Saturday, September 5, 2015

Estudio Damgo Site Visits and Surveys

Estudio Damgo IV students visit Estudio Damgo I, Dungga Classroom, located in the rural mountain village of Maluanay Valencia.
As part of the research extension program, Foundation University is conducting post-occupancy evaluations on the first, three Estudio Damgo structures to improve future projects for its long-term success. Led by research faculty, Ma'am Geraldine Quinones, former Estudio Damgo project manager, Anna Koosmann, and assisting Estudio Damgo student alumni, are gathering qualitative data from community residents, beneficiaries, and barangay council members from each project site.

Dungga Classroom
Dungga Classroom was the pilot project for FU's architecture design-build studio.  It's been over two years since the building was turned over to the community in March 2013. Overall, the building is in great condition.  The bamboo structure is showing only minimal signs of weathering and the only serious issue we found was one of the exterior, structural poles is infested with bees.  The building has received positive feedback from the community, indicating an increase in student attendance and the space is used for monthly parent-teacher meetings.  Also, the building now supports a feeding program organized by the city's Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).  The community has embraced the structure and is maintaining it, which has led to additional site improvements at the school grounds.
Estudio Damgo IV student, walks on a new concrete path which was added to the school grounds within the past year.

An outdoor kitchen has been built next to Dungga Classroom.

DSWD's tarpaulin sign for the feeding program at Dungga Daycare.

At Estudio Damgo's second project we took surveys from 7 Core Shelter community members.  The surveys reveal that the residents are satisfied with the multipurpose hall design and performance of the structure after one year of use.  During the survey discussions, the president of Core Shelter, Jona David, expressed her gratitude for the building.  She reflected that before the multipurpose hall was built, residents would meet in one of the houses to hold community meetings.  There are over 50 households in the community.  The homes are small, one-room spaces that hold no more than 10 people comfortably.  Before, not all residents felt welcomed to join the discussions.  If they did attend meetings, residents would stand in the street or outside the window to participate.  Now, community meetings are filled with 50-60 residents at each meeting.  The multipurpose hall can accommodate at least one representative from each household to participate in under one roof.  The president emphasized, by having a neutral space, it has largely benefited the community to resolve conflicts.  Before, conflicts between two families would be addressed in a third-party home.  Now, the multipurpose hall creates a neutral and safe space to have meaningful  discussions, creating harmony among the community.  It was also expressed that the residents prefer to use the multipurpose hall to resolve issues rather than going to the barangay hall.

Estudio Damgo II, Multipurpose Hall for the flood survivors at Core Shelter.  Residents are growing vegetable starts in pots along the exterior of the building.

Using the multipurpose hall, Ma'am Gerldine Quinones, discusses the survey with the president of Core Shelter, Jona David.

Estudio Damgo alumni assist the research and building assessment.
After assessing the condition of the building structure, remarkably the bamboo columns and truss members are weathering well after one year.  The research team has taken notes on areas to maintain and repair, so that the community to make full use of the building, like: access to medical services and adult training.

Estudio Damgo's third project was just launched and turned over to the beneficiaries on July 6, 2015.  The two month old floating pyramid is a marine sanctuary center for the fish wardens near Silliman Beach in Barangay Bantayan, Dumaguete.  After surveying 7 residents living along the shore, we learned that the community and the fish wardens are generally happy about the new floating structure.  They believe it is a great addition to keep surveillance and monitor illegal fishing in the area; however, they expressed concerns about the upcoming typhoon season this November.  They think the strong winds will cause high waves and damage the structure.  Time will reveal how well the structure can handle the environment.  

Regardless of any concerns, the residents have discovered larger fish in the area since the launch of the floating structure.  The pyramid is creating a protected habitat beneath the structure, which provides shade and the growth of sea grass.  This is a good sign that the structure is contributing to the local fish population in size and numbers, as well as staving off illegal fishing boats.  In addition to being a structure that watches over the area, the Marine Sanctuary Center is designed for tourists and public access.  Unfortunately, the barangay council members have posted a very clear sign stating, "Notification Prohibited.  Anyone caught using the marine guard house will be arrested and fined."  Geraldine and I will be attending the next barangay council meeting to discuss the intended use of the sanctuary and hopefully make an agreement between the community and the barangay for its intended use as a public structure. 

