Mar 04, 2022

Reconstructing the Future: A Comprehensive Guide to Philippine Architecture

The Philippines is an archipelago that is rich in culture and breathtaking destinations. It’s widely known around the world for its pristine islands and many other scenic attractions. There’s one thing, however, that most people generally overlook even though it’s equally worth the attention: Philippine architecture. 

Because of our colonial past, architecture in the Philippines was once a mix of Spanish and American influences. Over time, however, it has evolved to become something that can be said to be uniquely Filipino and is a delightful sight to behold. 

And so, together with the balmy weather and must-experience tourist destinations, the country’s architectural designs should also be a major attraction for both international and local tourists. From baroque-inspired structures to futuristic buildings, this article will dive deeper into the wonders of Philippine architecture. 

Table of Contents

Philippine Architecture: Then and Now  

The culture and history of the Philippines are not only reflected in the values and traditions of the people but also in its rich architectural heritage. Today, the industry has adapted and ascended to the demands of progress for the sake of the people and their aspirations. 

Every architectural structure that has been built and currently being constructed is the outcome of the time, growth, and diverse influences of our neighboring nations. The Spanish colonial period has left us with architectural influences that can be seen especially in the historical structures in Vigan, Manila, and Cebu and in most Catholic churches all throughout the country. Through the years, the Philippines has become an architectural melting pot, showcasing both originally Filipino and colonial architecture. 

Traditional Filipino Architecture 

While a part of Filipino architecture has been influenced by our colonizers and even those who merely migrated here such as the Chinese, the country also has its purely authentic and distinct design.  

The Filipino traditional house known as the bahay kubo (also called nipa hut) is considered as one of the most significant and uniquely Filipino house styles. The bahay kubo is made from indigenous materials such as bamboo or wood, grass, and nipa. Generally found in lowlands all over the country, this traditional house is an example of vernacular Filipino architecture. 

The bahay kubo is kept off the ground (or in some cases, water) with the use of stilts. The main reason for the elevation is to keep away from low-level flooding. The house is topped with steep roofs and designed with large windows, allowing enough ventilation and natural lighting to enter. 

One interesting thing about the traditional bahay kubo is that it can entirely be transported from one place to another. This is a great benefit should the homeowner feel the need to move. Instead of demolishing and reconstructing it, the house is literally carried on the shoulders of the townsfolk in what is known in local parlance as “bayanihan,”  a Filipino concept that embodies community teamwork and synergy. Moving the house instead of building it from scratch is also more economical.

Even today, in a modern and technologically advanced Philippines, the bahay kubo design lives on, commonly applied to various commercial establishments such as restaurants, hotels, and cafes. This gives the Pearl of the Orient a solid cultural identity while preserving the original representation of traditional Philippine architecture in the country. 

Modern Filipino Architecture 

Greatly influenced by the American colonial period, the modern Filipino architectural designs greatly resemble those you see in Chicago or New York. During American rule, some of the biggest names when it came to modern architecture were Daniel Burnham, Edgar Bourne, and William Parsons.  

The American influence toward contemporary Filipino architecture, however, wasn’t as extensive as the Spaniards because of the fact that their grasp on the country was cut short by the Japanese invasion. In spite of this, we still owe to the Americans a part of the evolution of Philippine architecture. 

As soon as the Philippines finally had its independence, a new wave of architectural designs emerged. Architects began to revolutionize traditional styles and also merged them with some of the most prominent designs in the country. 

Today, with the rise of more sustainable practices, architects across the globe are incorporating environmentally sound designs to their projects. These initiatives promote social responsibility with the ultimate goal of countering global warming. Filipino architects have also joined the cause and are working to come up with more eco-friendly structures. 

Top Philippine Architectural Firms 

Despite facing bigger challenges and tighter competition, these architectural firms have managed to rise above the rest and lead the Philippine real estate industry. Get to know more about them and their key projects. 

H1 Architecture and Design 

As a full-service and well-established company, H1 Architecture and Design has a remarkable portfolio of high-profile projects in the Philippines. The group has already earned the trust and loyalty of some of the biggest property owners and investors in the country. 

Key projects: Parkway Corporate Center in Alabang, Fora Mall in Tagaytay, Panglao Oasis in Taguig, Soltana Nature Residence in Cebu, Six Senses Resort in Pasay City 

AIDEA Philippines, Inc. 

