They say you actually haven't seen Vietnam until you see Ha Long Bay. Indeed, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see destination when visiting the country. The bay is dotted with spectacular limestone rock formations, islands and islets; some of the islands have enormous cave formations and lagoons. An overnight stay on a boat is a great way to experience the calm and serene bay. In the afternoon, the islands take on a warm hue. At dusk, they seem to appear ghostly; an abstracted layers and layers of shades and shadows. At early dawn, when all is peaceful and quiet, the bay takes on a soft iridescent blue. Amidst the numerous tour boats in and around the bay, Ha Long Bay offers a wonderful respite from a noisy and chaotic urban life.
Early this December my wife and I visited Siem Reap in Cambodia. The excuse was to run the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon but even without that for a reason I had been wanting to go to the fabled temples for as long as I could remember. I spent one solid day, rising in the chilly morning at 5am to catch the first rays of sunlight behind the Angkor Wat towers, riding a tuktuk to Angkor Thom and Bayon temple in the searing noonday heat and ending with a spectacular sunset behind the gnarled giant trees that have taken over Ta Prohm (the ruined temple of Tomb Raider fame).
Considering that the temples were built almost a thousand years ago, it is mind boggling how they were planned, erected and survive to this day. The blocks of sandstone and soapstone are so big and heavy that it would take a crane to lift one of them from where they lie haphazardly among the ruins -- one can imagine the amount of human and animal power it took to assemble one of the majestic towers. The surrounding walls, in some cases all that remains of temples, are admirable in their plumbness and accuracy of construction. It was truly humbling to bear witness to how the ancient Khmer civilization raised the level of planning, architecture, art, sculpture and construction a millennia ago.
Despite all the books I've read and pictures I've taken, none of them do justice to the experience of being actually on the site beneath the buildings that have borne silent witness to a thousand years of history. Enjoy the pictures, and plan for an architectural pilgrimage when able.
Game faces on.
Waiting for the gunfire.
And the Runners were off!
Bloomberg held its First Asian Leg of the Square Mile Relay challenge and WATG Singapore Office was there in a heartbeat.
A total of 160 Teams of 10 members each participated in this event set at The Promontory - Marina Bay Singapore on the 24th October 2013.
Though most of our team members were not really fit to run the race (speaking for myself) we managed to get to the finish line without passing out (or walking where the other team members could see us). Team members comprised of Myself, Mark Anthony Lagunzad; Ronaldo Lopez Josue; Yih Hsiu Yeo; Michael Pua; Reena Bapat; Natalie Shea Faber; Ashique Zaman; Ahnanchana Srichamara and Dave Moore.
Looking forward to next year's race! Training starts tomorrow!
I'd like to share my journey home to the Philippines during the week of November 18th to the 23rd. On November 17th I flew home to check on my family without any idea of where to find them or the condition of the area that they were staying. I hadn't heard from them since the the third day of Typhoon Haiyan (November 11) just after it had struck my hometown. They sent a text message saying they are all fine, after that it was six days before I heard from them again.
On the 17th of November I was on my way to the airport and received an email from my brother telling me where they were staying and that they were all okay. I was so relieved. Thank God, now I know where to go and know how to find them. I was able to find them right away on Tuesday afternoon, they were staying in a School named VUS in Baybay near Ormoc, a town directly connected to Cebu by ferry where my family is currently staying as this area was slightly less impacted by the storm.
Thursday was the earliest ferry my family and I could get to Cebu, so we still had to wait a day in Baybay. This didn't seem to matter though, as everyone was safe. With a day left to wait, I decided to go to Tacloban City to check the current situation.
It was heartbreaking to see the town where I grew up destroyed. I couldn't even recognize the place when I was there. Roofless houses, wrecked cars everywhere, people helping each other set-up a temporary shelter, people queuing for relief goods and gasoline, some looking for their families, children crying asking for help, piles of debris which used to be peoples homes and businesses. No electricity, no water, no market - most shops and malls were leveled, hospitals were destroyed, soldiers in the streets, helicopters flying overhead, the city was like a wasteland.
It will definitely take time to recover and get everything back to normal. My family has decided to stay in Cebu until electricity and security is restored in our hometown, we're hopeful that it's only two months away. I'm thankful to my WATG family for all their help and support.
Click here to find out how you can help Typhoon Haiyan survivors.
Congratulations to the entire Park Hyatt Ningbo team for winning a design award at the 2013 AIA Honolulu Design Awards Gala held at the Hawaii Prince Hotel. Park Hyatt Ningbo won an award of merit, and was the only hospitality project to win an award this year.
Each winner presented their project in a compressed Pecha Kucha style (15 slides, 15 seconds per slide). George Berean and Ruoyun Sun accepted the award on behalf of WATG, and presented the project (A copy of the presentation can be viewed here).
Some notable facts about the project:
• The site is organized as a traditional Chinese water village, to blend discretely into the surrounding vista. The natural landscape surrounding the resort sets the stage for the guests' arrival.
• Dong Qian Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Zhejiang province and one of the most scenic area in the region. Lakefront gardens and rooms oriented toward the lake takes advantage of spectacular views.
• The use of courtyards serves as a point of transition from one area to another and as a place for social gatherings, and focuses on traditional Chinese gardens with a modern twist.
• The resort is formed by traditional cultural elements, refined and contemporized in an interpretation of Southern China style with the gently sloping roof and exposed wood beams.
