The Philippines Bags Its First Biennale Architettura Award With 'Structures of Mutual Support'
Structures of Mutual Support, the brainchild of Gawad Kalinga (GK) Enchanted Farm Community, Architects Sudarshan V. Khadka Jr, and Alexander Eriksson Furunes received the first-ever award from the prestigious Venice Biennale. The project was given a Special Mention for its “exemplary community project that creates a rich archive and experience of collaborative construction practices.”
Out of all the 60 participants, only two countries were bestowed with the accolade. Aside from the Philippines, the Russian Pavilion curated by Ippolito Pestellini Laparelli with the exhibition, Open, received the same recognition.
The said Philippine Pavilion exhibition for this year explores the essence of bayanihan and the Norwegian dugnad in an attempt to understand the importance of infusing such traditions and strategies in modern times. It proudly invests in the process of building spaces and structures that passionately strengthen social relationships, reciprocity, and solidarity.
Khadka, Furunes, together with 32 representatives of GK Enchanted Farm put together a library in Bulacan that features a raised platform that invites people inside. It was dismantled and carefully shipped to Venice, Italy for the prestigious bi-annual exhibition.
The international jury was chaired by Kazuyo Sejima (Japan) and composed of Sandra Barclay (Peru), Lamia Joreige (Lebanon), Lesley Lokko (Ghana-Scotland), and Luca Molinari (Italy). The awards were presented to Architects Khadka and Furunes last August 30, 2021 at Ca’ Giustinian, the headquarters of La Biennale di Venezia.
During the awards ceremony in Venice, curator Furunes thanked the organisation for “recognising that bayanihan and dugnad (which means 'mutual support' in Norway) can be real alternatives to how we can live together. The way we build is really the way we live. So this is really important to us.”
This is the first time for the country to receive such honour ever since it participated in the Venice Art Biennale in 1964. “The Philippines has only started participating again in the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016 and this was only our third official participation as National Pavilion in Architecture. To receive this award is humbling and encouraging that we must continue sending our talents to the Venice Biennale so they can represent our realities as a nation and contribute to meaningful changes to the world,” stated Arsenio “Nick” Lizaso, the Philippine Pavilion Commissioner and Chairman of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Antique's lone district representative Loren Legarda, the main proponent and visionary of the Philippine participation in the Biennale sent her regards to Khadka, Furunes, and the GK community. “What is important is that we can tell the world that existing practices of our nation, such as bayanihan and our strong sense of community, can be solutions to the world’s most pressing issues. We eagerly await for the exhibition to return to the Philippines, back to the GK Enchanted Farm community, where it will no longer be a piece for the exhibition but a built object, its use to be defined by the community and enjoyed by its members,” she concluded.
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The exhibition will run until November 21, 2021, and the library, which was shipped to Venice before the lockdown last year, will be shipped back to the GK Enchanted Farm community in Angat, Bulacan where it will be built and used by the community permanently.