"With true community spirit and cooperation, great deeds are indeed possible."
Great things can be achieved when a community truly works together. That is the principle behind the Filipino custom of bayanihan, typically illustrated by a rural scene in which villagers help a neighbor move house by carrying it to a new location.
This was also the concept behind the country’s first award from the prestigious Venice Biennale of Architecture, an international architectural exhibition held every two years since 1980.
In this instance, architects Sudarshan Khadka, Jr., a Filipino, and Alexander Eriksson Furunes, a Norwegian, built a beautiful wooden library with the help of skilled workers within the community and around Angat, Bulacan.
Before they did this, however, they spoke with farmers, carpenters, housewives, students, and other residents of the GK Enchanted Farm in Barangay Encanto in Angat, Bulacan. In a seminar in 2019, the architects asked members of the community what type of building would serve them best. They decided on a library.
“The power of the collective is greater than individuals alone. There is this natural synergy which happens when people come together and create something none of them can do on their own,” Khadka says in a video documenting how a building meant to cater to a specific community was build, then dismantled and shipped across the world to serve as an example of the bayanihan spirit.
The dismantled library—built with indigenous materials—arrived in Italy in April and was installed in the Philippines’ pavilion alongside other national pavilions. The exhibit, called “Structures of Mutual Support,” was one of only two from 60 participating countries to be awarded for its “exemplary community project that creates a rich archive and experience of collaborative construction practices.”
Khadka and Furunes said the aim was to build a structure that was bright, spacious, pleasant, clean and well-ventilated, summed up by the Filipino word maaliwas.
Online photos and videos of the library—with its shelves, study spaces, storage and sitting areas—highlight how successful the designers were in achieving this goal.
The country’s national participation at the Venice Biennale is a collaborative undertaking of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Office of Deputy Speaker and Rep. Loren Legarda.
“What is important is that we can tell the world that existing practices of our nation, such as bayanihan and our strong sense of community, can be solutions to the world’s most pressing issues,” wrote Legarda, the main proponent of the Philippine participation at the exhibition. “We eagerly await for the exhibition to return to the Philippines, back to the GK Enchanted Farm community, where it will no longer be a piece for the exhibition but a built object, its use to be defined by the community and enjoyed by its members.”
We congratulate architects Khadka and Furunes, the NCAA, the DFA and Legarda, and all those who helped put together such an elegant example of bayanihan in action. Most of all, we congratulate the people of Angat, Bulacan, who showed us that with true community spirit and cooperation, great deeds are indeed possible.