Last Updated: December 14th, 2018
Located along the stretch of Taft Avenue in Manila, the Manila City Hall stands as a testament of the influence of the Americans in our country’s architecture. From the Old Legislative Building, the Agriculture and Finance Buildings, and the Manila Central Post Office–these iconic edifices were all envisioned to serve as the country’s seat of government had the plans of Daniel Burnham been fully implemented. And while this certainly isn’t the case today, the preservation and reconstruction of these neoclassical structures after the Second World War is something Filipinos should be thankful for.
1. The Manila City Hall was designed by renowned Filipino architect Antonio Toledo.
Known for being one of the first “pensionados” for Architecture, Toledo is also the youngest–having been sent to the United States at the age of sixteen. He would later obtain his degree in Architecture from Ohio State in 1911 before working for the Bureau of Public Works. And until the late 60s, would teach at Mapúa Institute of Technology that was founded by his fellow pensionado Tomás Mapúa.
Toledo is credited for the designs of other massive neoclassical structures in the country including the Leyte Provincial Capitol, the National Museum of Natural History (formerly the Agriculture, and Tourism Building), and the National Museum of Fine Arts (formerly the Old Legislative Building).
2. The building was part of the Burnham-led masterplan for Manila in the 1930s. While the plan was not fully implemented, several structures including the National Museum of Fine Arts (formerly the Old Legislative Building), the Manila Central Post Office, the Manila Hotel, and the National Museum of Natural History (formerly the Agriculture, and Tourism Building) continues to stand to this day.
Born in Henderson, New York, Burnham is credited with creating the master plans for the development of the cities of Chicago and Washington, D.C. He is also behind the design of some of the most iconic buildings including the Flatiron Building in New York, the Washington Union Station, the Ford Building in Detroit, and the Fisher Building in Chicago.
In the Philippines, Burnham worked on the design of the Provincial Capitol of Pangasinan, and the Provincial Capitol Building in Bacolod in Negros Occidental. He is also credited with creating not only the master plan for Manila but also for the City of Baguio in Benguet.
3. Inaugurated in 1941, the building was finished well before the Battle of Manila broke out in 1945.
4. It was reconstructed after it was seriously damaged during the Battle of Manila. The new plans, however, deviated from Toledo’s design with the recent addition of a fifth-floor to accommodate additional offices, and new windows were added to cover the damage suffered during the War.
5. Its design is a perfect example of neoclassical architectural style that was prevalent in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
Neoclassical architecture is characterized by its clean and elegant lines, uncluttered appearance, free standing columns, massive appearance. In the Philippines, some examples of neoclassical architecture include the Malacañang Palace, Manila Central Post Office, Malolos Cathedral, National Museum of Fine Arts, and Tondo Church, among others.
In other countries, notable structures that incorporate neoclassical style include the Rotunda of Mosta in Malta, the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, among others.
6. Its famous clock tower is recognized as the largest in the Philippines.
7. While some say that the building is shaped like a casket, its design is said to have drawn inspiration from the shield of the Knights Templar–a Catholic military order.
The Manila Project
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- The Philippine Star
- Lico, Gerard (2008). Arkitekturang Filipino: A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Philippines
- City of Manila
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