How should a civic building be designed today?
The Camsur Capitol embodies the conviction that civic buildings today must be radically re-envisioned in the face of a climate-constrained world.
We envision a civic architecture borne out of the raw and direct manner in which nature crosses with civilization in the Philippines. We imagine a civic building that can push the vernacular narrative of tropical architecture forward while being a machine for the survival of communities after natural calamities.
The Camsur Capitol is a new prototype for civic buildings: open, synthetic and adaptive—a transformation of atavistic forms into proto-technological instruments that modulate light and heat to produce energy. The Camsur Capitol builds on the possibility of designing a different future for architecture by repurposing the endangered material of indigenous cultures.
Camsur’s rich ancestral history stretches back thousands of years from the Isarog Agta tribe through the Philippine Revolution and into the WWII resistance. Camsur’s landscape has played a central role in this history with its legendary agricultural harvests and monumental natural wonders such as Mount Iriga, Lake Buhi and the Caramoan Coast. The architectural shapes and the construction system of the Camsur Capitol exemplifies a deep connection between the region’s landscape and its people.
The Camsur Capitol is divided into four levels: the first is a crisis management center designed to assist evacuees during emergency situations; the second is a multi-purpose plinth reached by a web of public staircases crowned by a covered open-air atrium; the third is the administrative level for the provincial government staff outfitted with public amenities such as a library, a cafeteria, and a black box theatre; and the fourth is the Governor’s private quarters complimented by a public observation deck offering panoramic vistas of Mt. Isarog.
The Camsur Capitol sits amidst a new verdant park with palm promenades, pleasure fountains and a forest grove of native trees. The construction of the Camsur Capitol is conceived as part of a major public-private development initiative that will bring affordable housing and new industries together with mass regional transit to underrepresented communities.
A network of paths and roads provide entry points into the building, magnifying and multiplying the standard singular grand civic staircase into a plethora of public stairs leading out to the lush tropical gardens beyond. The majestic Mt. Isarog looms in the distance rising 1,500 feet from the coast and reminding visitors of the mysterious wisdom of cultures struggling to survive.
The design of the Camsur Capitol consists of a spiraling assembly of Pili nut-shaped architectural husks made from a combination of solar panels and metal mesh. The husks are organized around a covered open-air atrium and terminate at the Mt. Isarog observation deck. The radial form pays homage to the long tradition of circular architecture. The Camsur Capitol pushes the circular form outwards instead of focusing on centralization enabling the building to connect with its surroundings in compound ways and remain adaptive to the ravages of nature.
Each architectural husk houses a program branch for either the community or the government. The branches come together at the atrium from where staff and visitors can connect to any part of the building. The radial organization is reinforced by a structural system laid out according to a progression of circumferential circles. At the outer edge of the building, the radial structure of arches gives way to a chain of A-frame concrete shells whose varying orientations relate to the spiraling public staircases below. The A-frame concrete shells have the shape of leaf folded at its center. They create thresholds to enter the building and act as windshields for the crisis center within.
The cascading Pili-shaped husks serve as a second-skin shading a ring of roof terraces from the intense tropical sun while harvesting its energy stored in the crisis center. Each husk is panelized according to its sun exposure and supported by a diagrid of structural purloins. Solar mapping, heat analysis, and wind turbine studies informed the location of each panel, creating a gradient blend of three distinct panel types depending on the need to ventilate the interior or catch the sun’s rays. As the surface texture of each husk changes from flat to sloped in accordance with its relative sun exposure so does its materiality. The overall effect is strangely beautiful. The building appears both alien and native. Its beauty is radical in that it suggests it might be possible to create architectures that are from many places at the same time.
The Camsur Capitol is a new breed of civic building that creates an architectural space swarming with the reaction of other agents, both natural and man-made. The design offers up a form of civic architecture that confidently represents a future of negotiation and consensus for people whose identities are still in the making.
CAZA (CARLOS ARNAIZ ARCHITECTS) IS A BROOKLYN-BASED DESIGN STUDIO, WORKSHOP, AND THINK TANK WITH OFFICES IN MANILA, PHILIPPINES, AND BOGOTÁ, COLOMBIA.
Our team consists of design professionals from around the world who envision an optimistic future for architectural thinking and informed experimentation. A collaborative office as committed to building as to the ideas that inform building, we believe that innovation inspires trust. Whether designing a bespoke residence, creating a master plan for a vibrant urban center, or rethinking how we work through an office building, we believe breakthroughs transform material culture into social expression. Our work represents an engagement with the history of making buildings and placing them in complex dynamic environments.