It's no surprise when well-conceived architecture weathers the passage of time and through the course becomes weaved  with the history of a place. Such is the case of the Peninsula Manila or as the locals fondly refer to as the Manila Pen.

Manila PeninsulaOn a recent trip to the Philippines, our Singapore BD Manager, Kai Seah, and I had an opportunity to visit the hotel and pay homage to the very first hotel project that WATG designed in the country.

I've only been to the hotel once before, long before I joined WATG. I only know this hotel from the stories of the man who designed it--Don Fairweather, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and was one of WATG's notable partners until he retired several years ago. As a young designer, I had the privilege to work and traveled with Don to far-flung places; it was those occasions when Don told and retold his fascinating experience and adventures in the Philippines in the 1970s during the design and construction of the Manila Pen.

After 36 years since its opening, the Pen's grand and spacious lobby hasn't failed to impress its guests. It epitomizes classic hotel lobby design--formal, elegant and exact; an impressive and large living room that is a prelude to the social and function spaces the hotel has to offer.

Throughout its history, the hotel has been host to exclusive, famous public and private social events. As recent as six years ago, it also unceremoniously became the setting for a military uprising; its grand lobby sacrilegiously turned into an armored tank parking lot. Such is the case of a hotel that has become an icon in the business center of the Philippines.

The exterior architecture, unfortunately, has seen better days. Its bush-hammered and exposed concrete aggregate façade have not been spared from the dirty metropolis air. But interestingly enough, an architect like me can easily squint his eyes and see the strong bones of a modernist architecture--clean, bold vertical elements contrasted with horizontal bands at the top floors. A sensitive and thorough re-façade may just be what it takes to bring this landmark building to the present.

Walking around the Pen, I find it fascinating and noteworthy that WATG has had a presence in the Philippines for quite a long time. And within those nearly 40 years, we have had wonderful built projects, great client relations, and the privilege and satisfaction of designing memorable places that lift the human spirit.


Current Comments.

  • Julian Xanadu
  • Hi Roger,

    I would just like to clarify what is WATG's involvement in the Manila Pen. Here in the Philippines, it is popularly known that the lead architect of Manila Pen is the National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin. He is also the architect of buildings like the Mandarin Hotel, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Cultural Center of the Philippines, PLDT Building, etc. All of which have strong consistency in geometric approach.

    I never heard of any architect involved in the original brutalist structure until I read your blog. Please enlighten me.


  • Paul Blasco
  • No, it is not by Locsin, but by another renowned Filipino architect Gabriel Formoso. Of what WATG's involvement is, I don't know. SO please enlighten us. Thank you.

    Paul B
  • Roger Gaspar
  • WATG, or at the time, Wimberly Whisenand Allison Tong & Goo, was the design architect. Like any of our international projects, WATG liaise with a local architect to carry out the construction documentations. The local architect, as the ?architect of record,? is also responsible for tackling and complying with local building codes and regulatory requirements. As design architects, WATG is responsible in conceptualizing and documenting the project up to the Design Development phase. Next time you visit the Manila Peninsula, look for a small WWATG plaque next to the street-level side entry door along Makati Avenue.
  • Roger Gaspar
  • Here is Don Fairweather?s recollection of the project:

    ?I had a large house in Manila that I had set up to hold as many as 8 to 10 staff including three designers and the rest were draftsmen. It was a fast paced project since the contractor had a huge staff working 3 shifts 6 days a week. He would send one of his engineers over to our place a couple of times a week to collect whatever drawings we had done and build from them. It was wild and often frantic but I loved it. ?Every one we worked with was most cooperative and really caught up in the excitement of the effort.?

    It?s also interesting to note that WATG?s strong conviction of ?going where the action is?, as it was then and as it is now, proved to be a key factor in the firm?s longevity and success.
  • Architecture design firm Singapore
  • Great post! Thanks for sharing.The Manila Pen

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