Chapel, Chosen Children Village Foundation, Philippines

Stan Allen has built a chapel in the Philippine countryside for a charitable organisation. He tells to Domus the story of a global project with a local character. Edited by Laura Bossi.

Laura Bossi: You were Professor at Harvard and Columbia University. Based in New York, you are now Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University. However, your Chapel for the Chosen Children Village Foundation in Tagaytay, a small town of approximately 60,000 people in the Philippines, belongs to a very different world. What was your approach to this world and this project?
Stan Allen: Architectural practice today is fully global – we work all over the world, but the downside of global practice is a homogenous, westernised architectural culture imposed sometimes upon other cultures without regard for their own traditions. In this regard, the CCV Chapel is a rarity – a global project with a local character. In part, this has to do with the involvement of Carlos Arnaiz (the project architect) who has a longstanding and intimate connection with the place and its culture. But it was also part of our approach, that is to say, not to impose a solution from outside, but to use the constraints we found on site – low cost, simple, labor-intensive building technology, locally sourced materials and the need for natural ventilation – and to turn these constraints into opportunities. For me, this was a unique opportunity to build in a way that is nearly impossible in the US or Europe today. It is an elemental structure that is directly connected to the site, more of a pavilion than a building.

L. B.: What did you learn from this experience?
S.A.: For me the lesson is precisely that, with every project, the architect brings his or her general disciplinary knowledge to bear on a specific problem, which in turn must be come specific to the site and the problem without losing its connection to the discipline of architecture.

L.B.: Did you feel to have lost anything of meaningful from the design to the realization?
S.A.: Actually just the opposite. Some aspects of the design seemed awkward in the drawings and models, but in reality, they work very well, to define the space or to modulate the light. Reality, and the experience of reality always exceeds our ability to simulate or predict. On the other hand, the process of realisation is also a process of editing, or refining, and a certain clarity emerged through the constraints of realization itself. The entry and entry facade, for example, was considerably simplified from the design to the final building, and the final result is better than what we originally designed.

L.B.: We all face a terrible crisis. As an architect living in the Obama era, are you expecting public measures that can create social housing, infrastructures and involve your category as a meaningful actor?
S.A.: I am hopeful. What is required in my view, is not only to re-focus on infrastructure, but to redefine infrastructure itself, and its potential in the 21st century. We have to involve planners and architects, and take the necessary time to plan, and not repeat the mistakes of the past. Architects for their part, need to step up with new proposals, new ideas and new ways of working.

Chapel, Chosen Children Village Foundation
Tagaytay, The Philippines

Stan Allen
Project Designer
Carlos Arnaiz
Design team
Benjamin Cadena, Jane Kim, Marc McQuade, David Orkand, Bence
Pap, Michael Young
Structural engineering and building contractor
Contractors and Engineers
Excell Contractors and Developers, Inc.
Chosen Children Village Foundation
Built area
240 m² (gross)
€ 225,000
Design phase
Construction phase

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