Arts & Culture

Architect Heroes: 4 Famous Buildings by Juan Nakpil

You’ll be surprised, but some of these popular buildings you see everyday are by a National Artist!

Photography: Ramon Velasquez via Wikipedia

For the first part of our series on famous Filipino architects, we feature the “Father of Philippine Architecture” (and the very first National Artist for Architecture) Juan Nakpil. Born on May 26, 1899, Nakpil was the offspring of two Katipuneros—his father was Julio Nakpil, a composer and general in the Katipunan, and his mother was Gregoria De Jesus, the widow of Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio. Juan was a gifted visual artist, and honed his talent with lessons from artistic masters Fabian dela Rosa and Fernando Amorsolo.

He had a rather interesting life as a student—Nakpil first graduated with a degree in civil engineering from the University of Kansas. He funded his education by working as a pianist with the Filipino Strong Orchestra along with financial help from the American Colonial Government and his uncle Don Antonio Bautista–Lin. He then earned his degree in architecture—his true passion—from the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts in France, and his master’s degree from Harvard University.

Nakpil founded the “Philippine Architects Society” in 1933, now called the Philippine Institute of Architects. He believed that there is indeed such a thing as “Philippine Architecture”—a style that works with our local climate, seismological conditions, and natural environment. Nakpil also developed a design principle based on the structure of our local houses and indigenous materials.

While many of this National Artist’s projects have since been demolished (like the Rizal Theater), many of Nakpil’s buildings are still standing and are being used, in plain sight. Explore these four buildings and marvel at this architect hero’s amazing creations:

The Quiapo Church

Officially known as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, the original Quiapo Church burned down in the late 1920s. 

The church was reconstructed in 1933 from plans by Nakpil. Its edifice has slight baroque influences, and was further refined by Jose Maria Zaragoza in the 1980s.

Quezon Institute

This beautiful building is an Art Deco masterpiece set in the middle of a sprawling, 6.5-hectare property along E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue. Built in 1938 for the Philippines Anti-Tuberculosis Society, this amazing example of Streamlined Moderne has delicate bridges linking several pavilions and various Art Deco details on the interior and exterior.

The Capitol Theater

This famous theater in downtown Escolta is another of Nakpil’s Art Deco gems done in an exaggerated, geometric style.

The bas-relief figures of Filipina muses on the façade are by Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti. It has since been disused as a theater.

The University of the Philippines-Diliman Administration Building

More popularly known to UP students as Quezon Hall, this 1950s building hosts the board of regents of the University. It is a beautiful example of Nakpil’s postwar architecture and serves as a gateway—and along with the famous Oblation sculpture—as a grand entrance to all those who enter the university.

PHOTOS (in order): H. Abanil and FMG Verzon via Wikipedia (Quiapo Church) | Philippine Tuberculosis Society Inc. on Facebook (Quezon Institute) | Michael Angelo Chua (Capitol Theater) | Rinangel Buenavente via Wikipedia (Quezon Hall).

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