THE AMERICAN COLONIAL AND CONTEMPORARY TRADITIONS The American tradition in Philippine architecture covers the period from 1898 to the present, and encompasses all architectural styles, such as the European styles, which came into the Philippines during the American colonial period. This tradition is represented by churches, schoolhouses, hospitals, government office buildings, commercial office buildings, department stores, hotels, movie houses, theaters, clubhouses, supermarkets, sports facilities, bridges, malls, and high-rise buildings. New forms of residential architecture emerged in the tsalet, the two-story house, and the Spanish-style house.
The contemporary tradition refers to the architecture created by Filipinos from 1946 to the present, which covers public buildings and private commercial buildings, religious structures, and domestic architecture like the bungalow, the one-and-a-half story house, the split-level house, the middle-class housing and the low-cost housing project units, the townhouse and condominium, and least in size but largest in number, the shanty. History The turn of the century brought, in the Philippines, a turn in history. Over three centuries of Spanish rule came to an end, and five decades of American rule began.
The independence won by the Philippine Revolution of 1896 was not recognized by Spain, nor by the United States, whose naval and military forces had taken Manila on the pretext of aiding the revolution. In 1898 Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States, and after three years of military rule the Americans established a civil government. With a new regime came a new culture. The English language was introduced and propagated through the newly established public school system.
A new consciousness developed among the native population as American colonial policy focused on education, public health, free enterprise, and preparation for selfgovernment. The landscape was transformed as highways, bridges, ports, markets, schools, hospitals, and government office buildings were rapidly constructed. The monuments of the Spanish era continued to stand proudly, while the future began to rise around them with triumphant vigor. In the course of the Spanish colonial era, native design and European styles came together in an evolving synthesis that culminated in the stately architecture of churches and aristocratic houses in provincial towns.
As Spanish words were absorbed by the native languages, so were baroque, rococo, neoclassic, and gothic revival motifs absorbed by the Filipino’s architectural vocabulary. That language continued to find utterance in upper-class residential architecture in the early decades of the American regime. The beginning of the new age was especially evident in Manila, where, as John Foreman (1906) reported, “…works of general public utility were undertaken … the Luneta Esplanade …was reformed, the field of Bagumbayan … was drained; breaches were made in the city wall to facilitate the entry of American vehicles; new thoroughfares were opened; an iron bridge, commenced by the Spaniards, was completed; a new Town Hall, a splendidly equipped Government Laboratory, a Government Civil Hospital, and a Government Printing Office were built; an immense ice factory was erected on the south side of the river to meet the American demand for that luxury…”
The ice factory was the Insular Ice Plant and Cold Storage built circa 1902 by the Philippine Commission. It was a massive brick building with high and narrow blind arches on its facade that recalled the 19th-century neoromanesque style in the United States. The ice plant survived until the 1980s when it was demolished to give way to the elevated track of the light rail transit. In the early years of the American Regime construction projects were undertaken by the engineers of the US Army. In 1901 Architect Edgar K. Bourne of New York was appointed chief of the Bureau of Architecture and Construction of Public Buildings, which was under the Department of Public Instruction. Holding the rank of Insular Architect, Bourne was in charge of the construction and repair of public buildings belonging to the Insular Government. Bourne served until the latter part of 1905. Other sources state that in 1901, a Filipino, Arcadio Arellano, was appointed architectural consultant by Governor William Howard Taft (Dakudao 19?). Arellano, a locally trained maestro de obras (master builder), had served as an officer in the Engineer Corps of the Revolutionary Army.
In later years he would design a number of notable houses and buildings in various revivalist styles, including the neogothic, neorenaissance, and neobaroque. One of the priorities of the American government was the development of a summer capital in a cool region. Thus in 1904 the American architect and city planner Daniel H. Burnham came to the Philippines upon the invitation of Commissioner William Cameron Forbes primarily to survey Baguio, and, to use Forbes’ own words, “try to lay out a new city and, in addition, to make some plans for the development of Manila.” In the early years of his career Burnham belonged to the Chicago School that pioneered in modern architecture. He was the chief designer of the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893, and from then on was a zealous advocate of neoclassicism. As a city planner, he promoted the “City Beautiful” movement, and prepared plans for Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Washington DC.
