HomeManilavol. 5 no. 1 (2009)

Intramuros Administration: Philippine Architectural Conservation in Transition

Rene Luis S. Mata

Discipline: History



A lot has been said and unsaid about Philippine architecture and the supposed influences found in Philippine colonial architecture of the Spanish period as exemplified in Intramuros. Intramuros being the former capital city of the Philippines in Spanish Colonial times (Intramuros was Manila then), it is presumed that important architectural innovations should have started here, and that it should be a good prototype to start with to get to the roots of Philippine architecture as a whole. We must realize Intramuros was the premiere example of Philippine urban experimentation, a realization of Spanish colonial urban policy, as set down in the voluminous Laws of the Indies that governed all Spanish colonial possessions. This makes Intramuros the first Philippine architectural experiment in urbanism. Philippine attempts at living in an urban environment do not reach sophistication anywhere else, except here in Manila, and perhaps Cebu. This was way ahead of American policy at the turn of the 20th century. Is it now? The difficulty we are facing in accepting the past, through heritage conservation in the Intramuros area as promulgated by the amended P.D.1616, lies in its implementation. The interpretation of heritage conservation in the area through the imposition of strict conformity to historical precedents leaves us with problems of the interpretation of authenticity, its validity to contemporary Philippine architecture, and the growing reality of the needs of the future. Do we strictly conform to historicism, “façadism” or period architecture, or do we allow innovation through strict conformity to other more important factors such as scale, urban form and function? This paper will address the issue, but from a different angle: Can conservation in Intramuros be done through the delineation of the basic characteristics of Philippine urban form as a wellspring for future Philippine urbanism and architecture?