This architectural firm originated in England in 1995 but eventually evolved into an all-Filipino organization in 2003. For three consecutive years, AIDEA Philippines, Inc. has been included in the BCI Media Group’s Top 10 Architectural Firms. It also took the 62nd spot among the WA (World Architecture) 100 in 2015. 

Key projects: High Street South Corporate Plaza Tower 2, Ascott Residences, Woodside Greentown Twin Towers, and Kidzania Philippines 

Visionary Architecture, Inc. 

Despite being one of the newest architectural firms in the country, Visionary Architecture, Inc. has swiftly made a name for itself as a top player in the industry. It has received several awards and led a competent number of high-profile projects. 

Key projects: Avida Towers Serin East in Tagaytay, Xavier School in Bonifacio Global City, Circuit Events Pavilion in Circuit Makati 

Casas + Architects, Inc. 

Known as a multi-disciplinary architectural firm, Casas + Architects, Inc. is supported by a highly innovative contemporary vision. In every aspect of their work, the group is committed to upholding the principles of Philippine architecture and master planning with integrity. 

Key projects: ABS-CBN Broadcasting Studio, The Pacific Plaza Tower in Makati City, Richmonde Hotel, Salcedo Park in Makati City 

JSLA Architects 

Showcasing over 450 accomplished award-winning projects, JSLA Architects has an impressive portfolio that shows their dedication to providing exceptional real estate services. Their ultimate mission is to become an impassable presence in the world of architecture while providing spaces that are safe, sustainable, and efficient. 

Key projects: SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, more than 30 buildings in Bonifacio Global City, 37 out of 70 malls of SM, numerous BPO buildings in Robinsons Malls, resorts, hotels, residential properties nationwide 

ASYA Design Partner 

Led by Architect Albert Yu, ASYA Design Partner is widely known for its holistic services and for being the only local firm with a 12-story Platinum-certified green office building. The company has continuously been in BCI’s Top 10 architectural firms since 2005. 

Key projects: City of Dreams Manila, Fo Guang Shan Temple in Malate, Mactan-Cebu International Airport 

BUDJI+ROYAL Architecture+Design 

Established by Budji Layug and Royal Pineda, this architectural design firm was born out of the creative collaboration between the founders. Their original approach to design combines the demands of Philippine architecture, furniture design, interior design, home accessories, and landscaping into one integrated practice. 

Key projects: Camara Residence in Makati City, Meranti Hotel in Quezon City, Lumot Vacation House in Laguna 

Edward Co Tan & Architects 

Driven by a passion for sustainability, Edward Co Tan & Architects (ECTA) has established itself as one of the top architectural firms in the Philippines. The company has been embracing advancements and techniques that aggregate the systems developed by renowned environmental institutions such as the Philippine Green Building Council (PhilGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). 

Key projects: The Sanctuarium in Quezon City, Del Rosario Building in Bonifacio Global City, and World Hotel and Residences in Quezon City 

GF & Partners Architects 

Founded by Gabriel Formoso, one of the first 100 licensed architects in the Philippines, GF & Partners Architects began as a successful personal practice. The firm eventually expanded to include its founding partners, namely Ricardo Dela Rosa Jr., Susana Castillo, Jaime Marquez, Severino Villarama, and Rodolfo Lameyra. 

Key projects: Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Alabang Town Center, Makati City Hall, One Serendra, Makati Shangri-La Hotel 

FSL & Associates, Co. 

Since 2012, the firm has been constantly rewarded with the Asia Pacific Award for Best Office Development. Established by highly acclaimed architect Felix S. Lim, FSL & Associates, Co. is a renowned architectural firm showcasing over 700,000 square meters of fulfilled office, commercial, and LEED projects. 

Key projects: BDO Tower in Ortigas Center, Eton Cyberpod Centris in Quezon City, Podium Mall in Ortigas Center 

Jonathan O. Gan + Associates 

Widely known for institutional architecture projects such as the Southville Foreign College in Las Piñas City and Xavier School Sports Complex in Manila, Jonathan O. Gan + Associates has been among the BCI Asia Top 10 awardees on several occasions. Jonathan O. Gan + Associates has also been featured in the magazine of the award-giving body. 

Key projects: Midori Clark & Casino in Pampanga, Chimes Condominiums in Greenhills, Robinsons Tagum in Tagum City 

Jose Siao Ling & Associates 

Formed in 1983 and started with only three office staff, Jose Siao Ling & Associates is all about building things from the ground up. Fast forward to the present and the architectural firm is now one of the most established companies in the industry. It has also been an eight-time position holder in the BCI Asia Top 10, with members of the firm acclaimed as top APEC or ASEAN architects. 