For Baguio, Burnham proposed a general scheme for the street system, the location of buildings, and recreation areas. Although his plan was followed in principle, it was adapted by later architects who were entrusted with its implementation. For Manila, Burnham prepared a more comprehensive and detailed proposal that aimedto develop the waterfront, parks, and parkways; the street system; building sites; waterways for transportation; and summer resorts. “The bay front,” he proposed, “from the present Luneta southward should have a continuous parkway extending, in course of time, all the way to Cavite . . . The banks of the Pasig should be shaded drives beginning as close to town as possible and continuing up the river, the south bank drive going to Fort McKinley, and beyond this to the lake.”
Since what was the Luneta then would be occupied by a government center, a new Luneta would be built farther out on reclaimed land, and would “give an unobstructed view of the sea.” Nine parks were to be “evenly distributed over the city” and were to be connected by parkway boulevards. The street system in the districts would, for the most part, remain unchanged; the street system in areas to be developed would follow a radial pattern, while diagonal thoroughfares would link the city districts. Burnham recommended that building sites should avoid a rigid north-south or east-west orientation, so that houses would enjoy sunlight on all sides throughout the day. The government center, comprising the capitol and department buildings, would be erected south of the Walled City and near the bay. The courthouse, the post office, and cultural facilities would be on separate sites. Beside the bay, on a site north of the Luneta, a hotel would be built. The estero or estuaries were to be developed and maintained as waterways. Summer resorts were to be established on higher elevations around Manila.
Charmed by the old houses with tile roofs and overhanging second stories, Burnham proposed that these be preserved, and recommended that new, simple, well-proportioned buildings of reinforced concrete follow the arcaded style of the old Spanish edifices. Manila, Burnham remarked, “possessed the bay of Naples, the winding river of Paris, and the canals of Venice.” With his plan he proposed to “make Manila what the Spaniards used to call it—the Pearl of the Orient.” For the implementation of his plans for Manila and Baguio, Burnham recommended William E. Parsons, a product of Yale, Columbia, and the Paris Ecole des Beaux Arts. Parsons served as consulting architect of the Bureau of Public Works from 1905 to 1914. In that short span he supervised the implementation of the Burnham plans for Manila and Baguio; prepared city plans for Cebu and Zamboanga; directed the development of parks, plazas, and shoreline areas in many provinces; and designed a number of outstanding buildings.
Heeding Burnham’s counsel on the design of buildings for Manila, Parsons evolved a style that was refreshingly modern yet unmistakeably evocative of the local tradition. With pitched roofs, plain walls, wide arches, deep galleries, and capiz windows, the new buildings that Parsons created echoed the ambiance of Spanish colonial Manila, and at the same time enunciated the principle that form should follow function. An outstanding example of Parsons’ approach to design is the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), constructed in 1910, a building neoclassic in its disciplined elegance and highly practical in its loose and airy arrangement of pavilions. Parsons’ other major works include the Manila Hotel, the Army-Navy Club, the Elks Club, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Building, the Normal School and the adjacent dormitory, later called Normal Hall. His works outside Manila include provincial capitols and their plazas, schoolhouses, and markets.
Towards the end of his service in the Philippines, Parsons designed the initial buildings of the University of the Philippines (UP), then on Taft Avenue and Padre Faura. The first building, the University Hall, was in the neoclassic style, surrounded by porticoes with Ionic columns. In this and in works produced after his Philippine assignment, Parsons succumbed to the revivalism of the Ecole de Beaux Arts from which he had been successfully freed in his earlier work. It was ironic that the architect who had introduced a new direction for Filipino architecture would reverse it by implanting the neoclassic style that would be the official architecture of the government for the next quarter of a century. The first Filipino to receive the academic title of architect during the American regime was Carlos Barretto, who in 1903 was sent as a government pensionado or scholar to the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia. After graduating in 1907 he returned to the Philippines, and from 1908 to 1913 worked in the Division of Building Construction of the Bureau of Public Works.
