Gerard Lico’s new book, 50 Sagisag Arkitektura: Icons of Philippine Architecture, lists down gems of the country’s built environment which became symbols of the development of the Filipino architecture from the indigenous, Hispanic and contemporary traditions.
The buildings “represent the technical knowledge, innovative spirit and the intellectual prowess of their individual designer in a tangible form”
The book, a sort of an excerpt of Lico’s award-winning work Arkitekturang Filipino: A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Philippines, published by the University of the Philippines Press in 2008 is published by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
Its list is based on an online survey conducted in the NCCA-funded website arkitektura.ph in 2012 where 50 popular structures were chosen out of more than a hundred submitted iconic buildings which were selected for their aesthetics, historical significance or both and arranged in historically chronological order.
Lico said in the book, “The icons of Philippine architecture chosen here through consensus are not necessarily the best (or even good) architecture but they embody the unique aspects of Filipino culture and higher virtues beyond the buildings themselves.”
He explained the structures “represent the technical knowledge, innovative spirit, and the intellectual prowess of their individual designer in a tangible form.”
Lico enumerated the criteria used in the book and indicated a structure is considered an icon if it challenges the status quo, influences other architectural works, affects history and remains in the collective imagination of the people.
The book, which has a catchy cover with a portmanteau of iconic structures lists religious, military, civil and domestic buildings including non-existent ones which merits inclusion such as the Crystal Arcade in Escolta by Andres Luna de San Pedro, Insular Ice Plant which used to stand at the southern end of the Puente Colgante (today’s MacArthur Bridge) and Insular Tabacalera in Binondo.
50 Sagisag Arkitektura starts with the indigenous structures such as the Ifugao fale, Meranaw torogan and the sinadumparan or the stone houses of the Ivatan of Batanes and ends with the Zuellig Building in Makati, the steel and glass structure which became the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certified skyscraper in the country.
Religious structures listed include the Sheikh Makhdum Mosque in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco)-inscribed baroque churches of the Philippines except for the Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur, University of the Philippines’ Church of the Holy Sacrifice, Iglesia ni Cristo Central in Quezon City and the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mosque in Cotabato City.
One military structure was included in the list, which is Intramuros, while the bahay na bato of Vigan, Ilocos Sur and the Taal, Batangas, houses, as well as Sariaya Art Deco houses also comprise the list.
Other iconic structures listed include the Malacañan Palace, National Museum complex, Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Carcar Dispensary in Cebu, Cotabato municipio, San Miguel Headquarters in Mandaluyong, Quezon Memorial Monument, and schools such as the University of Santo Tomas, Far Eastern University and Legarda Elementary School in Sampaloc.
This new, albeit a rehashed, work by Lico is a good visual and information resource on some of the icons of Philippine architecture, mostly located in Metro Manila.
It is an abridged, updated version of his mentioned work as well as earlier works such as the CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art and the three-volume Sagisag Kultura ng Filipinas of the NCCA.
However, the book is still important not only for architecture students, professionals and afficionados but also to the lovers of the arts in general as it gives an informative, visually-pleasing guide on the architectural treasures of the Philippines.
It would also let readers, hopefully, to discern the meaning and philosophy behind these structures of national importance past their tangible features.
As Lico puts its, “True icons do not attract attention to themselves but point to ideas beyond and greater than themselves.”