Architect Heroes: 3 Art Deco Buildings by Pablo S. Antonio
Discover these unparalleled gems by one of our National Artists
Born in 1902 in Binondo to 60-year-old Apolonio and the 16-year-old Maria Severo, young Pablo was orphaned at the tender age of 12. Such circumstances didn't stop him from getting an education as he attended a public school in Tondo. He later on found work as a draftsman for the Bureau of Public Works of the American Colonial Government and was able to study architecture at the Mapua Institute of Technology under the tutelage of architect Tomas Mapua—the founder, first president, and namesake of the said institution. However, due to lack of money, he had to drop out of school.
He finally earned his degree from the University of London through his patron Don Ramon Arevalo, an engineer and the proprietor of Santa Clara Lumber and Construction Company where Pablo was working as a draftsman and a foreman. The brilliant and hardworking Pablo Antonio finished the five-year architecture course in three years. After earning his degree in architecture in 1927, he was hired as its in-house architect.
Antonio is celebrated for his Art Deco Style, a radical departure from the prevailing style of the time—Neoclassicism. His works are defined by its clean lines, strong shapes, and simplicity. He was also famous for having worked around the Philippine tropical climate and was known to employ natural ventilation systems, slanted windows, and sunscreens in his many projects.
He was awarded the National Artist for Architecture Award posthumously in 1976, a year after his death. Here are some of the buildings he designed:
Opened in 1937, White Cross Children’s Home was originally meant to take care of the children of Tuberculosis patients. Now, it has become a safe haven for children of poor unwed mothers, of physically incapacitated parents, of prisoners, and of victims of rape or incest.
The building—with its clean lines—is designed literally like a cross. It is punctuated by a bas-relief designed by Italian sculptor Francesco Monti featuring children at play.
Five buildings in the Sampaloc Campus was designed by Pablo Antonio—the Nicanor I. Reyes Hall, the FEU East Asia College of Engineering and Computer Studies, the Law and Nursing Building, the Auditorium and Administration Building and the Science Building.
In 2005, it was cited with an Honorable Mention by the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation for “returning buildings and landscape to their original appearance, maintaining the architectural integrity of the Art Deco structures.”
*Built on top of a small hill, the original Manila Polo Club building was a 1950s Art Deco two-storey structure of wood and adobe topped with a pitch roof. At present, the main lounge has been one of the top choices as venue for weddings and other important gatherings. It's well-known for its impressive interiors and high ceiling.
*First photo was taken in the 1950s courtesy of Gunter Prittwitz via Lou Gopal's blog—Manila Nostalgia.
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