life, death and rebirth and how the systems of nature are inevitable. An example was how a seed manages to grow in the cracks of concrete despite it being thick and un-breathable -- Realizing that the forces of nature are something that cannot be stopped.

He stated mid-way that right now, architecture has grown “inhuman”, lacking heart or connection. In the midst of all this “sustainability planning”, “green design”, bottom-up approach and social housing, how does this era lack a human touch?

I realized then, that when we’re given a project or plate, it’s always planned in an outsider point of view: “This is the site, these are the problems, these are the citizens, others affected, these are the solutions,” etc. but where does the “I” come in? It’s not so much about making your trademark as a Zaha Hadid building in any place you like, but it’s more of reconnecting yourself to the natural forces that surround you to find your place in the world. What we don’t realize is that we are a part of those strong forces that cannot be stopped, or these forces reside in us but we don’t use them.

He had a quote from Rudolf Steiner saying, “God is incomplete, but lives on in human beings and develops in living things.” This ideology that the architect likens to God is common to many. However in this context, I don’t think it means that only the architect is like God, but how each one’s godliness is tapped when we reconnect with ourselves and to the world. It was interesting that he asked not “WHO” but “HOW do you think you are?”

He said creation is formed in that middle space between “I” and “you”, or basically saying it comes from a combination of what’s within and one’s surroundings. So he ends by asking, “What is your creative response to what is around you?”

This must now reinforce our formal training of a project as something external, technical and non-inclusive. If we keep looking at the “you”, but never bothered to glimpse at the “I”, where then does our creation come from? Maybe this is why he characterized architecture being inhuman, since only half of the creation process is being acknowledged. And in this recognition of the importance of self, we can influence others to be in touch with their godliness in the spaces we create. In his process of working with the Aborigines in Australia, Ar. Burgess explained how architecture could bring about a healing process even in the conceptual and construction stages. If people feel they are being listened to and are a part of the planning and building process, then it truly is something built for a community or a society you’ve helped grow. He didn’t just literally build for a community -- he encouraged one to grow.

Artkitektura Festival focuses on advocating Organic or “Living” Architecture, which not only draws inspiration from nature, but more of a biomimicry of adapting the process or movement that nature possesses. It is a 4-part festival, with the first part last August 20-24, 2017 and the next part coming this February 2018. They are currently holding an international exhibit including the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and Antonio Gaudi at the Ayala Museum in Makati.

Photos by Arkitrato

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