Christine, you are a Senior Associate at Godwin Austen Johnson with a wealth of experience in the architecture industry. What attracted you to the industry?
Let’s go back in time to 1985, to a modest house in the Tondo, Manila. A three-year-old girl stares at a blank wall, thinking about how she would depict her dreams in chalk. That was me every afternoon when my family were at work and school and was an early indication that I was destined to become an architect. I drew dreams.
I studied in a school established by the first Registered Filipino Architect where we attended classes on pre-engineering and architecture. From there, I realised how impressive buildings are and how they act as silent witnesses to man's endless potential.
My family wanted me to take a more traditional career as a nurse, newscaster, or flight attendant. They knew architecture was a male-dominated field and that the course was expensive. I persevered and was awarded a scholarship for university, where I became a National Board of Director of ASAPhil (Architectural Students' Association of the Philippines).
Relocating to Dubai was a pivotal moment. I’ve been fortunate to be a part of shaping the Middle East's future by working alongside visionaries who are developing award-winning projects, master plans, and historical landmarks.
For the past 14 years, I’ve been part of the GAJ family, where equal opportunity is not determined by gender but by individual merit. As an architect, it is my responsibility to design and construct something valuable that will last long after my lifetime. Being part of the industry keeps me close to my mission to create and shape the cities of the present and future.
Christine was named 'Architect of the Year' at the Filipino Times awards.
You’ve been involved in many interesting projects over the years from designing residences in your home country, The Philippines, to heritage projects in Asia and the Middle East. If you could pinpoint your favourite project to date, what would that be and why?
I've worked on many different projects over the years and every project presents a different challenge and opportunity for learning, so it is quite challenging to select a favourite. Currently, I’m thrilled to be working on several new luxury hotel developments and designing in the North Coast of Egypt.
Being an architect is all about creatively imagining the art of the possible. When a project is built, it’s rewarding to see how excited people are to come into the space and hear their feedback – good or bad!
To think that those end-users I've considered at the start of the thought process now use the structures I've planned and designed proves how robust the creation process is. I am privileged to be working in this field, and it never ceases to amaze me every day.
You’re a strong advocate of sustainable design and, as a certified LEED Green Associate, are a leader in this field. How do you feel sustainability is progressing in the MENA market and what more can be done?
Buildings and their spaces are integral to our quality of life, economic prosperity, and the well-being of society at large; everyone gains from well-designed buildings and spaces.
The Middle East has been a forerunner in innovation and technological advancement, reflected in recent developments and in Expo 2020. Countries including the UAE and KSA have robust sustainability plans in place and, even if there isn't a 100% success rate, lessening emissions alone will massively benefit everyone. The UAE is taking sustainability seriously, but it will all boil down to the coordination between the government and private and financial sectors.
The days of constructing iconic, energy-guzzling megastructures are gone, especially in the MENA region. Due to increased public awareness of climate change and the environmental consequences of construction, green buildings and sustainability are becoming more common in the built environment. Now, architects and the construction industry are primarily focused on eliminating physical waste, lowering the carbon footprint, and improving energy efficiency.
For sustainability to be widely understood, private and government sectors need to work hand in hand to embed sustainability concepts into everyday education. No matter if it is in MENA or elsewhere, having the sustainability mindset in every household will be integral.
Christine speaking at Cityscape Global 2021.
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