Art/Style/Travel DiariesStyle

At last, an airport to suit
the Filipino culture and aesthetic

Clark International Airport embodies Modern Filipino
architecture, and so does Athletics Stadium,
now a finalist in World Architectural Festival

Clark International Airport Terminal 2 departure area, inspired by the local setting of Mt. Pinatubo, embodies Modern Filipino architecture. (From BCDA)

New Clark City Athletics Stadium is the country’s first IAAF-certified world-class facility and set new government standards for public infrastructure. (From Budji+Royal Architecture+Design)

Budji Layug (left) and Royal Pineda before the Clark International Airport Terminal 2 in Pampanga (From Budji+Royal Architecture+Design)

Budji Layug had a most colorful and fulfilling youth. He spent his adolescent years going around and living in Europe, notably London, in the ‘70s. As a professional, he traveled around Asia, and spent a few years shuttling between Bangkok and Manila. Instead of pulling him away from his country, these stints, however, lent this design deacon a vision: to present the beauty and creativity of the Philippines to the world.

“I saw that our country had great potential. We were second to Japan and ahead of Singapore in Southeast Asia in those early decades. This was a beautiful destination, but along the way, there were obstacles,” he now recalls.

Today, more than four decades later, Budji + Royal Architecture +Design has been a harbinger of Modern Filipino sensibilities through their design. The design firm, which Layug established with architect Royal Pineda, has been gaining recognition for its designs not only of homes and office spaces but also of public infrastructure, notably the bridges, airports and the New Clark City in Tarlac.

The firm is now in the news for the New Clark City Athletics Stadium, which it designed inspired by Mount Pinatubo and its environment. The Athletics Stadium has been chosen finalist in the World Architectural Festival (WAF) in the Completed Projects (Sports) category. Layug and Pineda, with other finalists, will do a presentation of the Athletics Stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, in early December.

Their firm has also completed the Clark International Airport Terminal 2 (CRK) in Pampanga, which top government officials led by Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat toured recently.  They and many others who have gone to the new terminal see in it the poetry of architecture and the value of user experience.

These two dramatic structures are one with the setting. “The inspiration was drawn from nature and the location. It’s also about bringing in the modernity. Those sensibilities are reflected in all our projects,” Layug tells “Each one must have authenticity.”

The New Clark City Stadium and Clark International Airport Terminal 2 embody practical luxury.  This term was coined by Pineda in 2010: “How can you modernize a  developing country? Practical luxury is a way to achieve luxury by design at a reasonable cost. It harnesses the resources available in the country, to manage them and create good design.”

In 1999, the Center for International Trade and Export Missions (CITEM) tapped Layug to lead the iconic Movement 8, a group of Filipino designers/manufacturers who would present the Modern Filipino aesthetic in international trade fairs. This design philosophy melded practicality, streamlined and sophisticated shapes, indigenous materials, modern tradition, and soul.

Movement 8 was about practicality, streamlined shapes, indigenous materials, modern tradition and soul

“It is important that we make radical changes to mark the new millennium,” explained Layug in an old interview. “To dream” has always been his mantra.

He went on to pursue that dream when he teamed up with architect Royal Pineda and formed the Budji +Royal Architecture + Design in the aughts, introducing Modern Filipino architecture and design in their residential projects.

In 2011, the firm envisioned that aesthetic in public infrastructure. Budji +  Royal and Kenneth Cobonpue, the furniture designer who has made a global name himself, made a proposal to NAIA Board and Transportation and Communications for the makeover of NAIA 1, then considered as one of “the world’s worst airports.”

The design revisited the Filipino architecture concept of “maaliwalas” (bright and free open space)—the ceilings were raised and walls demolished; stores and banks were relocated so that passenger traffic was spread out in the terminal. At Arrival, the sight welcoming the passengers would be the greenery instead of the concrete jungle.

“We didn’t want to limit ourselves to refurbishment. We proposed a total approach to design, from architecture, interiors to landscape,” says Layug. “That was the start of our vision of designing the country.”

Upon seeing the transformation of NAIA 1, Megawide Construction Corporation, the builder and operator of Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA), invited Budji + Royal and Cobonpue to collaborate for the design of MCIA.

Then came the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) which commissioned Budji + Royal to be a part of the New Clark City redevelopment with Malaysian subsidiary MTD Philippines as developer, and with infrastructure consulting firm AECOM Philippines and engineering consultant Surbana Jurong as master planners.

Among the key projects were the facilities for the 2019 SEA Games in Tarlac and the Clark International Airport Terminal 2 in Pampanga.

The design deacon stresses that these projects were the collective outputs of many minds and hands.

The Olympic-standard New Clark City Athletics Stadium was completed in 17 months, while sticking to a modest budget

His creative partner, Pineda, has been at the forefront of the design concepts. The WAF entry, the New Clark City Athletics Stadium, is arguably the only public stadium in the country to meet international standards. In contrast with the grand venues of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, with their First World budget, this Olympics-standard stadium was completed in 17 months, instead of the regular construction period of three years—and with a modest budget.

