By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

A better tomorrow should start at home. In the Philippines, many young Filipino designers, students, and environmentalists are into recycling and upcycling (the process of turning trash into treasure) and consciously creating livable spaces for tomorrow.

Nippon Paint’s Young Designer Awards winners “Marikina Link”, an imagining of a futuristic city.
Nippon Paint’s Young Designer Awards winners “Marikina Link”, an imagining of a futuristic city.

These young folk have a chance to show off their ideas through two recently concluded contests: the Amaia Steps Parkway Nuvali Upcycling Challenge, and the Nippon Paint Young Designer Award.

Ayala Land’s Nuvali, a sprawling 1,750 hectares of green living and working space, hosted the first Amaia Steps Parkway Nuvali Upcycling

Challenge on Oct. 25 with the hope of providing platforms for Filipino creatives to maximize their trash and turn it into treasure.

The criteria for judging include the marketability and the sustainability of the upscaled work, which is in line with Nuvali’s eco-city campaign. The 13 teams were given 24 hours to make an on-the-spot upcycled creation using plastic bottles.

Three young digital designers and graduates from the Technological University of the Philippines Manila, Danny John Kalinga, Jojean Aguilar, and Johnedel Edward Ogalesco, were declared the champions thanks to their lamp called “Bubble Corals,” inspired by bubble corals (Plerogyra sinuosa).

The lamp is made from scrap 1.5-soda bottles cut in half and put together to create a seamless ball of bottles that resembles bubble coral — or a cotton ball, a puff of cloud, or a dandelion.

“It was colored in white paint to make it simple yet modern and contemporary,” said Ms. Aguilar.

“Now that we have ideas, we want to improve (the lamp), and why not create other upcycled creations,” said Mr. Kalinga, smiling.

Their winning creation cost them less than P3,000 to make, and if they were to mass produce it, they said they would sell it at P5,000.

The trio received P100,000 for their effort.

The “Biojet” plan for a sustainable office, which is environment and people friendly.
The “Biojet” plan for a sustainable office, which is environment and people friendly.

Danilo Perez, Peter Paul Padua, and Louie Luena, whose ages range from 21 to 37, were able to make an elegant chandelier from P1,000 worth of plastic bottles and an old palanggana (a basin), that earned them the second prize in the upcycling tilt and the corresponding P50,000.

The black chandelier, with dangling bottle cap rims adding extra oomph, can fetch P3,000-P5,000 if they ever decide to mass-produce it.

“I would definitely use it at home. Anyone can do it,” said Mr. Luena.

Upcyling has always been close to Carissa Patricia E. Del Rosario’s heart, an accessory designer who works with copper wires and gemstones which she sells under the brand “The K Neutral Collection.”

“I’ve always been conscious of upcycling even before I encountered the term. When I was a kid, I used to collect tahong (mussel) shells and make them into accessories,” said the 28-year-old artist.

She took third place by using empty Mountain Dew bottles to make a table which can also be a storage chest. She screwed the scrap bottles side by side into a shape that suggests aviator sunglasses, painting some of the bottles white and leaving others untouched — the green Mountain Dew bottles suggesting the lenses of the sunglasses. The table comes with a tabletop accessory made from scrap bottle caps and wires. She spent P5,000 on the table and would, if ever, sell her creation for P8,000 to P10,000.

This is the beauty of upcycling — it preserves resources and encourages creativity, all while generating profit and making life better.

The architects and interior designers of the future who participated in the recently concluded Nippon Paint Young Designer Award (NPYDA) on Oct. 21 dream of a world that is peaceful, people-friendly, and sustainable. Their wildest, yet feasible, ideas made up the blueprint of a city of tomorrow. The theme of the contest was “Design with Heart.”

Jose Augustine Ricarte, 21, a graduating Architecture student at University of Sto. Tomas (UST), imagines his future city as cultured, colorful, and interconnected. He bested nine other young designers with his entry called “Marikina Link.” His plan was chosen as the grand winner because it is sustainable and fosters a sense of community.

He said he grew up visiting Marikina and loved its floating sculptures when he was a child. “My work was inspired from the traditional Filipino fiesta, which highlights and brings a sense of community among people,” he said. In his imagined city, he incorporated lively colors (“to de-stress the people”) while promoting open spaces, like parks, for interactions like dates and picnics.

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He said the state of the city today is dizzying with all the buildings and traffic gridlocks. “I wish for more open spaces in Metro Manila,” he said. He advocates wide and open spaces, like walkways, because they foster “people with culture.”

The budding architect’s ideas reflect the opinions of his elders in the profession.

Once upon a time, Manila used to have four big parks, including Harrison Park, a favorite hangout before World War II, said architect and 2015 Gawad CCP Para sa Sining awardee Paulo Alcazaren. Fast forward to 2015, where the lush greenery of yesterday has been replaced with the concrete and asphalt jungle called Metro Manila. “What happened to spaces?” he asked on his Facebook page.

At a recently concluded forum in Quezon City about “future-perfect” cities, urban planning expert Benjamin dela Peña said neither cars nor buildings should be the top priority when creating a city, but the people. “Pay attention to the living things — and not the cars and the buildings. Pay attention to humans when developing a city,” he said.

And not only cities, but offices, too.

People should be at the forefront when building office spaces.

Offices today are often crammed full and divided into cubicles. Tomorrow’s offices will be different. According to Gensler Design Forecast, a US-based integrated architecture, design, planning, and consulting firm, the HQs of tomorrow will shun cubicles and maximize spaces to encourage “interaction, collaboration, innovation, and promotion of a sense of community.”

Gensler’s forecast is reflected in the work of Martha Joyce Tomas, 19, a budding interior designer from UST who imagines the office of the future as a “living, breathing structure that blends with nature.” She won the NPYDA grand prize in the interior design category with her work, called “Biojet.” She said the Biojet office is open to provide ventilation (it doesn’t have air conditioners), provides for a minimum consumption of energy, and uses hues of nature like greens and blues. “Biojet” was inspired by Palawan, where her grandmother grew up, but the blueprint is applicable to Metro Manila, she said.

“Although easier said than done, I think the students, the youths, should strive to create a sustainable future together,” she said.