In 1911 Antonio Toledo, a product of Ohio State University and Cornell University, joined the Bureau of Public Works, and in 1928 became consulting architect of its Architectural Division, a post which he held until his retirement in 1954. Toledo assisted Parsons in the design of several buildings. In the 1920s Toledo designed the College of Medicine Annex and University Library of the UP, the Leyte Capitol, and, in the late 1930s, the City Hall of Manila, the Agriculture and Commerce (now the Tourism) Building and the Finance Building. Toledo’s works were all in the neoclassic vein. Tomas Mapua graduated from Cornell University in 1911, and worked as draftsman at the Bureau of Public Works from that year until 1915, when he went into private practice. Returning to the Bureau in 1918, he was named supervising architect and served in that position until 1927. Mapua designed the Nurses’ Home of the PGH, one of the finest examples of the neorenaissance style in the country. In 1925 he founded the Mapua Institute of Technology. An acknowledged master in his time was Juan Arellano, a younger brother of Arcadio.
Juan Arellano studied at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, and after graduation travelled through several European countries. He returned to the United States for further studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the Beaux Arts School in New York. On returning to the Philippines he worked briefly with his brother Arcadio. One of their joint projects was the Cota de Leche Building on Lepanto (now Loyola Street). One of its prominent features was a neorenaissance arcade consisting of semicircular arches springing from columns, and decorated with medallions on the spandrels. In 1917 Juan Arellano joined the Bureau of Public Works. As supervising then consulting architect, he became a dominant figure in Philippine architecture. His first major work was the Legislative Building. Originally intended to house the public library, the building had been designed by Ralph H. Doane, a successor of Parsons at the Bureau of Public Works.
Construction began in 1918. When it was decided that the building should be for the legislature, the revision of the plans was entrusted to Juan Arellano. The Legislative Building was completed in 1926 and was described by A.V. H. Hartendorp, editor of the Philippine Education Magazine, as “the most magnificent and impressive structure ever erected in the Philippines . . . dominantly Roman in architecture, but Greek in its grace, Renaissance in its wealth of ornament, modern in its freedom from academic restraint, and Oriental in its richness and color.” In 1931 Juan Arellano completed two of his greatest works: the Post Office Building, a masterpiece of neoclassicism, and the Metropolitan Theater, a magnificently successful experiment in the romantic style, which Hartendorp described as “modern expressionistic.”
The Post Office portico, with its 14 massive Ionic columns, is an overpowering presence that both welcomes and astonishes the visitor. Departing from the conventional rectangularity of neoclassic buildings, Juan Arellano flanked the main rectangular mass with semicircular blocks, thereby adding grace to strength. Exuberance characterizes the exterior of the Metropolitan Theater. Its festive spirit arises from the rich combination of color, sculpture, light from built-in lamps and the large illuminated window over its entrance, the lively play of receding and protruding flat and curved surfaces, and the insistent verticality of pinnacles. Two movements in architectural design are here noted: an obeisance to the West in the art deco ornament, and homage to the tropics in the batik patterns and various fruit and plant forms. A few years after the completion of the Metropolitan Theater, Juan Arellano designed government buildings for Banaue, Ifugao, and Glan, Cotabato, and adopted regional architectural forms, such as posts with rat guards from Ifugao, protruding beam ends from Cotabato, and steep roofs from both.