The 20,000-seat stadium drew visual inspiration from Mount Pinatubo, with a façade that resembles a volcano and a crater-like canopy. The walls were not painted. Instead, for low maintenance, the concrete and lahar surfaces are left bare, allowed to age with time. The accent color of orange suggests volcanic lava flow. The series of angled eaves and V-shaped columns suggests the image of the parol, the traditional Filipino Christmas lantern which Pampanga craftsmen are known for.

Rather than spending on cladding, the structural members, cables, nuts, and bolts were left exposed and turned into design details. Spaces were maximized so that floor area was not wasted.

The design considered the humid weather. The raised roof and perforated walls provide better ventilation.

Pineda explains to, “We submitted the New Clark City Athletics Stadium to WAF because it’s a major government project that has become iconic. Designing a public edifice is a perfect opportunity to speak about Modern Filipino architecture and design to the world.”

To avoid biases and to ensure a selection done on merit by an international jury, the WAF entries left out the names of architecture or design firms.

“We have the opportunity to show that this is who we are and how we do things today, especially in front of colleague architects and designers,” says Pineda.

The first thing Pineda would do in the December presentation is to put the stadium in context. “In a First World country, the concept of not spending more tends to depreciate the value of a project. The world has to know the needs and the capacity of our country and how we created a design from that,” he says.

Pineda is bent on showing that Filipinos are driven by creativity and resourcefulness. The long-span cantilevers, the abundance of lahar in the site, the design composition of exposed steel frames, rafters, and structural columns, and the marbleized texture of bare concrete walls create a poetic structure built at reasonable cost.

“It’s as honest as you can get. These make up the totality of practical luxury. We are able to present a distinctly Filipino structure,” says Pineda.

Another design calling card for the world, the Clark International Airport Terminal 2 (CRK) in Pampanga is poised to become the country’s premier gateway. The construction of CRK embodies the modern bayanihan spirit involving contractors Megawide and Indian infrastructure company GMR Group, International Design Associates of Hong Kong, a specialist in airport design with William Shu as principal architect, and Budji + Royal.

After the project was turned over to BCDA, the Luzon International Premier Airport Development (LIPADCorporation won the bid as CRK’s operator. LIPAD hired the services of global design firm Populous for the retail planning and interior design, with Casas + Architects as the architect of record.

At Clark International Airport Terminal 2, the Italian tile flooring with white streaks mimics the lahar flow from Mount Pinatubo

Embodying the Modern Filipino sensibilities, the façade evokes the undulating silhouettes of the Mount Arayat, Zambales and Sierra Madre mountain ranges. The design heeds the Filipino custom of sending off and welcoming back kin and friends—indeed an arrival and departure turned into a barangay-wide affair. The welcome and send-off sections are wide open spaces with lush gardens.

The pitched ceilings of various heights echo the visual rhythm of the mountains, lending a feeling of dynamism. The Italian tile flooring with white streaks mimics the lahar flow from Mount Pinatubo. The panoramic expanse of glass brings the outdoors in.

“Many airports tend to look the same. We wanted to instill a sense of place through the interiors. A tourist or balikbayan can see the character of the mountain ranges. You not only see forms, you also you feel the height. It’s a grand concept of being maaliwalas. The space speaks for itself,” says Pineda.

The 110,000-sqm CRK is more spacious than Hong Kong International Airport. Passengers will feel safe even in this pandemic as there are no confining spaces, and the layout allows a seamless walk through the different areas.

“You don’t feel boxed in because the terminal is spacious and full of light. You are surrounded by mountain views as if you are part of nature. That is the feeling that we are trying to achieve in our projects,” adds Layug.

It maximizes air conditioning flow in an energy-efficient way. Temperature control is designed and studied well. The placement and distribution of cold air in all spaces were optimized to balance efficiency and comfort.

Economy class passengers, like the premium class travelers, can enjoy the comforts of a private room in the airport. To boost the Pinoy morale, the Filipino Worker’s Lounge lends the experience of being in a business class lounge.

Since the day of inspection, Pineda has been receiving congratulatory messages from architects and government officials, particularly politicians, who liked the rhythmic grids of glulam (glue laminated timber) on the ceiling that conjure the image of Pampanga’s star lantern.

“The emphasis on wood rafters and trusses conveys the frames of the parol,” says Pineda. “The graphite columns, the glulam set against a white ceiling, and the glass walls constitute expressive contemporary architecture.”

Unlike in a previous project where Budji + Royal’s ideas were watered down, the design concepts of the Athletics Stadium and CRK were executed down to the details—a success which Pineda attributes to the trust given them by BCDA. Pineda says, “If you look at the rendering and the photographs of the actual site, the details were executed by the team.”

He remembers the happy proud faces of the senators, Cabinet officials, and mayors during the inspection. President Duterte graced the occasion.

Says Pineda, “There is the pride in knowing that, when done with quality, the Modern Filipino aesthetic is of international standards. These projects aren’t just a celebration of great structures, but also of our government and our people.”

“As Budji + Royal, we are only part of a movement that aims to bring design forward in the Philippines,” says Layug. “These projects have been a collaboration of talents for the betterment of living.”

About author


She is a veteran journalist who’s covered the gamut of lifestyle subjects. Since this pandemic she has been giving free raja yoga meditation online.

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