Key projects: Mall of Asia Arena, H Hotel by Harolds in Cebu and Quezon City, Luxe Residences in Taguig City 

Pimentel Rodriguez Simbulan & Partners 

As the team behind some of the most high-profile structures in Metro Manila and other parts of the Philippines, Pimentel Rodriguez Simbulan & Partners was formed by three individuals who were also successful as sole proprietors. 

Key projects: The Grove by Rockwell in Pasig City, Shang Salcedo Place in Makati City, Garden Villas in Rockwell Center, Edades Tower in Rockwell Center, Ayala Life–FGU Centers in Makati, Alabang, and Cebu 

R. Villarosa Architects Partner & Associates 

The firm was established in 1972 and expanded into a partnership with more than 40 members. Considered as one of the most experienced architectural firms in the Philippines, R. Villarosa Architects Partner & Associates has been A part of the BCI Asia Top 10 for the past three consecutive years. 

Key projects: The Gramercy Residences in Makati City, Acqua Private Residences in Mandaluyong City 

WTA Architecture + Design Studio 

Establishing itself as a “multidisciplinary group of young and idealistic architects, interior designers, urban planners, and engineers,” WTA Architecture + Design Studio has gained massive success in a short span of time. This has led to the firm being awarded the Archstoyanie Nikola’s Belvedere First Prize. 

Key projects: Inoza Tower in Bonifacio Global City, The One Mall in Valenzuela City, Portal Mall in Binondo, Manila 

Must-See Architectural Structures in the Philippines  

Aside from being home to some of the world’s most pristine beaches and crystal-blue waters, the Philippines also showcases stunning skyscrapers and historical sites. These must-see architectural structures are a true reflection of the country’s rich architectural heritage and evolution. 

Zuellig Building, Makati 

Situated right in the central business district of Makati City, the Zuellig Building is known for its environment-friendly design and modern technologies. With daylight dimming sensors, a double-glazed low emission curtain wall, and rainwater harvesting facilities, the 155-meter-tall building is indeed one of the most impressive skyscrapers in the country. 

The Mind Museum, Taguig 

If you’re into the diverse world of science and all things modern, you might as well visit The Mind Museum in Taguig. This futuristic building is the creation of father-and-son duo, Lor and Ed Calma, who is known for being a formidable force in Philippine architecture. The structure also won an international award and was praised for taking an “extra step in expanding science into a fully experiential world.” 

The Ruins, Negros Occidental 

During the 1900s, this 10-bedroom, Italian-inspired mansion was built by sugarcane baron Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson in memory of his beloved wife who passed away during her pregnancy with their 11th child. If you think that wasn’t tragic enough, the WWII Filipino guerrillas working for the U.S. Army eventually set the building on fire to prevent the Japanese from using the mansion as their base. 

Intramuros, Manila 

Of course, who wouldn’t know Intramuros? No list of the Philippines’ must-see architectural structures would be complete without it. Conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi established Intramuros as a Spanish capital during the late 1500s. Its name means “within the walls” in Latin, this historic site is the oldest district in Manila—truly a centuries-old Philippine architecture to marvel at. 

San Agustin Church, Manila 

Showing intricate details and being the perfect example of early Baroque design, the San Agustin Church in Manila was built by the Spaniards during the 16th century. Hailed as a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site, it’s still an active church where you can hear mass regularly or hold a wedding while looking in awe at the symmetric cross plan, trompe l’oeil frescoes on the vaulted ceiling, and religious relics. 

Calle Crisologo, Vigan 

Instead of just a specific structure, Calle Crisologo in Ilocos Sur’s Vigan has an entire street of the wonders of Philippine architecture. Spanning more than 500 meters long, it’s a perfect example of a planned and well-preserved Spanish colonial town. Calle Crisologo is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Quezon Hall, UP Diliman 

Built during the 1950s, the University of the Philippines’ famous Quezon Hall was designed by Juan Nakpil, the first Filipino architect who received the National Artist award. Quezon Hall integrates eclectic architectural styles into one unified structure. 

St. La Salle Hall, DLSU Manila 

Designed by architect Tomás Mapúa, St. La Salle Hall is the Philippines’ epitome of institutional architecture, exhibiting a neoclassical style and classical elements such as spacious halls and whitewashed walls. Not only does it embody the spirit of the green and white of De La Salle University but also the triumph of Catholic education in the country. 

