A game changer in ar­chi­tec­ture

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS -

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.

Plaza

De­sign for the Supreme Court of the Philip­pines

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