As Juan Arellano brought neoclassicism in the Philippines to its summit, so did he masterfully open new avenues for architectural design, particularly romanticism and the recovery of native forms. From Parsons’ last years at the Bureau of Public Works to the year before World War II, i.e., from 1913 to 1941, government buildings were designed in the neoclassic style. Among the last of these were the Agriculture and Commerce Building, the Finance Building, and the City Hall of Manila. Neoclassic architecture enjoyed nationwide visibility, for provincial capitols from north to south of the archipelago were built in that style, notably those of Pangasinan, Negros Occidental, and Leyte. Following the guidelines set by Parsons in 1913, the provincial capitols and related structures were located in parks, away from population centers, “in a position of dignity and retirement.” The orderly arrangement of provincial government buildings was supposed to reflect the order in government itself.
The implantation of 20th-century neoclassicism in the Philippines was inevitable. Parsons had been trained in the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, which actively promoted revivalist design, particularly neoclassicism. Barretto, Toledo, Mapua, and Juan Arellano were products of American schools that were under the lordly influence of the Ecole de Beaux Arts, which then enjoyed secure dominance even while modern architecture began to emerge as a revolutionary force that would eventually prevail. The neoclassic style was appropriate during a colonial regime when the country was being prepared for independence. Since government buildings in the great capitals of the world were in that style, it seemed logical that a people who aspired for equality with free nations and powerful states should adopt the same style in all its grandeur for the seats of civil authority. The genesis of modern architecture in the Philippines covers a period of about 30 years, and involves an interrupted infancy and a shift from early loyalties.
It begins with Parsons whose earlier works signified a departure from historical styles and embodied a new approach based on the primacy of function. But in his last works in Manila, Parsons turned to the Greek revival and established the local neoclassic regime in architecture, thereby nipping in the bud a development that he had auspiciously initiated. A departure towards a different direction appeared in the Uy-Chaco (now Philtrust Bank) Building on Plaza Cervantes. Built in 1914, it was considered Manila’s first skyscraper, and is probably Manila’s first and last building in the art nouveau style. Juan Arellano was a master of neoclassicism, but in the Metropolitan Theater and in his designs for government buildings in Ifugao and Cotabato, he signaled the break from historicist styles. In his later work, however, he returned to revivalist design. Andres Luna de San Pedro, who returned from Paris in 1920, and Fernando Ocampo Sr., who returned from Rome and Philadelphia in 1923, began working in revivalist styles, but by 1930 had produced some of the first modern buildings of Manila.
Juan Nakpil, who returned from the United States and Paris in 1926, and Pablo Antonio, who returned from London in 1932, were committed to modernism in architecture from the very start of their practice. As the Ecole des Beaux Arts of Paris was the source of the neoclassic style in the Philippines during the early American regime, so was the art deco exposition held in Paris in 1925 the source of early art deco architecture in the Philippines. Art deco was not a major influence on the development of modern architecture in Europe or the United States. It did not advocate any revolutionary concepts of space or structure, or contribute to the emergence of new architectural forms. It was largely a decorative style, limited to surface ornaments that consisted of stylized motifs ranging from the curvilinear to the angular. Art deco architecture in the Philippines was significant because it marked the rejection of the prevailing neoclassicism.
While it rejected such Graeco-Roman staples as columns, capitals, entablatures, arches, and pediments, it did not reject decoration as such but in fact adopted its own ornamental style. What differentiated modern or art deco architecture from the neoclassic was the simplified structure defined by posts, beams, walls, and windows. The structural scheme of a building was revealed to some extent on the exterior, and was emphasized with the discreet use of ornament. While the neoclassic building was massive, formal, faithful to the canons of traditional design, and endowed with solemn grandeur, the early modern building was visually light, less formal, liberated from academic historicism, and relatively cheerful. As the neoclassic buildings were symbols of national dignity, the early modern buildings were symbols of economic progress. In style, neoclassic buildings looked back to the past, but the early modern buildings looked to the future. Neoclassic architecture was identified with the government, early modern architecture with private enterprise.
