Last Updated: December 13th, 2018
Arguably one of the most recognized Marcos-era structures, the Tanghalang Pambansa which was formerly known as the Theater of Performing Arts can be considered as Leandro V. Locsin’s magnum opus. This brutalist edifice has been an iconic landmark since its inauguration in September 1969 and is one of the iconic edifices that make up the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex.
1. Inaugurated in September 8, 1969, the Tanghalang Pambansa was designed by National Artist for Architecture, Leandro V. Locsin.
Born in Silay, Negros Occidental, Leandro Valencia Locsin studied at the De La Salle College (now De La Salle University) before returning to Negros due to the outbreak of the Second World War. He finally obtained his degree in Architecture at the University of Santo Tomas.
Some of Locsin’s work in the country include the now famous tourist site in Bukidnon, the Church of the Monastery of the Transfiguration, and some of the structures within the CCP Complex including the Philippine International Convention Center, and the Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas.
Locsin is also known for designing the Istana Nurul Iman, the official residence of the Sultan of Brunei, and the “world’s largest residential palace”.
2. Tanghalang Pambansa is a perfect example of brutalist architecture that flourished during the 50s to the mid-70s.
Brutalist architecture is not derived from the word “brutal”, but instead originates from the French word “béton brut” which means “raw concrete”. The term was first used by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret (also known as Le Corbusier), a Swiss-French architect, to describe his choice of material. Later, the term “brutalism” (originally “New Brutalism”) was coined by Swedish architect Hans Asplund to describe the Villa Göth in Uppsala, Sweden.
Brutalist architecture are typically massive in character, fortress-like, with a predominance of exposed concrete construction. It became popular in the design of government institutions with numerous examples in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Canada, Brazil, and the Philippines.
Examples of Brutalist architecture include the Buffalo City Court Building in New York, Western City Gate in Serbia, SESC Pompéia in Brazil, Universidad de Ingenieria y Tecnologia in Peru, and the Habitat 67 in Canada.
In the Philippines, examples of this architectural style include most of the buildings designed by Locsin. This includes the Philippine International Convention Center, Monastery of the Transfiguration in Bukidnon, the Manila Film Center, and the Tanghalang Francisco Balagtas.
3. Construction began in 1966 with Alfredo Juinio serving as the building’s structural engineer and DM Consunji as the builder.
Alfredo Juinio obtained his degree in civil engineering at the University of the Philippines and later obtained his master’s degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.
Juinio also served as the dean of the College of Engineering at the University of the Philippines. During his term, he initiated the establishment of the National Engineering Center, an independent unit of the College of Engineering that provides research, consultancy and continuing education service in engineering. The NEC is currently housed within the Alfredo Juinio Hall which was named after him.
4. The Tanghalang Pambansa building houses four theaters with different seating capacities:
- Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater) is the largest performance venue inside Tanghalang Pambansa that can accommodate up to 1,815 people. It was named after Nicanor Santa Ana Abelardo, a pre-World War II Filipino composer known for his kundiman songs. Abelardo studied music at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music and was also responsible for the melody of the university’s official anthem, U.P. Naming Mahal.
- Tanghalang Aurelio V. Tolentino (Little Theater) was inaugurated a few years after the main theater and seats around 420 people. The theater’s conventional proscenium stage is designed for drama, chamber music, solo recitals, lectures, and film screenings. And it was named after Aurelio Tolentino, a Filipino playwright, novelist, orator, and a former Katipunero.
- Tanghalang Huseng Batute (Studio Theater) has a seating capacity of up to 240 people in two levels. The theater was named after José Corazón de Jesús (popularly known by his pen name Huseng Batute) was a Filipino poet who used Tagalog poetry to express the Filipinos’ desire for independence during the American occupation of the Philippines.
- Tanghalang Manuel Conde (Dream Theater) has a seating capacity of up to 100 people and was completed as a joint project between the CCP and Dream Broadcasting. The venue is used for film, video screenings, seminars and lectures. It was named after Manuel Conde, a Filipino actor and National Artist for Film and Broadcast.
5. Aside from the four theaters, the building also has three exhibit halls and another three hallways (used for displaying artwork), a library, as well as the administrative offices of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
6. In 2011, an installation art called “Poleteismo” by Mideo Cruz caused a wild controversy for using images of Christ and other objects of worship interspersed with phallic symbols and pop culture idols.
7. Tanghalang Pambansa is built on a massive podium and is dominated by a two-storey travertine block suspended 12 meters high by deep concave cantilevers on three sides. Some of the main features of this imposing edifice include:
- Octagonal reflecting pool with fountains and underwater lights
- The main lobby features three large Capiz shell chandeliers symbolizing Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao
- A brass sculpture by Vicente Manansala called “The Seven Arts” welcomes the audience into the main theater
- The interior is lit artificially since there are few windows
- Arturo Luz’s “Black and White” welcomes guests as they ascend to the main lobby\
8. It was first called the Theater of Performing Arts when it was completed in 1969 before it was renamed as Tanghalang Pambansa (National Theater).
9. It underwent major renovation in 2005 when the Philippines hosted the 112th General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union–the first time the country hosted the assembly.
The Manila Project
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- Lico, Gerald (2003). Edifice Complex: Power, Myth and Marcos State Architecture