Estudio Damgo III, the Marine Sanctuary Center.

Exterior view of the Marine Sanctuary Center.

Interior view of the Marine Sanctuary Center.

The clearly posted sign stating, "Anyone caught using the marine guard house will be arrested and fined."

Estudio Damgo alumnus surveys the residents.

The positive reactions expressed by the community from all three projects, are fuel for Foundation University's Estudio Damgo program to continue creating meaningful structures that enable positive change within the community.  Overall, we're learning that each building has been well received by community residents and beneficiaries.  The qualitative research and post-occupancy evaluations will contribute to the program's success and longevity.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Return to Dumaguete City, Philippines

Atop C&L Bay View, one of the new hotels in Dumaguete City with a rooftop vista and skyline. - Photo by Hersley-Ven Casero

After 15 months of living in the United States and establishing myself as a licensed architect, networking and acclimating back to cooler seasons in Minnesota, I have returned to Dumaguete City and Foundation University as a Fulbright Scholar with the Philippine-American Education Foundation, to continue the efforts with the first design-build architecture program in the Philippines.

My return to Dumaguete City and Foundation University has been most welcoming.  I arrived about a month ago, and it's taken me that long to adjust, sit down and actually write a blog.  This is the first time in my 36 years that I have returned to a city to re-live it.  Since leaving home at 18 bound for college, I've moved over 18 times in my adult life.  The idea of "home" has always been temporary.  Although, every place that I've lived, whether it was four months or four years, I've settled into the space to make it my home.  It's been a pattern in my life that I continue to move, relocate, and expand my opportunities, usually for work or educational purposes.  But this temporary move to Dumaguete City is much different.  For the first time, I've moved back to a familiar place while also expanding my career, without hitting the reset button.

When I arrived in Dumaguete for the first time in 2012 (see post), everything was so fresh and limitless.  The new adventure to a new land for a new job and foreign culture, was a risk and leap in my life that kept me on high while I was living here.  After adjusting to life in America and my culture, returning back to the same places, faces, and even the same housing community (different unit, same layout) in the Philippines, lacks the luster from which it all started.  Lacking luster isn't bad, boring, or less than.  Rather, it's comfortably familiar and I often find myself nostalgic for the city I knew in 2012.  I've been so use to change and moving onto the next opportunity in my life, that for the first time, I'm realizing I want things to stay the same.  Friends that were once living here, have left.  I was looking forward to getting my hair cut with the trendy Korean hairdresser, but soon learned, she has also left.  I keep re-living restaurants and venues I frequented in 2012, to find some have closed, others have expanded, changing the way I once remembered them.  My biggest impression after returning to this place is just how fast this city is developing.

I am happy I was able to experience Dumaguete City in 2012, because now in 2015 it seems more metropolitan.  There are more foreigners on the streets, and restaurants offering foreign dishes.  And the traffic (which was once bad) is almost intolerable at times and more dangerous.  Dumaguete City, was once a stopover for Apo Island diving tourists.  It is now a place for retiring ex-pats.  There has also been an influx of Korean's making Dumaguete their home.  Alternative education opportunities catering to Korean students are attracting middle class youth to the area.  But the integrity of Dumaguete has not changed, it is the "city of gentle people" and the home of so many helpful, smiling, native faces.

I'm taking the time to simply just take it all in.  After all, I only have five months and learning that I can't actually re-live a place and my past experiences, instead, I am experiencing Dumaguete anew and realizing that "we can never go back to a place to find it exactly where we left it.  Some things, somewhere, will always have changed mostly ourselves." -Taiye Selasi (TED talk Don't Ask Where I'm From, Ask Where I'm Local)