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Local architect launches GUMA

GRADUATING as an architect from the University of Washington in 2007, Samuel Manglona McPhetres knew that one day he would be designing buildings for the islands where he was born and raised. This year, his dream finally came true.

As the Northern Marianas’ first local National Council of Architectural Registration Board (NCARB) licensed architect, McPhetres just opened his firm, GUMA Architects, LLC on Saipan and Guam, along with his business partner, Raymund Cayanan, also a licensed architect.sam1 frontpage

McPhetres is just brimming with excitement to play a part of the CNMI’s growing architectural scene.

“We chose the name GUMA as it not only means ‘house’ in Chamorro, it is also a play on words, bringing Guam and the Marianas together, like a unified office or an all Marianas kind of house we would like to have,” said McPhetres, son of Agnes and Sam McPhetres.

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“I am excited to be practicing here at home. I have been working in Seattle and Guam and had a few projects here with my previous firm. It is a plus that I will get to spend time with my family, but to have my personal connection to a project that I designed on my island. Now, that carries a deeper meaning for me,” he said.

“There are beautifully designed buildings here. We just would like to add to that great work by bringing our own touch and concepts to the existing landscape,” he added.

McPhetres already carries an impressive portfolio, working on multimillion dollar projects in Seattle and Guam, but his first major one is still etched in his mind, the award-winning Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center at the University of Washington.

Soon after graduation, McPhetres, an architectural intern at Seattle-based Rolluda Architects, jumped at the chance to help design the cultural center that served as the meeting place for the Micronesia Club, of which he was a part, and helped made him feel at home.

He collaborated with and interviewed students to seek their input, which  was eventually incorporated into the Center’s design reflecting cultures from all over the world. McPhetres was recognized as part of the team that obtained a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Award.

It was also where, as a student, he had the chance to meet and barbeque for Glenn Murcutt, Australia’s most famous architect and recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize for his simple yet functional designs.

“The University threw him a welcoming party and of course, here comes the island boy, raising my hand to do the barbecuing for him—this is a guy I would grill for,” he laughs.

Murcutt’s ethos “Touch the earth lightly,” is what guides McPhetres in his designs. He envisions bringing more vernacular architecture to the Marianas that responds to the islands’ unique environment.

“Vernacular architecture is a local style architecture that responds to the environment and we have seen it with our latte stone houses and thatched roof huts. New construction in Southeast Asia is seeing similar projects being done with high pitched roofs to make it well ventilated,” said McPhetres.

“There are examples of contemporary buildings that follow same ancient techniques in order to keep the house cool and efficient. We all remember our grandmother’s house that is elevated off the ground with hollow blocks. It was done for several reasons: to prevent flood waters from coming in, to keep pests out and to get air blowing underneath the house so that the house would stay cool,” he said.

What he loves about architecture is that, in all forms, it is a creative medium that allows for designs and uses of functional pieces.

But what worked in the past for the islands, technology today now allows for more flexibility despite the limited palate, said McPhetres.

“I do miss working with wood, glass, metal and exposed areas. But you can’t do that here. We have up to 200 plus mile an hour wind typhoons, termites on steroids and salt water in the air, so the challenge here is what you can do to make concrete beautiful,” he pointed out.

“If you haven’t experienced a typhoon, it is hard to design for a typhoon. But it does not have to be bunkers with small windows with typhoon shutters. Technology now allows for large glass windows that could be rated to withstand typhoons and design to orient the glass so that the house is not a solar oven—it’s added challenge with a limited palate but it could also generate new aesthetics happening out here as seen in the high-end condos with large glass facades that are beautiful,” he added.

That’s the edge GUMA hopes to offer potential clients an intimate knowledge of the islands and its environment to create homes and buildings that save costs, reflect personal design and are efficient in the use of space and resources.

“We are a small company but we are passionate. We know we have to establish ourselves by building a solid reputation, so we give each project the attention it deserves. We are both licensed architects, both understand the codes, requirements and we treat each individual project with as its own challenges and opportunities,” said McPhetres.

To be NCARB certified, architects must graduate from a National Architectural Accrediting Board or NAAB university, complete Architectural Experience Program or AXP for three years, and then take seven exams, in McPhetres’ case, but now it’s only six exams and then, admitted by local professional boards.

It took McPhetres several years to complete his national license, but he stayed focused on his goals.

“I knew I wanted to be here, so I kept my eye on the prize,” he smiles. “We have much to offer and we look forward to being a part of a larger, more holistic approach in shaping our islands for tomorrow.”

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/103021-local-architect-launches-guma

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