UST Main Building, Manila 

Situated along España Boulevard in Manila, this building designed by Rev. Fr. Roque Ruaño, OP is constructed in the Philippines’ oldest university. With lessons learned from the great Kantō earthquake that devastated Yokohama and Tokyo in 1923, the University of Santo Tomas Main Building’s design was fine-tuned. The structure was later on regarded as the first earthquake-resistant building in the Philippines. 

Nicanor Reyes Hall, FEU Manila 

Aside from being one of the five buildings in the Far Eastern University complex designed by Pablo Antonio, the Nicanor Reyes Hall is acclaimed as Manila’s largest architectural body of work built in Art Deco style. The four other Art Deco-style buildings together with the Nicanor Reyes Hall earned an Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage from UNESCO. 

Philippine International Convention Center, Pasay 

A brainchild of master architect Leandro Locsin, the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay is an example of fortress-style Brutalist architecture. The entire structure of the PICC was completed within only 23 months, starting from 1974. As of today, the building is still used as a venue for both local and foreign conventions such as the annual Awards Night of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences (FAMAS). 

National Theater, CCP Complex 

Formerly known as the Theater of Performing Arts, the National Theater or Tanghalang Pambansa is the flagship venue of the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex. The theater’s design is another notable work by Leandro Locsin, exhibiting his signature style of the “floating volume,” an architectural technique that combines elevated structures with the heavy use of concrete. 

Famous Contemporary Architects in the Philippines  

While distinctly capturing the Philippines’ complex cultural history through their work, these Filipino architects also paved the way for the further development and a brighter future of the industry. Know more about how they have revolutionized Philippine architecture. 

Idelfonso P. Santos 

Known as the Father of Philippine Landscape Architecture, Idelfonso Paez Santos created some of the most-loved urban spaces in the country. His field of expertise mainly dealt with parks, green spaces, and plazas. During the first half of the 20th century, however, landscape architecture was still a hardly considered element of urban planning. Despite this, Santos revolutionized the industry through his pioneering work, which eventually led him to be recognized as the National Artist for Architecture in 2006. 

Leandro Locsin 

Aside from being an exceptional architect, Leandro Locsin was also an artist, interior designer, and classically trained pianist. During his time, he was very much  the quintessential Renaissance Man. It is for his architectural works, however, that he is most remembered. With works ranging from airport terminals, arts centers, and memorial chapels to stock exchange structures, Locsin left a lasting legacy on the Philippine urban landscape. 

Francisco Mañosa 

For around five decades, Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa challenged traditional architecture in the Philippines. He is widely known for his distinctive Contemporary Tropical Filipino Architecture. It involved a fresh combination of seemingly contradictory elements. Native elements such as rattan, coconut lumber, and even indigenous textiles were placed side by side with hypermodern materials such as concrete, glass, and metal. A body of work that embodies his style is the Coconut Palace at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex. 

Pablo Antonio 

Despite being orphaned at the age of 12 and dropping out of his first program in architecture, Pablo Antonio is now one of the most renowned modernist architects in the Philippines. Through his own version of Art Deco style, he went on to revolutionize the modern Philippine architecture industry in the country. He was also well aware of the unforgiving Philippine climate, which led him to innovate natural sunscreens and ventilation systems. 

Juan Nakpil 

This architect firmly believed that architecture built in the Philippines should deeply reflect its people and culture. During the early years of his career, Nakpil spent time studying international architecture in France and the United States. Upon returning to Manila in the mid-1920s, he applied his learnings and newfound knowledge to his work. He took inspiration from traditional Filipino architecture and created structures specifically with the Filipino citizens in mind. 

Carlos Santos-Viola 

Aside from being a highly skilled architect, he also enjoyed his own pastimes such as playing the saxophone and lawn tennis. Santos-Viola’s designs mainly incorporated Baroque and Gothic elements into modern churches. Some of his most notable projects are the Central Temple for Iglesia Ni Cristo and other religious structures. He was also known for asserting that “the structure must not only look good but must also be made well.” 

Architectural Organizations in the Philippines  

From building structures to forming leagues, these architectural organizations have set the pace toward the constant development and modernization of Philippine architecture. 

