Articles Special Article Heritage Vs Progress: How Should We Approach Architecture?

Heritage Vs Progress: How Should We Approach Architecture?

The heritage debate is one that's been had in many industries and fields, architecture one of them. Here's why we think it's important to recognize the tangible benefits of technology and progress without forgetting one's heritage in designing and building structures.

Some believe that in order to truly develop a place, one must forgo the old and build new structures with contemporary designs and modern materials. Others believe in the power of a deep understanding of history and a sense of identity and integrity in cultivating lasting progress, both of which are visualized in the form of architecture.

The heritage conservation versus modern development debate is nothing new, with many choosing to just demolish historical structures for public and private works, and others aggressively protecting heritage sites without really discerning how best to address the current needs of the community.

There's great value in continuing to progress as a nation and using science and technology to better lives, and just as much merit in preserving generations-old art and design that speak about our national history. The task is to understand the advantages of both and learn how to pursue one without sacrificing the other.

Heritage home in Bataan, Philippines built during the Spanish colonial era

Heritage Conservation: A Unique Personality That Informs

Heritage refers to traditions and resources that have been passed down from generation to generation. By definition it can be anything from natural resources and biodiversity to tangible cultural artifacts, folklore to food to industry, so long as they carry a place's history. Heritage conservation, following the previous denotation, means careful use and protection of these cultural markers in order to keep them intact for the future. Protecting one's heritage must incorporate the historical, natural, and cultural aspects.

Heritage conservation is an important practice that builds national identity and pride. A rich cultural history not only tells us what our ancestors have lived through but also creates that space for shared experience and unbridled pride for what is uniquely ours. This integrity and pride is especially evident in architectural works that are consumed by the general public, and shared with others who have a profound appreciation for history and culture.

Conservation of heritage landmarks and structures encourages local participation and builds community around a common resource. When one sees a historical building, one is motivated to learn more about the design, the purpose, the history behind the structure. And when said heritage site is available to the public, it can bring forth conversations that push culture forward. Historical structures are physical embodiments of factual history, and cannot easily be rewritten by progress for the sake of progress.

Skyline shot of Bonifacio Global City, Manila, Philippines

Progress And Development: A Timely Project That Serves

There is the notion that for society to see progress, we must focus on modernizing our resources and developing our landscapes. This means concretizing our structures and building anew to allow for technology to be integrated into the space.

Technology and industrialization arose from society's need to feed and provide for a growing population at a faster rate. Development and progress meant quick delivery of products and services, in order to meet the equally fast pace of a modern person's lifestyle. One tends to use tech in a utilitarian manner, with appliances and wares functioning based on need.

Modern technology focuses on utility, and serves to make daily life easier. Technology and progress allow us to do more and create more by making us more efficient when it comes to accomplishing our tasks and running our errands. Think of smart home systems that automate appliances and light switches, or superphones that can access home security software.

In terms of architecture, building modern structures assumes the current needs and demands of the environment, economy, and people. As the population continues to grow, demand for space spikes and real estate shrinks. In turn, high-rise buildings and structures have become popular for developers.

Modern construction from materials to the way structures are built also serves to be financially efficient for developers and cities alike. This is why a place like the City of Manila is opening up its spaces for developers to demolish and construct atop the lots that used to house older houses and buildings.

While there are sound benefits to focusing on progress and modernity when it comes to architecture, there are just as many strong points in promoting heritage conservation. Heritage is a source of national identity and culture, while urban development serves our basic needs and boosts the economy. What then is the best way to approach architecture and design?

Low and tall buildings in Manila, Philippines with boats running across the river

Preservation With Innovation: The Way Of The Future

They say history has a way of repeating itself, and thus it is important to consider past traditions and events when planning out the future. The truth is, inclusive and sustainable development is impossible without the recognition of a common history and culture. Natural and cultural heritage can drive development, by way of local tourism and jobs, enhanced knowledge and education among folk, and community-building that's participatory and positive.

In architecture and design, we must approach conservation and preservation of our historical landmarks and structures by thinking of how best to use our culture and heritage to influence modern development. The world is not how it was years ago, and therefore we must learn how to make our old designs relevant to the people of today.

Let's breath new life into our historical buildings, and reuse them for a different purpose if possible. The Luneta Hotel on Kalaw Avenue, an example of French Renaissance architecture, was built in 1919, and relaunched in 2014 with the Philippine historical arm. The Nielson Tower built in the 1930s originally designed as a control tower of an airport is now home to fine dining restaurant Blackbird. Heritage houses like the American Colonial Molo Mansion in Iloilo City and the Art Deco-styled Maria Ledesma Golez Ancestral House in Negros Occidental have been repurposed to become a retail store and a local bank office respectively.

These landmarks do not only possess unique personalities but they also have the ability to inspire people to learn from past art and create designs that truly transform. Using these existing builds to house trendier outfits like libraries, bars, and shopping establishments makes way for our culture to evolve and meet our present demands without erasing what was known before. If we are able to do adaptive reuse and save pieces of our colorful history all while making them function in ways we need them today, why shouldn't we?