Mattingly’s Wearable and Portable Architecture

Last year, Brooklyn-resident Marry Mattingly was among 15 American artists (out of 900 applicants) who were chosen by the Bronx Museum of the Arts to undertake 45-day of creative-community projects in 15 countries such as China, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, India, Kenya, Kosovo, Lebanon, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Venezuela.

The cultural ambassadors were funded by SmArtpower's $ 1 million annual allotment from the United States State Department and extra support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Lori Schiff Chemla, and ALTOUR. SmArtpower's project administrator, the Bronx Museum, also selected the Philippines' 12-year old Green Papaya Art Projects to assist Mattingly's fellowship in Manila which began on September 1 and ended on late October this year.

''When I applied for fellowship in the Philippines, my aim was to create water-shaped dwelling structures in perennially flooded communities,'' says Mattingly, 34, a proponent of portable and wearable architecture. The genre is likened to building-lite, or to guerilla-architecture, because its shape is dictated by ecological, political, and social changes; its materials bare; and its scale, close to the body. While it holds radical resistance to the concept of permanence as the basis of home security, its mobility all the more shelters people at the edge of homelessness. The trend is expected to eventually give birth to abstract or art-architecture.

It was not raining hard when Mattingly arrived in the Philippines in early September. This gave her time to scour Manila's Divisoria for construction materials; peek at Metro Manila's art galleries and slum areas; and hold talks at suburban Quezon City's University of the Philippines on Sept 25; and at Escolta's 98B Art Collaboratory on September 29.

Her four-day workshop - on how to create beautiful spaces that also help people survive floods and landslides in the Philippines - was attended by 25 high school and architecture students, teachers and professionals at Papaya's gallery on T. Gener Street in suburban Quezon City, from October 11 to 14.

The workshop was a virtual laboratory on how to deal with calamities as participants split hair on creative spaces for survival, a hard to achieve aim. In their search for appropriate modular and portable type of architecture shaped by external changes - as expounded by Mattingly - work-shoppers also assessed poor man's homes like the province-based rectangular nipa hut and Metro Manila's shanties, as well-grounded (not moveable) structures.

On day one of the workshop, Philippine architect Paulo Alcazaren lectured on portable architecture's viability; Ross Arayata, on climate change; and Major Rey Balido of the government-run National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, on disaster-filled Philippines.

''I thought of houses on stilts; houses made of metal and wood; beehive-shaped houses; and houses covered with fabric, tarpaulin, and rice-sacks. Then I arrived at the final shape we could work on - a six feet by six feet-tall hexagonal orb-like structure made of aluminum,'' Mattingly says. The mathematical and logical shape of the hexagon became a seminal space for work-shoppers to create architectural shields from torrential rains and raging floods and landslides in the Philippines.

''On day two, as ideas proliferated, we started designing,'' recalls Mattingly. Tent fabrics were envisioned as parts of a floating boat-like structure, its belly buoyed by water-filled plastic containers; tent fabric was chosen as part of a structure with wheels and water floaters; water-proofed fabrics were designed as wind breakers, backpacks, raincoats, hammocks, and sleeping bags; rice bags were painted to simulate clouds - accepted as home, a kind of poetic escape hatch.

The hexagonal ''house'' and its components were done on the third day. The creation was brought to Quezon City High School. The colorful orb and its parts, including a documentation of their genesis were displayed at Papaya's gallery on October 24. The mobile house was tested at Manila Bay's Mangrove Forest.

Workshop participants amazed

There was a spirit of bayanihan (brotherhood) when the hexagonal structure was brought to several places. ''It was reminiscent of Carlos ''Botong'' Francisco's (1912-1989) series of paintings of men carrying bahay kubo (nipa hut),'' compares work-shopper Christian Soliven.

Understanding Mattingly's theme at the workshop, Soliven adds, ''We must all start looking at art as a process of visualizing the challenges of future life.''

Explaining the lesson of wearable architecture as part of a house - more like architecture within architecture - to save people from calamities, Mica Cabildo says, ''I learned to create a piece (of art work) that protects the frail human body.''

''People who live in flood-affected areas, near bodies of water should have been part of the workshop,'' suggests Nathalie Dagmang.