United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) 

Reigning as the “official voice for architects” throughout the country, the United Architects of the Philippines or UAP was formed through the merging of three architectural organizations: 

  • League of Philippine Architects (LPA)  
  • Association of Philippine Government Architects (APGA)  
  • Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA) 

Upon receiving accreditation from the Professional Regulation Commission, the unification of these organizations became a bona fide professional group of architects. 

The organization now aims to be the prime place where the needs of its professionals, the industry, and its products are met while knowledge and innovation are constantly transmitted, created, and preserved. It also aims to actively find balance in all of these roles, even amidst the uncertainties and the continuously changing forces. 

Why Is Architecture Important in Building a Home?  

A good architectural design is generally overlooked by the majority of people, and the elements that actually bring enhancement aren’t often thought about. For some, it may just be another structure or building, but the true importance of architecture lives among us and greatly affects us. Here are the most significant reasons why good Philippine architecture should also be a priority. 

Drives Economic Flow  

An optimal architecture design is one that doesn’t cost a great amount of fortune but will constantly drive economic flow. This is about more than just aesthetic design. If you have a business, for example, you’ll have to take a few factors into account. Where is the ideal location of the building? What are the main goals of the business? What kind of traffic can be expected? 

Also, remember to keep safety and security in mind. A good architecture design involves spaces that give comfort and peace of mind. 

Even in a small or old space, you can breathe new life through the application of good architectural design that can give it a much-needed economic boost. 

Enhances the Quality of Life  

If you’re going to live in a new house, you might as well make it a home that you’re going to be proud of. Who would want to live in something that lacks functionality, creativity, beauty, or at least good design? Architecture enhances our daily lives in ways we don’t often expect or notice. 

Studies have also proven that spaces and structures with good architectural design help create healthier neighborhoods, stronger communities, and prosperous businesses. 

Promotes Societal Progress 

One of the most rewarding and exciting aspects of having a good architecture is that it lets societies and cultures progress. The overall state of architecture stays abreast with the times through constant innovation and development while encouraging healthier lifestyles and more efficient practices. 

If you think about it, without new technologies and innovations in architecture, we would still be stuck with the same old huts or even caves that humans once lived in ages ago. 

What Makes a Modern Filipino Home  

Living in the Philippines means having to deal with scorching temperatures that can reach up to 42 degrees Celsius especially in the summertime. In a tropical climate like this, the traditional concrete or plywood house may no longer be sustainable and practical. 

Considering these factors, tropical architecture is the most suitable in providing enough defense against specific weather conditions in the country. 

Especially when it comes to cities and its surrounding areas, a bahay kubo may not be durable enough to withstand extreme weather conditions, including strong typhoons and even fires. In this modern day and age, here are the main features that make an ideal Filipino home. 

Sustainable Design 

By using low-thermal conductive materials, the house can cool faster while lessening the need for high-energy-consuming appliances such as air conditioners. Adding greenery and native vegetation would also help in reducing unwanted heat and even in purifying the air. 

Efficient Ventilation Control 

With strategically installed openings and partitions, the house would have good airflow with a balanced velocity and temperature. A well-designed tropical home allows air to move around in such a way that the interiors remain comfortable whether it’s rainy or sunny. 

Adequate External Shading 

One of the most distinctive features of tropical architectural design is external shading. Whether it’s in the form of trees, overhangs, or sunshades, having external shading for your home helps in lowering internal temperatures. Adding an aesthetic appeal to the house is a bonus. 

Touch of Native Philippine Architecture 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Filipino home without a touch of native architecture. Let your home be a place where traditional concepts and modern sensibilities unite. You can incorporate Filipino architectural elements such as wood, rattan, and capiz shell sliding windows. 

Final Thoughts

Whatever good things we build end up building us.

Jim Rohn, entrepreneur

Philippine architecture has truly come a long way from where it began — from the pre-colonial influences of neighboring Malays, moving on to the Spanish colonial period, the American Commonwealth period, and finally the modern times. 

Contemporary architecture in the Philippines is the outcome of a deep-rooted natural growth enriched with the absorption of diverse influences. Combining them all together, the country has become an architectural melting pot, representing a uniquely Filipino culture with a touch of occidental. 

Whether you’re building a home or a high-rise commercial structure and in need of a design inspiration, Philippine architecture is a great place to begin with and explore. May this comprehensive guide provide you with the information you need to achieve the structure you desire. 

For more valuable resources on the Philippine real estate landscape as well as step-by-step guides for your home-buying journey, stay updated and in the know by visiting

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