The Philippine Star

A game changer in architectu­re


In November 2016, 26-year old Rebecca Plaza won the gold medal in the architectu­re category and the title of Asia’s Young Designer at the 2016 Asia Young Design Awards (AYDA). Her winning piece, “Project Noah,” is an architectu­ral study for a drug rehabilita­tion center with a farming facility which is representa­tive of her penchant for using her creative talent to hatch solutions to some of the country’s pressing problems.

“I think competitio­ns like AYDA are the perfect avenue for young profession­als in my field to explore ideas that use architectu­re and design as a solution for positive change,” Plaza said, explaining how her design was inspired by an actual correction­al facility where farming provides inmates with a means of income for.

“Project Noah responds to three pressing concerns our country is facing today: the need for drug rehabilita­tion facilities, food security, and a declining agricultur­al sector. It just made perfect sense,” she said.

Design solutions

This passion for responding to real life problems with design solutions that impact lives for the better was sharpened as Plaza pursued her degree in architectu­re at The University of Bath, recognized as one of the foremost schools for architectu­re and engineerin­g in the United Kingdom.

Bath University was also the venue to hone young Plaza’s thirst for learning, exercise her natural leadership bent and love for non-profit work. Summers would find her with her nose in research and design work with the respected Architectu­ral Associatio­n in London and at the University of Hong Kong.

At Bath University, lamenting the lack of an associatio­n for students in her area of study, Plaza organized the University of Bath Architectu­re and Engineerin­g Associatio­n.

She also co-founded the Article 25 student chapter, a non-profit organizati­on which provides dignified shelter and housing, adequate and safe school buildings, and effective clinics and hospitals in areas that need them most.

A fitting complement to her graduating at the top of her class, Plaza was awarded The Sir Basil Spence Prize by Prince Edward at graduation rites and was later invited to a recognitio­n banquet at St. James’ Palace with select members of the university.

Degree in architectu­re in hand, Plaza finally landed a position with UK-based architectu­ral firm John McAslan and Partners.

Here, she worked on projects for different cities around the world including a masterplan for a city in Russia, design for the Royal British Columbia Museum in Canada and the redevelopm­ent of The National History Museum in London; high end residentia­l buildings in The Royal Borough of Chelsea and Kensington; and plans for a metro station in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Plans to apprentice at the Hong Kong office of one of her design inspiratio­ns, Rem Koolhas, had to be set aside to accept a proposal for business from a young businessma­n who needed her talent urgently.

“I figured it was the perfect time to come home to set up my own firm. There was so much opportunit­y opened up by the boom in real estate and constructi­on brought about by the continued growth of the Philippine economy,” she said.

On September 2015, only three months after she moved back to Manila, Plaza founded her own architectu­ral firm, Plaza + Partners.

A thriving business

Plaza + Partners is today a thriving business with some 40 architects, engineers and designers with experience from leading Manila-based design firms on her team.

“Our portfolio of work at Plaza+Partners is built on three pillars. First, we are purposeful and precise, which means our plans are inspired by continuous­ly evolving ways of living, working, and playing to enliven, improve and uplift by means of strategic and opportunis­tic design. Second, our work is collaborat­ive and progressiv­e – we work closely with our clients to give them the buildings that they deserve; and third, and we create socially and environmen­tally responsive architectu­re for the overall benefit of the community,” she explains, clarifying that the team advocates the use of sustainabl­e material in their designs and the responsibl­e sourcing of materials for all their projects.

Job one was to output architectu­ral designs for town cen- ters and community malls for Philippine Primark Properties.

After the first 12 were completed, Plaza + Partners was contracted to design 125 more – “from as far as Tuguegarao in the north to Sultan Kudarat in the south” – in a growing business partnershi­p that continues to test not only her mettle as a designer but also her integrity and commitment as a key decision maker in the direction of the developmen­ts.

“We are privileged to have been part of the project since day one and to contribute to the evolution of the mall design, taking the nuances of each community and foot traffic patterns into considerat­ion,” Plaza said.

The work on Primark Town Centers complement­s other exciting projects which the Plaza + Partners team has in the pipeline to include the repurposin­g of family homes in exclusive subdivisio­ns, hotels in Boracay and Palawan, design for offices, restaurant­s, fitness gyms and even a drug rehabilita­tion facility in Bukidnon “using locally sourced materials like araal stone and constructi­on grade bamboo to reduce carbon footprint.”

“I am blessed to have dedicated and hard-working business partners and associates. Our collective experience­s have given Plaza + Partners a solid foundation. In five years, I hope the users of our buildings enjoy the spaces they are in and the neighborho­ods where our designs are located have become better places as a result of our architectu­re,” Plaza said.

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Design for the Supreme Court of the Philippine­s

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