Mattingly's Flock Houses and Waterpod project

The moveable hexagonal house is not something new for Mattingly. In 2010, during a fellowship at New York's Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, she made her signature Flock Houses - a combination of scaffoldings, a tent, and a geodesic dome, with wheels attached at the lower platform for protection from floods.

They were installed with rain-water collecting system; gardens at the top, cultivated hydrophonically; solar and human-sourced energy. A unit could be attached (in a parasitic manner) to an existing building. Several units could be locked with each other to create a community.

They were dubbed as future perfect nests in highly-mobile and over-populated cities like New York and other metro areas. Mattingly lived briefly in one Flock House under the Manhattan Bridge, before the rest of her creation was stationed near the Bowling Green subway station at Battery Park in lower Manhattan (adjacent to the damaged World Trade Center which is now being refurbished). At the time, Mattingly also began designing ''wearable homes'' - made of electronic silver to monitor one's health.

In 2009, she built a mobile-like public space called Waterpod Project - on a 3,000 square foot barge.

Amazed at the success of her 2012 interactive project in Manila, Papaya's founder Norberto Pewee Roldan, says, ''I initially thought it would be difficult to get together work-shoppers of different stripes, but they responded to our calls on the social media, mobile phones, and by word of mouth.''

''People got so involved - beyond my expectation,'' adds Mattingly.

Genuinely happy with the project's fulfillment, Papaya's head staff Lian Ladia says, ''It sailed smoothly - as planned, without hitches.''

''I've never seen different groups of people worked together with commitment. I saw a true community engagement,'' attests Sidd Perez, in charge of communications and finance. ''The project was fully realized because of proper time and financial management,'' quips project operations head Merv Espino. Assistant Karen Batino, 20, admits, ''I am now convinced that designing water-based structures is appropriate in the Philippines.''

Mattingly once took up photography at Manhattan's Parsons School of Design and attended Oregon's Pacific Northwest College of Arts.

List of US's 2012 SmArtpower fellows:

Duke Riley of Brooklyn went to Shanghai Feb 22 - Mar 2; Mar 15 to Apr 18, organization partner, Arthub Asia; Arturo Lindsay of Atlanta went to Cairo Jan 3 - 8; Aug 22 - Oct 1, organization partner, Medrar/Nagla Samir; Chris ''Daze'' Ellis of New York went to Quito Apr 23 - May 31, organization partner, Cero Inspiracion; Rochelle Feinstein of New York went to Accra Apr 11 - May 24, organization partner, Foundation for Contemporary Art; Kianga Ford went to Bangalore Aug 6 - 26 and Oct 10 - 31; Caroline Woolard of Brooklyn went to New Delhi, organization partner, KHOJ; Miguel Luciano of Brooklyn, went to Nairobi and Dadaab Province, organization partner, Trust; Samuel Gould of Minneapolis went to Prishtina May 12 - Jun 25, organization partner, Stacion for Contemporary Art; Ghana Think Tank composed of Christopher Robbins, John Ewing, and Maria del Carmen Montoya) of Little Neck, New York; Roxbury, Massachusetts; and Corvallis, Oregon, went to Beirut, organization partner, Arab Image Foundation; Pepón Osorio of Philadelphia went to Kathmandu Jan 3 - 23; Mar 5 - 26, organization partner, Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Centre; Brett Cook of Berkely went to Lagos Apr 9 - 30; May 22 - Jun 12, organization partner, Wy Art Foundation; Art Jones of Bronx went to Karachi Aug 18 - Sept 16, organization partner, Vasl; Mary Mattingly of Brooklyn went to Philippines, Sept 1 - Oct 15, organization partner, Green Papaya Art Projects; Xaviera Ximmons of Brooklyn went to Columbo Aug 10 to Sept 26, organization partner, Theertha International Artists Collective; Kabir Carter of Brooklyn went to Istanbul Oct 23 - Dec 7, 2011; organization partner, PiSt/Interdisciplinary Project Space; Seth Augustine and Rachel Shachar of Los Angeles went to Caracas May 15 - Jun 30, organization partner, Centro Cultural Chacao.