By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Raldi Formantes fights poverty.
He designs highly imaginative and habitable places around the world, some reflect hope to the world’s poorest people and those seeking a more prosperous future.
Formantes, 53, of Redmond, likes the Benjamin Franklin saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” as a guiding truth.
A design principal at Seattle-based Callison, he was one of five ARCADIS professionals chosen to donate their expertise to a humanitarian mission to the Philippines called Shelter. ARCADIS is Callison’s parent company and a leading global natural and built asset design and consultancy firm.
Formantes said about his selection two months ago, “I was excited because I realized that I would professionally be able to actually have an impact and give back to a more meaningful cause. And as architects, our work is basically building better environments so poverty is a natural target and focus for us to help.”
Shelter is a partnership between ARCADIS and UN-Habitat, the United Nations Program for Human Settlements.
The ARCADIS team was made up of experts from the Philippines, Chile, Netherlands, Australia, and the U.S.
Its task was to help develop Iloilo, Silay, and Cagayan de Oro into more sustainable cities. Each member, he says, brought “much needed input to local leaders with the hope of bringing a huge positive impact on their growth plans.”
At its first stop, Josh Pauw, Formantes’ teammate from Hyder Consulting in Melbourne, Australia, blogged that Formantes presented urban design options “that will work for Iloilo City and its people.”
In Silay, Formantes recalls a five-minute break during the three-day workshop in which local government officials provided snacks and, to his surprise, a performance by a group of young musicians. He said, “You might call it a gift because they knew we’re also there to give them something so it was a very beautiful exchange.”
Bert Smolders, Shelter program manager and the sixth team member, said about Formantes, “Having lived in the U.S. for years but born and raised in the Philippines, he combined knowledge and understanding of two cultures and languages.”
“This made him the perfect team member for the Shelter team to the Philippines for the UN-Habitat ASUS (Achieving Sustainable Urban Development) mission in March (14-26) 2015.”
Born in Manila, Philippines in 1962, Formantes grew up inspired by the paintings of an elderly artist who was a neighbor.
“Growing up in the Philippines, you see a lot of poverty. You always dream about beautifying places, wonderful, much better places you want to see. So I think that’s how my interest in architecture came about,” he said.
“I think that (poverty) basically shapes you because you have a natural connection, and you empathize with the people’s hardship and suffering.”
In 1983 Formantes received his bachelor’s in architectural studies from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.
He worked as a design executive at the architectural and engineering company Wong & Ouyang Ltd., in Hong Kong from 1987 to 1993.
Before Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997, he said, “A lot of people were leaving Hong Kong, so I was one of those people. I wanted a better future for my children.”
“We left in the early 90s to start planning our move to the U.S. Me and my wife [Lou Carangal Formantes], and I had two children [Miel and Andy].”
He earned two master’s degrees in 1997, one in civil engineering and the other in architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After receiving them, he said, “I wanted to go back to Hong Kong,” and laughed. “And apply what I just gained.”
Because the July 1997-January 1998 financial crisis hit much of Asia and “a lot of the projects were all drying up,” he decided not to go.
Formantes started at global architecture and design firm Callison in 1998 as a senior designer.
He participated in several large-scale, mixed-use urban projects including Bay Street at International Plaza in Tampa, Fla., Manhattan Village in Manhattan Beach, Calif., and City Creek Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
After several promotions throughout his 17 years at Callison, he said, “I enjoy doing my work so … when the China market exploded, I was part of that. I think it’s natural that you actually get rewarded for those efforts.”
“If you can actually come up with a way to alleviate and help through your planning skill or architectural skill, this is an idealistic notion of what architecture is,” Formantes said.
“You’re actually wanting to change people’s lives.” (end)
For more information about Shelter, go to shelter.arcadis.com/Shelter_Home.aspx. For more information about Callison, go to www.callison.com.
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.