Decolonizing of Space: The Modern Era of Philippine Architecture

      The Pacific war ended on the last quarter of 1945, right after Imperial Japan surrender to the Allied forces in the Pacific. Manila, already known as the pearl of the orient and a model city of the Americans was devastated. After decades of planning, and creating Manila the American’s icon of progress and imperialism in the east; they themselves bombed and destroyed it for just days to force the Japanese forces in surrendering the archipelago back to them. Manila turned into ashes; the once proud city becomes just a dark shadow of its boastful neoclassical architectural edifices. The walled part of Manila, Intramuros was destroyed that only the San Agustin church survived the heavy bombs from American planes. Government complex and buildings turn into a town of debris, many people died (both from the Japanese army and the American bombs), those that are left faced a blank wall of hopelessness of living the aftermath of a war that the Filipino people have nothing to do with (originally). Many people were displaced, nowhere to go. 

      But also right after the war, the Filipino people started the repairs, and reconstructing the only nation that they have. Displaced people initially created makeshift structure from the debris of the building that was destroyed by the war. Spawning shantytowns and informal settlement; due to shortage of housing facility as the government moves in reconstructing the once proud city. 

      Without delay, months after the war; United States granted the Philippines its desire to be independent.  July 4, 1946, the Philippines are again a free republic; the second time since the declaration of independence in June 12, 1898. The US government, once the colonizer was considered a benefactor of the Philippine independence. Though “independent” the new republic was never without influence from the former colonizer. Some critic even says that the U.S. hands were always found meddling with the internal affairs of the country. It is always said then that the former colonizer had influence on whoever was elected as the president of the new republic, that whoever sits there was the one chosen by U.S. Numerous laws was enacted giving U.S. privileges in different affairs of the country; whether it is trade, agriculture, politics, education, technology, etc. One example was a law enacted during the time of President Manuel Roxas, the law specifically pertains to a raw material such as timber. The law manifested today as flash floods, and catastrophes brought by the absence of trees in the mountains. 

      Americans continues to influence Philippines in many ways, the age of film amplified the effect y introducing actual images, culture, trend, and fads through movies and TV shows. Architecture was also influence by the new movement in the modernism of visual arts, and architectural design from the west; the so called Art Deco[i]. Modernism in architecture contributes in the rebuilding of the country. The trend in space planning and architectural design shifts from the highly and heavily ornate designs of the neoclassical architecture of the prewar era, to simplified designs of modernism of the postwar era. Form follows function was the new goal of the era of modernism in architecture. Together with new technologies of material treatment, and construction techniques; and with every country’s desire for reconstruction and rebuilding of what was destroyed during the war; the Philippines once again found itself on the road towards progress. Government buildings were rebuilt according to their original plans, but together with the reconstructed old buildings of the young republic, modern government facility rises. Cheaper materials; faster production and construction, unlimited resources of labor; and the coming of the new generation of designers and architects; defines the age of Art Deco in the Philippine Archipelago. The Art Deco movement created a better opportunity for the coming of the new generation of architects and designer to prove themselves in the country, it also created flexible treatment of materials for the Art Deco designs are simplified forms that follows function. 

      The next influence in the architecture and design was the booming oil industry, the black gold of the Middle East. With its (oil) seemingly unlimited supply, new technologies like air conditioning system, influenced the design and construction of modern buildings in the Philippines prime cities. Natural ventilation and natural illumination was set aside because of the cheap electricity that brought artificial ventilation and illumination inside enclosed buildings.  

      But the war between Iran and Iraq created a crisis in the supply of oil. Electricity becomes expensive, again the local institutions of architecture and design found itself in the right track of redesigning and rediscovering the local designs from indigenous materials and design of the houses in different provinces of the country. Architects and designers made use of the abundant source of light from the sun in designing buildings and facilities that made use of the suns unlimited blessing of illumination. Regional Architectural was the new theme in the country’s design and architecture institution. 

      Then the Marcosian Era of architecture and design came; reviving the grandiosity of City Beautiful plan before the war by the American colonizer, and the Commonwealth administration of President Manuel Quezon. Short of funds, but big in dream, former President Ferdinand Marcos put his wife, the undeniable Imelda R. Marcos in-charge of Metro Manila Commission and the Ministry of Human Settlement. The First Lady sees herself as a patron of art and beauty, revived and revised some of the existing plans for government facilities in the country.  

      Much of the necessary government facilities that we still use today were constructed or reconstructed during the administration former President Marcos and the First Lady . The CCP Complex, Heart Center, the Philippine General Hospital, The LRT 1 Terminal along Rizal Avenue and Taft Avenue, the Lung Center, Children Hospital, Lung Center, Kidney Institute, San Juanico Bridge, and many more.  

      One noted Marcosian project is the BLISS, a housing project of the former President Marcos.  

      It’s been more than 50 years since the US granted us the independence; we as a people should have move on to proving to the world that the Philipines really can stand on its own. What the country prove this time, is that we barely stand at all. Yes, it seems that we are standing. But many things in our country right now is not correct. The American’s left something that the government and its people could have use as pattern for continues development. Such as the City Planning, zoning of the Industrial, Residential, Commercial and Trade, Agricultural and Environment Preservation are just the pattern that we could have improved according to our country’s location in the region.

      But it seems we didn’t learn at all, malls are rising out of nowhere in a location that is anything but congested. Industrial sites are everywhere; housing projects are not really humanistic, our road and transport systems are prone to anarchy (traffic jams resulting to street shooting), environment degradation, implementation of existing law that should have been helpful is another sorry for the country, etc.

      Where will it lead us, every highly developed country or nation experienced a social phenomenon called social decay. Americans itself experienced the Great Depression; France right after the revolution was rotting and decaying society, England with its effort of industrialization found itself at the mercy of child trafficking and child labor (history of England transporting children to Canada as farm laborers), etc.



            [i] Art Deco was a popular international design movement from 1920 until 1939, affecting the decorative arts such as architecture, interior design, and industrial design, as well as the visual arts such as fashion, painting, the graphic arts, and film. This movement was, in a sense, an amalgam of many different styles and movements of the early 20th century, including Constructivism, Cubism, Modernism, Bauhaus, Art Nouveau, and Futurism. Its popularity peaked during the Roaring Twenties. Although many design movements have political or philosophical roots or intentions, Art Deco was purely decorative. At the time, this style was seen as elegant, functional, and ultra modern. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_Deco: The Free Encyclopedia. 24 January 2008, 10:21 AM   

One comment

  1. arki2k4

    thanks for the info that you produced…. this data will help me a lot in my research… thanks again!!!!

Mag-iwan ng Tugon

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Palitan )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Palitan )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Palitan )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Palitan )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: