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The Philippine Pavilion At The 18th Venice Architecture Biennale Shines Light On Our Relationship With Water

The exhibition discusses the estuary conditions in Manila’s Tripa de Gallina and the locals’ future, while highlighting the importance of empathy, collaboration, reflection and gathering in solving environmental issues


The Philippines opened its National Pavilion at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia on May 18, 2023. It will run until November 26, 2023.


Located at the Arsenale – a main exhibition space in la Biennale alongside other national pavilions – the Philippine Pavilion features Tripa de Gallina: Guts of Estuary, by The Architecture Collective (Bien Alvarez, Matthew Gan, Ar. Lyle La Madrid, Noel Narciso and Arnold Rañada), co-curated by Architect Choie Funk and Sam Domingo.


Tripa de Gallina (translated as “guts of the rooster”) is the longest estuary in Metro Manila, and serves as a tributary among larger bodies of water in the area. Over the centuries, the estuary has been functioning mainly as a channel to mitigate flooding and drain water from various parts of the city, but has eventually become congested with residents and subsequently, polluted with trash. The exhibition addresses the unsustainable environmental and social circumstances in the area and proposes an architectural solution that highlights the significance of empathy, collaboration, reflection and gathering.


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Barangay 739 in Manila, featuring the houses fronting the site. The photo shows one of the two bridges which the pavilion drew inspiration from. | Michael Angelo Reyes, Matthew Jonathan Gan, and Bien Victor Alvarez
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The estero (creek) has been physically segmented in various portions through the use of steel, mesh and framing. Different barangays would assign cleaners to each segment. | Michael Angelo Reyes, Matthew Jonathan Gan, and Bien Victor Alvarez
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The featured exhibition offers a diagnosis of the water’s condition and a prognosis of the people’s future. In a procedure of modular urban acupuncture materialized by a bamboo structure that serves as a place of gathering and investigation, the Pavilion inspects the estuary’s guts: a flawed ecology of humans, waters, and dregs. It serves as a buoy for this mesh to be carefully unraveled and sustainable mended through collaborative action in the name of resilience. The windows in the installation provide a screen on which moving archival materials play out, testifying to a tenacious urban struggle in history. The narrative leads to the center when an immersive audio-visual encounter with the estero lurks day and night, where both videos were directed by filmmaker and educator Jag Garcia. From the groundwork, a lively prospect of the state of the entire ecology is imagined through the structure’s ethnographic projections.


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Guests of the Philippine Pavilion view the center projection showing the current state of Tripa de Gallina. | Andrea D’Altoe


The bamboo structure stems from the intention of the members of The Architecture Collective, a group of independent practitioners from the fields of architecture and community development who have collaborated to create projects that are responsive, seeking to empathize and deeply connect with the people they are building  for, while leveraging on architecture as an enabler for social connection and sustainability. With its roots as a project in 2018, the group was steered by Ar. Choie Funk to explore the circumstances surrounding Tripa de Gallina and its residents, with the hopes of creating a space that will cultivate a deeper sense of care and collaboration among the members of the community. The pollution in the waterway illustrates an issue that has been aggravated over the past century, indicating a seeming disconnection between mankind and its surroundings. Alvarez, the computational designer for the project shares his aspirations, “It’s one step to more action for our country to realize that that water is a part of our lives more than most nations. Hopefully, it's the thing that makes people realize that we should have a relationship with water.” Narciso, the project coordinator for TAC reinforces this, “I see it is a return to the water. Water is becoming less accessible every day. And I think if we don't return to it, or put it as a guiding principle in design, which is the core resource of humanity, then it is of consequence.”


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Members of the community volunteered to help with the lashing of the bamboo for the platform - a project of Global Summer School – Manila. | Michael Angelo Reyes, Matthew Jonathan Gan, and Bien Victor Alvarez


The members of TAC as well as the co-curators approach Tripa de Gallina: Guts of Estuary as an attempt to create a space that will offer an opportunity for its residents to gather, prompting more care and collaboration towards one another and their surroundings. It is a speculation of what can be, as well as a work in progress that seeks to examine the future, the community and their relationships.


Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, chief advocate of the Philippine participation in the Venice Biennale emphasizes the urgency for citizens to be more mindful of their relationship towards the waste they produce, as well as their relationships with their environment. As the author of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003, she states, “The problem affecting Estero Tripa de Gallina – and many other estuaries and waterways in the country – is no longer merely a cause for concern, but a clear and urgent emergency. The Philippine Pavilion creates a pathway for exploration and discussion on how we can take intentional action towards a more sustainable future. This exhibition serves as a foundation for the hope of cleaner surroundings and stronger relationships.”


“Through the exhibition, the world will have the opportunity to understand the realities faced by Filipinos and realize that this issue is something that they too are facing, potentially cultivating more in-depth and meaningful discussions that leads to collective action and a more sustainable future,” shares National Commission of Culture and the Arts Chair and Philippine Pavilion Commissioner Victorino Mapa Manalo.


Experience the Philippine Pavilion at the 18th Venice Architecture Biennale through the gallery below:

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The Philippine participation at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia is a collaborative undertaking of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Office of Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda. The Commissioner of the Philippine Pavilion is Victorino Mapa Manalo, Chairman of the NCCA.


The Philippine Pavilion will also be made accessible through its digital programs and virtual tours, which will be accessible to the public, anywhere in the world. To learn more about this, visit philartsvenicebiennale.org. See updates on Facebook and Instagram via @philartsvenice.