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Estudio Damgo: a trailblazer



A university cognizant of the role it plays in the community it serves and as it expands its reach to the world consciously works toward the betterment of its academic programs. One of those that have been comparable to national standards, including the performance of its graduates in licensure examinations, is the Department of Architecture of Foundation University.


From its being part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the department has been recently merged with the Department of Fine Arts to now become a separate entity, the Department of Architecture and Fine Arts (DAFA).


Considered as the flagship project of the Department of Architecture is its Estudio Damgo program, an innovative brainchild of university president Victor Vicente “Dean” G. Sinco, himself an architect. It goes down in history as the first and only student-led design, fund, and build program in the country.


According to an informational material provided by the department about Estudio Damgo, “students apply their skills on the entire building process from schematic design to construction documents, permitting and construction administration with hands-on experience on a real project.”  Moreover, the “program is designed to challenge students to view community/area ‘problems’ as design opportunities.  Its goals are: to empower students with the tools and experience necessary to be relevant in the changing face of Architecture; build skills and knowledge first-hand by taking an idea through all phases of design and development until the idea is fully implemented in built form; and work with the community to design a culturally relevant, innovative structure that will create a sense of pride for students and local residents.”


Now on its 12th year, the designs of the Architecture students who reach their fifth and last year continue to amaze the community and the beneficiaries, especially when the project is turned over to them.


Let’s look back at the designs of the students through the years since the inception of Estudio Damgo.


Estudio Damgo 1

A daycare classroom (Dungga Daycare) in Brgy. Malaunay, Valencia, Negros Oriental that serves as a K-6 elementary school after Typhoon Sendong in 2011, it is a single classroom for 25 elementary students and one teacher. It was supported by the Department of Education and received two national awards from the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO).


Estudio Damgo 2

A multipurpose hall at the Core Shelter in Barangay Bajumpandan that serves more than 200 households from three communities: Habitat 4, Core Shelter, and Caritas 1 developed by the City of Dumaguete and partners for displaced families from Typhoon Ondoy in 2009 and Typhoon Sendong in 2011. The multipurpose hall is designed for 50 occupants for training, assembly, and medical services.


Estudio Damgo 3

A Marine Sanctuary Center in Barangay Bantayan, Dumaguete City that serves as a base for fish wardens and a marine sanctuary education center.


Estudio Damgo 4

A sustainable and eco-friendly Tourist Information and Assistance Center at the entrance of the Dumaguete City Port Area in partnership with the Philippine Ports Authority Management  (Dumaguete-Siquijor) that addresses concerns on organizing port services and facilities. This showcases a traditional blend of design and construction methodology, the culture and the arts, and the eco-tourist spots of the city and the province.


Estudio Damgo 5

The People's Comfort Lounge is a restroom facility with a suitable and sustainable design at the Dumaguete City Rizal Boulevard in partnership with the local government unit of Dumaguete.  This addresses unsanitary problems along the coastal area and the promenade.


Estudio Damgo 6

An outdoor playground, Turf City, for Foundation Preparatory Academy - Grade School in Dumaguete City,  the project aims to address the concern on how to keep track of the pupils and to ensure their safety while playing. The pupils then only made use of the corridors and any random spot inside the campus as play area. It was supported by the Foundation Preparatory Academy Parents Teachers Association and the Foundation University Alumni Association, Inc.


Estudio Damgo 7

A three-storey viewing tower in partnership with the Baslay Farmers Association for Baslay Highland Brew Coffee in Upper Baslay,  Dauin, Negros Oriental,  the project aims  to enrich the sustainability of the resources and the  livelihood of the community.  It serves as an extension to the existing coffee shop in the area.


Estudio Damgo 8

A veterinary quarters in partnership with the Combined Animal Rescue Endeavor (CARE), in Pancil, Sibulan, Negros Oriental,  it serves as a shelter for visiting CARE veterinarians and volunteers, which allows for rescued animals to receive the constant attention they sorely need. It also helps to lessen expenses for visitors during their altruistic stay.


Estudio Damgo 9

An organic wellness center at the St. Nicholas de Tolentino Parish in Dauin, Negros Oriental,  the project aims to help the locality to have a sustainable and enhanced livelihood, provide the community with alternative medicine, and to have a designated area for the production of such.


Estudio Damgo 10

A chapel inside the Roman Catholic cemetery at Barangay Santo Niño, San Jose, Negros Oriental which is used to hold Holy Masses and burial rites.


Estudio Damgo 11

The South Negros Sea Turtle Conservation Research Center is located in Danjugan Island, Cauayan, Negros Occidental. It aimed to design and build a structure that will help conservationists and non-government organizations in the protection and study of the turtle nesting grounds on the island. It is in partnership with the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PRRCFI), a non-government organization based in Bacolod. This was completed and turned over to the local government units of Cauayan, Sipalay, and Hinoba-an, members of the South Negros Coastal Development Management Council toward the last quarter of 2023.


Estudio Damgo 12

Called Creative Sanctuary Performance Space situated in Barangay Balugo, Valencia, Negros Oriental, this is in partnership with the Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA), an artistic organization that has been around for some 20 years in Dumaguete. The 200-square meter sanctuary will serve as a multifunctional hub, facilitating workshops, rehearsals, performances, and community gatherings. The site spans 1,171 square meters where construction has been started after the team has completed laying the foundations.


It is worthy to note that through the years, Estudio Damgo projects by Architecture students have been getting better, becoming more innovative and exploratory.


According to Charlotte Schmidt, the program chair, the students of Estudio Damgo 12 “started to explore alternative materials . . . even before the design phase, the students engaged in a series of material studies and workshops as part of the Experimental Materials Lab program of the department.”


Moreover, starting with Estudio Damgo 12, students from the lower levels have now joined and experienced the construction process firsthand as part of their Building Technology class.


Coach El Pronove, a design-build instructor, enthused: “I’m amazed by our students’ dedication and both their individual and collective growth throughout the design and construction process. The South Negros Turtle Sanctuary and YATTA Creative Sanctuary have been some of the largest and logistically complex projects. Unexpected challenges arise and, in response, students have risen to work through them with grace and growth mindset.”


Schmidt added: “This year marked a significant shift in the support system of the program. Instead of being guided by only one architect advisor, the students benefited from the presence of a diverse and interdisciplinary set of experts and coaches. Accomplished design experts and industry partners also conducted the first community design workshop and delivered lectures.”


Estudio Damgo is the brainchild of its co-founders, Foundation University president Victor Vicente “Dean” G. Sinco and Ray Villanueva, while the core team, in addition to Schmidt and Pronove, includes Zandas Abenes III, all high-caliber architects. (Cecile M. Genove)

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