With progress attained through widespread education, expanded public services, improved transportation and communication, increased production and trade, and greater exposure to the West, new buildings had to be designed and constructed to satisfy emerging needs. Commercial buildings, school buildings, hospitals, hotels, apartment buildings, movie houses, and clubhouses required a new approach to design that only modern architecture, with its freedom and freshness, could provide. Experiments with form could be successfully undertaken with the help of reinforced concrete, the wonder material of the time.
Luna de San Pedro, chief architect of fhe City of Manila from 1920 to 1924, designed the Legarda Elementary School on Lealtad Street, in the French renaissance style. Within the 1920s he moved on to modernism and produced the Perez-Samanillo Building and, subsequently, the Crystal Arcade. The Perez-Samanillo is a straightforward, no-nonsense office building, with a somewhat elaborate exterior that reflects its structural frame. Columns, beams, and exterior walls appear to have been kept down to minimum dimensions to maximize the expanse of windows and the natural illumination within.
Before World War II, the Crystal Arcade was celebrated as Manila’s most modern building. Its ground floor could be considered the forerunner of present-day shopping malls, i.e., a long gallery with mezzanines on both sides and skylights at the front and rear sections. The striking features of the exterior were the continuous bands of glass windows and plain concrete walls that gave the building both purity of line and bold simplicity. In both the Perez-Samanillo Building and the Crystal Arcade, Luna de San Pedro employed art deco forms in various ornaments. By 1930 Ocampo Sr. had designed a number of buildings that were highly regarded for being modern. The Paterno Building (now a building of the Far Eastern Air Transport Inc or FEATI University), located at the foot of Santa Cruz (now MacArthur) Bridge and completed in 1929, was notable for its unembarrassed simplicity and functional design.
The Oriental Club was modern and had a proper touch of oriental character. The seven-story Cu Unjieng Building, that once stood on Escolta and T. Pinpin, was a “skyscraper” so well designed that the structure was its own adornment. One of Ocampo Sr.’s most impressive works is the Central Seminary Building of the University of Santo Tomas (UST). E-shaped in plan with courtyards between the wings, the building has a long front with continuous balconies and large windows on the second and third floors. The horizontal movement of the balconies is broken by exposed columns, and more decisively, by the slightly projected central section over the entrance and two similarly projected end sections. Art deco ornaments accent the vertical thrust of these sections and dramatize the entrance. In 1925, after his studies in the United States, Nakpil went to Paris for further training and, while there, visited the art deco exposition, where he picked up new ideas on architectural treatment, indirect lighting, and furniture design. Upon returning to Manila in 1926 he was employed at the Bureau of Public Works, then from 1928 to 1930 worked with Luna de San Pedro.
In 1930 he established his own practice. One of his earliest works, the Geronimo de los Reyes Building, replaced by the Soriano Building, at Plaza Cervantes in Manila, was in the art deco style. At about the same time he designed the neobaroque Quiapo Church. Nakpil’s other works before World War II include the Avenue Theater and Hotel Building and the Capitan Pepe Building on Rizal Avenue, and the Quezon Institute Administration Building and Pavilions on España extension (now E. Rodriguez Avenue). With round columns, rounded corners, plain surfaces, continuous horizontal bands of walls and windows, and the minimum of ornament, these buildings belong to the streamlined style of art deco. While his predecessors in the local modern movement strove for correctness and elegance, Antonio aimed for boldness and vigor.
His first work, the Ideal Theater (now replaced by another building) on Rizal Avenue, Manila, built in 1933, was notable for its strong, rectangular masses and minimum decoration. Antonio could afford to be daring. He was one architect who from early experience was familiar with the rich possibilities of materials and the practical side of construction. The main building of the Far Eastern University (FEU) on Quezon Boulevard was another exercise in architectural virility. Boldly projecting piers at each end of the front support the dominant horizontal block that defines and shelters the wide expanse of the building.