The Badjao Lattice – A Modular Aggregation Strategy for Indigenous Coastal Communities



The Badjao Lattice is a study that focuses on an indigenous tribe in the Philippines called ‘sea gypsies’ known locally as the ‘Badjao’ tribe. Over the years they have slowly changed their nomadic behavior into more

permanent dwellings over the sea. Living in hazardous tropical areas, they face calamities like super-typhoons, storm surges, and rising sea levels with makeshift houses and minimal urban growth strategies. They also contribute to local mangrove deforestation, sea pollution, and ecological disturbances due to their community growth and sprawl.
The aim is to gather knowledge from these people and propose a rewilding intervention that creates a synergy between marine life, mangroves, the environment, and the local community. Tackling these problems with modularity, the goal is to gain knowledge and intuition from different module scales (Micro, Mezzo, Macro) and propose a prescriptive design strategy at these scales defining the concept for the Badjao Lattice.

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Davao Region, Philippines

The ‘Badjaos’ are Indigenous people also known as ‘sea gypsies’ contribute to mangrove deforestation and ecological disruption along the coastlines of the country.  With makeshift houses and an ever persisting issue of strong waves and winds coming from the sea. They also contribute to local mangrove deforestation due to their urban growth and sprawl.


Our site is located in a small peninsula in Davao City, Philippines which is home to a large of mangrove sanctuary and yet home to a mixture of indigenous Badjaos and informal settlements.



The aim of the project was to protect the Badjao community from the typhoons by creating a barrier, which will protect the coast. Furthermore the barrier will be combined with mangroves, as well with coral reefs, which are very good measure against typhoons. It will also be built by a “sacrificial layer strategy“, which means, that when I part of the structure will fail in case of very strong typhoons, the rest of the structure will stay unaffected.

Moreover, we observed that the density of the existing dwellings is very high. Despite this, all houses of the Badjao have only one level. Our second goal was to introduce multi-stories housing by using a similar lattice to the one of the typhoons barrier. The structures will be made of local materials (such as bamboos, mangroves and coconut trees) and a bottom up process will be applied, which will involve the residents to the building process. The Badjao people are very experienced boat and house builders, so this experience will be very important to the expansion and the appeal of the project to its residents.

First, we need to investigate their local cultures, customs, and wisdom in building. The Rudimentary Badjao hut is 5×5 meters and inside could house a family of 4-5 members.

Further investigation of different building typologies informed us of later programs, which we need to introduce for a thriving community.  We also took knowledge from their skills in boat building that introduces outriggers and tensegrity structures for fishing nets.



With the deep investigation into space-filling polyhedra and diagramming their connection and proliferation strategies we’ve resulted to using the hexagonal prism, due to the growth patterns closely resembling the patterns of the Badjao.

The photo shows different preliminary explorations using different base polyhedra mapping their aggregations.

Badjao Lattice Micro Module aggregations with Wasp

Using wasp for our aggregation strategy we have defined a catalogue of different programs based on this 6×6 meters hexagonal prism patterned from the local wisdom of building types.



Finally we set up field aggregation rules to dictate the final growth of the structure and these are defined from 3 Rules:

  • 1 Growth should be inside a bounding geometry
  • 2 Growth should follow a path
  • 3 Growth would be on a surface and would not grow at slopes steeper that 45°






The Badjao Lattice is a project of IAAC, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia developed at the Master in Advanced Computation for Architecture and Design (MaCAD) in 2021-2022 by:

Students: Neil John Bersabe, Maria Papadimitraki, Mahmoud Ramdane, Clemens Russ, Daniyal Tariq

Faculty: Arthur Mamou-Mani,

Assistants: Fun Yuen, Krishna Bhat