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Fantastic World-Class Architecture in the Philippines

Literally building that Filipino Pride.
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Standing tall, these buildings and structures are literally giving us Filipino Pride. Here are some of the Philippine buildings—both new and old—that are world-renowned for their artistry, eco-friendliness, and sustainability.

Zuellig Building

Photo by By Judgefloro for Wikimedia Commons.

The 33-story building captures the attention of most Makatizens because of its all-glass facade. However, the glass panels serve more than just an aesthetic purpose. They have low emissivity coating which minimizes heat and energy loss. 

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Aside from this, the U.S. Green Building Council also gave it a Platinum-level LEED certification because of its green architecture, resource-efficient building operations, and sustainable construction. This is the highest level of certification given to "green" structures, which also include the Bank of America building in New York City, Asia Square in Singapore, and Taipei 1010. 

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Other eco-friendly buildings in the Philippines that are LEED-certified include Alphaland Makati, The LiNK Asiatown IT Park in Cebu (both Gold Certification), and the Wells Fargo Center in Taguig (Platinum Certification). 

Zuellig was also awarded the Urban Land Institute's Global Award for Excellence. It was one of the 13 winners in 2014. This award is given to structures that can contribute to urban society and become a model for other buildings because of its best practices.

San Sebastian Church

Photo by REDSHEEP PHOTO + CINEMA.
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Bringing world-class talents to work in Manila was a problem for the Spanish empire. Manila’s churches are a manifestation of Spain flexing its power and connections. Take the San Sebastian Church, for example.

This all-steel church which was constructed in 1890, is not only is it a National Historical Landmark, but it is also considered a National Cultural Treasure.

The original wooden church was built in the 1600, but was destroyed and rebuilt numerous times throughout the centuries due to revolts, earthquakes, and fires. Then finally, in 1880, the parish priest Esteban Martinez finally realized the need for a church that would be strong enough against natural disasters. 

It was said he approached Spanish architect Genaro Palacios but there is also documentary evidence to suggest that Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel behind that famous tower in France) was its chief architect. 

Inspired by the Gothic Burgos Cathedral in Spain, only the best materials and workers were used to build the hallowed place of worship. Prefabricated sheets of steel were manufactured by the Societe Anonyme des Enterprises de Travaux Publiques. They were shipped directly to Manila from Brussels, Belgium.

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Construction was supervised by Belgian engineers. The interiors such as the confessionals, pulpits, and altars were designed by Professors from the Academia d Pintura y Dibuja, Lorenzo Rocha and Lorenzo Guerrero.

And like that wasn’t enough, they also imported 34 painted glass windows were all imported from the Henri Oidtmann Company of Germany.

Mactan Cebu International Airport

Photo by GMR MEGAWIDE.
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The Philippines always gets a bad rap for having one of the worst airports but of course, these surveys and travelers are just talking about NAIA.

When it comes to airports, the country’s pride and joy is the Mactan Cebu International Airport. Its Terminal 2 won two awards at the 2019 World Architecture Festival, beating competitors like Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport and Australia's Barangaroo Ferry Wharf for the Completed Buildings-Transport category. 

MCIA Terminal 2 was designed by Integrated Design Associates Hong Kong in collaboration with Filipino designers. Famous furniture-maker Kenneth Cobonpue who himself hails from Cebu, also helped with the conceptualization. His style manifests in the terminal's timber arches and floor-to-ceiling glass panels.

Philippine International Convention Center 

Photo by By Ramon FVelasquez for Wikimedia Commons.

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Known as Asia’s first international convention center, it was designed by National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin. Spanning around 70,000 square meters in floor area, its five buildings have been versatile and accommodating enough to host different types of eventsfrom political summits to concerts. (The likes of Luciano Pavarotti, Ricky Martin, the Bolshoi Ballet, and Lea Salonga!)

It was first used in 1976 when the country hosted the World Bank's International Monetary Fund Annual Meeting. Immediately afterward, other Asian countries were inspired by PICC and they started building their international convention centers similar to the PICC.

The simple yet elegant design of the master architect is also evident in his other works such as Tanghalang Mariang Makiling of the Philippine High School for the Arts and the National Theater, which is part of the CCP Complex.

Pearl Farm Beach Resort 

Photo by www.pearlfarmresort.com.
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The one who designed this resort, a former farm that cultivates pearls, was no other than Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa. The National Artist for Architecture favored indigenous architecture and this is very visible in the guesthouses designed after native houses built near the sea. 

The establishment was also recognized at the 7th ASEAN Green Hotel Standard Awards for the Philippines at ASEAN Tourism Forum. Every element in the resort stays true to its original theme of promoting Philippine design.

Another iconic landmark designed by Mañosa that incorporates indigenous design is the San Miguel Corporation Building that was patterned after the Banaue rice terraces.

University of Sto. Tomas Main Building 

Photo by By Tristantamayo for Wikimedia Commons.

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The University of Sto. Tomas may be Asia’s oldest existing university, but its main building was formally inaugurated in 1927.The main building is considered by many as an architectural feat because it is known to be the first earthquake-resistant proof building in Asia

This idea came from a certain Fr. Roque Ruaño, O.P., an alumnus of Faculty of Engineering, who proposed in 1922 that the school's main building should be ready for earthquakes because the Philippines is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire. He even went to Japan to do research on the effects of earthquakes on buildings.

Since then, the building has withstood not just earthquakes but also historical events, including World War II when the campus was turned into an internment camp for foreigners staying in Manila.

Bahay Kubo

Photo by By Kleomarlo for Wikimedia Commons.
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Now, do we need the validation of other countries to know that some of the structures we have in our country are truly outstanding?

Of course not. Just look at our sturdy and ever-trusty bahay kubo, which has always been  synonymous with the word simple. Its iterations, payags or kamaligs, which make use of native Philippine trees, are symbolic of the country's culture and way of life. And when you think of the word bayanihan, it’s always an image of a group of Filipinos carrying a nipa hut, isn’t it? 

Notable structures modeled after the bahay kubo are the Coconut Palace (which has been featured in the fifth season of The Amazing Race) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. 

Fun fact: The design of the bahay kubo—lightweight and sturdy against natural forces—has been instrumental in the design of modern skyscrapers. It started when American architect William Le Baron Jenney visited the Philippines

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Seeing the bahay kubo's durability during storms and how the bamboo just swayed when hit by forces of nature inspired him to study engineering. His study culminated in his design of the Home Insurance Building, which was finished in 1885.

A lot of architects consider it to be the most important building of its era and it also earned him the title "Father of Modern American Skyscrapers." Many attribute the metal-framed skyscraper to be modeled after the flexible and light bahay kubo. Who would’ve thought that our modest nipa hut, often associated with traditional architecture, would actually pave the way for modern high-rise buildings? 

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About The Author
Nicai de Guzman
Nicai de Guzman is the Head of Marketing of Rising Tide, one of the fastest-growing mobile and digital advertising technology companies in the Philippines. She also writes for SPOT.ph and Entrepreneur.com.ph.
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