Friday, 8 April 2016

Another contemporary heritage to lose?

Another contemporary heritage to lose?

(Or another battle over a National Artist-designed edifice 
that sadly hath been currently abandoned 
and presently threatened with demolition)

Another contemporary heritage to possibly lose similar to those of Manila's important buildings that have been torn down in recent years under the administration of Mayor Joséph Estrada.

That, in danger of being demolished is the iconic building of the now-defunct Philippine Banking Corporation in Port Area, Manila.

With a signage that says “Warning. This building is condemned per City of Manila Office of the Building Official. Keep out”, the demolition over that said edifice became likely, although according to the City Mayor’s Office, stated that the warning sign was not a "condemnation" but rather an “assessment", which was made on the request of the Philippine Ports Authority, which currently controls the abandoned building.

Furthermore, the City government stated that despite being condemned, the issue is not been final for it still had to conduct “a series of hearings and a final inspection.”

Designed by the National Artist Jose Maria Zaragoza and Completed in 1965, the 13-story Philbanking building is well-known for its "International Style" of architecture, particularly coming from Zaragoza’s collaborations with Brazilian architects Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, that end manifested in the works, described as “futuristic” with the use of Concrete as a building material, and having its structure with undulating curves and brise soleil (sun baffles) which serves both for structural and decorative purposes.

And speaking of Zaragoza's collaborations with Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, the Filipino architect and future National Artist was one of the guest architects invited to Brazil by Niemeyer himself in 1960 to help design projects for the Latin American giant nation’s new capital, Brasilia, according to an Inquirer article by conservation architect Augusto “Toti” Villalon in 2004.
Villalon also noted that the Philbanking building together with Meralco Center and the Commercial Bank and Trust Company building are his post-Brazil projects in the country, in which he incorporated touches of Brazilian architecture.

The buildings, Villalon says, “insinuate the subtle flowing Latino lines of Brazilian architecture.” Or with yours truly's take, creating a modern atmosphere in a tropical setting. with the use of Brise Soleil for natural light and perhaps for ventilation given the sea breeze of Manila or the place itself situated near the sea.

The Port Area edifice was originally made for the now-defunct Philippine Banking Corporation, then vacated it for the National Power Corporation (NPC) as its main office in the early 1970s to 1981 when it was sold to BIR for a regional office, which abandoned it a couple of years ago despite currently controlled by the Philippine Ports Authority.

But thankfully, there are heritage conservation groups that affordeed to stop as much as possible and assert the building's relevance be it its architectural wonder if not being carefully done by a National Artist. Groups like the "Heritage Conservation Society" as well as the "International Council on Monuments and Sites" (Philippines), urged to save the structure and be given adaptive reuse in a way Gemma Cruz Araneta, a former Manila Tourism and Cultural Affairs Bureau director, explained that the building was "handsome" with a unique design suitable for a tropical climate like the Philippines.
Araneta even appealed to the structural engineers, particularly those at Manila City Hall "not to be trigger happy" with heritage structures such as those threatened by demolition attempts. 


In fact, quite nice to see such attempts to preserve, if not concerned about Zaragoza being a well-known Architect that hath been lately revisted after his demise and posthomously given the "National Artist" award. But sadly, his contributions have often been ignored, neglected, or even demolished in case of Vira Mall and the Union Church at Makati. And to think that he's a "National Artist" with his contributions be given recognition by means of preserving it, having a mediocre, consumerist, generation who disregards heritage may say that disregarding it or favouring that is, "up to date" like any other finance-commercial complexes in Makati or in Taguig. 

And like some of Zaragoza's now-demolished works, there were good edifices, done by National Artists if not well-recognised ones, that were end demolished as it favours interests regardless of having it endured by decades or carefully crafted by the artist's idea and practise. The Benguet centre of Leandro Locsin was demolished years ago so were the pre-war Jai Alai, Michael Apartments, as well as the Admiral, that were demolished all for the sake of setting up new complexes without any respect for those building's decades-old heritage. 

Strange today's generation these days, what more of a system whose mamby-pamby mutterings, with some half-proven basis, be used to justify condemnation and its eventual demise such as a heritage site. No wonder Manila, both the Captial and the Metro region itself, has gone degenerated.