• With interior decorations and strategically located fireplaces, great care has been taken to maintain a seamless definition between the exterior and interior components.
• Traditional materials, stone, stucco, slate, and gray roof tiles were used extensively as permanent materials.
• An ancient family home has been restored to its original architecture and converted into a Tea House located in the center of the hotel property.
• The 700-year-old red temple has been restored and converted to a restaurant/bar and entertainment venue, blending seamlessly into the property.
• Existing stones, sculptures and Chinese ornaments was salvaged and reused.
Esri is the biggest GIS solutions company in the world and its products cover all areas from planning, government, environment, military, remote sensing and many others. Over 12,000 people attend this annual conference but only a handful are privileged enough to present there. We were fortunate enough to have ESRI show personal interest in our work with CityEngine.
I gave the presentation which was well received and the many comments which followed acknowledged that WATG is at the forefront of this design technology.
We have also made some interesting contacts within Esri and are planning to keep in close contact with their development team and see how we can help push the next releases towards the smart urban design tool that it is. We also made some contacts with other professionals working with CityEngine and hope to be able to share ideas in the future.
Another tool that was presented in the conference was a 3D plug-in for CityEngine, produced by the same company who modeled all the 3D trees in the movie "Avatar." We teamed up with them and developed a beta version to test on our next City Engine project. Naturally our expectations are very high and we are very excited to be part of this developing community.
Many speakers in the Smart Cities session called CityEngine a game changer for urban design, which we strongly believe it is and are looking forward to being part of this promising and evolving technology.
Here is my presentation:
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.
Despite the typical British summer weather (yes, grey skies and light rain) the mood was bright! WATG's event entitled "On the flipside" challenged visitors to create simple animations and rediscover the joy of quick sketching.
We managed to attract a number of eager participants, both young and old, to pick up their pens and exercise their creativity in the studio.
Quick tours around the office to showcase our current work and projects, as well as some refreshing Pimms and lemonade, were on offer and greatly enjoyed by all!
A huge well done to the team for all the preparations in the run-up to the event, and to those whom helped host on the day, making our first LFA event a great success!
WATG LFA event team: Arvind Kannan, Ioannis Kappos, Stefano Roman, Gregg Cornforth, Nick Carrier, Chin Lim, Nicole Hammond, Deborah Rosenblum, Edouard Gillon, Franciso Van Kesteren and Jacqui King
More photos from our event can be seen on our Flickr page.
Animations are posted here.
I was recently honored to be asked by my alma mater, Ball State University, to attend part of the International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) conference 2013 in Singapore, held on the campus of the National University of Singapore. The conference hosted 100 participants representing 28 universities from 18 countries.
Professor Tommy Koh gave the keynote address during which he issued a challenge to the attendees to embrace a vision of campuses as eco-cities that set the standard that the world’s metropolitan areas emulate.
In my brief time at the conference I was struck by the passion and dedication the participants bring to their efforts to create sustainable, healthy campus communities. As to be expected from a gathering of people from around the world their starting points and progress vary widely. For some the challenge is staggering, for others merely challenging.
We heard first hand accounts of small victories such as instituting water conservation techniques to success stories about newly built, net-zero energy buildings.
I took away two key points of discussion which are applicable in many of the contexts in which we at WATG find ourselves each day:
1. Values vs. value.
Reaching people by appealing to the value an idea brings to the table isn't always successful if it isn't relatable or quantifiable. Sometimes a more successful approach is to show how an idea has a direct relationship to a person’s values.
2. The analogy of a barn raising vs prefab barn in approaching a project.
The term 'barn raising,' which is a communal effort at constructing a barn, was used as an example of a way to involve as many parties as possible so that they become personally invested in a project. In contrast, a 'prefab' approach where construction of a building is done largely off site and 'appears' in place excludes many potential partners and doesn’t create a lasting, meaningful relationship to a given project.
On the 22nd of June 2013 WATG's London office will be hosting an open studio day as part of the 2013 London Festival of Architecture. This is part of the Fitzrovia Trail event where various offices in the area will be opening their doors to the public to showcase their offices and work.
WATG's event is entitled 'On the flipside' and is designed to be a fun interactive day for visitors of all ages. The day will focus on showing visitors how easy it can be to create a simple animation. The theme will be 'A Summer’s day in London' and we will be encouraging guests to use London and its fantastic array of architecture as the backdrop for their animations.
Please come along to our offices with a healthy dose of creativity to enjoy a fun animated look at London and its architecture. You will also be able to see a range of WATG’s exciting hospitality projects from all around in the world.
We look forward to seeing you at our London office between 11h00 and 15h00 on the 22nd of June.
I was privileged and honored to serve on the AIA Design Awards committee this year. In addition to meeting with respected members of the community, it was a tremendous learning experience just being in the same room with the judges and listening to them discussing design, and debating the merits of each entry.
We also visited a few of the properties on judging day.
As the jury selections were made, and the winners chosen (to be announced in July), voting opens today for AIA Honolulu's People's Choice Awards. The People's Choice Awards now includes unbuilt projects.
Click here to vote for your favorite project.
AIA members can also vote from the Jack C. Lipman AIA Members Choice Award, and there is also a Mayor's Choice Award, to be selected by Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Many thanks to Biwen Li for volunteering to help me facilitate the judging (on a Saturday), and for taking the photographs.