Brutalist Buildings in Metro Manila
Manila/ Urbanite/

Exposed Concrete, Hard Edges: Brutalist Buildings in Metro Manila

There seems to be no middle ground when it comes to Brutalism; either people hate it or love it. Perhaps one of the most divisive, if not unloved, of architecture's styles, Brutalism or Brutalist architecture came on the heels of the Second World War's end, throwing intricacy and embellishment out the window with its emphasis on simplicity and functionality. According to non-profit organization The Art Story Foundation, the movement's achievements were at once its bane and cause for shock and controversy due to its stress on the use of unfinished concrete.

Brutalist buildings are often called rigid, cold, dreary, and even dystopic and authoritarian due to its hard edges, modular elements, and exposed concrete and steel, but we believe the bad rap surrounding Brutalism is undeserved.

In Metro Manila, Brutalist structures run aplenty. In fact, there's a lone Instagram account that's dedicated to educating the public about Brutalist architecture in the Philippines. Brutalistpilipinas, moderated by editor and publication designer Patrick Kasingsing, designer Eldry John Manlapaz Infante, and artist Karl Castro, has been around since 2018 and regularly shares educational materials on Brutalism, from publishing a beginner's guide on Brutalism and making a Brutalist Metro Manila Map to sharing Brutalist images in the public domain for everyone to access.

To foster your appreciation for Brutalism, here are some structures in Metro Manila that you probably didn’t know were Brutalist! Make sure to check these imposing buildings out in person once it’s safe to venture outdoors – photos can only do so much!

Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS)

Did you know that the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) used to be in Manila? It then transferred to Diliman, Quezon City, where its structure remains until today. If you regularly pass Katipunan Avenue, then you've surely sighted this building, opposite the University of the Philippines, Diliman (UP Diliman).

Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) Complex

The GSIS Complex in Pasay City, which boasts of a total floor area of more than 30,000 square meters, was realized by United States-based The Architects Collaborative (TAC) and Jorge Y. Ramos and Associates. Its structure takes inspiration from the famous Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao.

Romulo Hall, UP Diliman

It's easy to look past the ageing Romulo Hall inside UP Diliman, especially since it's beside the newer and swankier GT-Toyota Asian Center. Plus, when you're entering from this side of campus inside a rumbling UP-Katipunan jeep you rarely have the chance to marvel at it, anyway. We have much love for this building, though, because it houses the university's Institute of Islamic Studies and was designed by no other than the late National Artist for Architecture Juan Nakpil.

Ramon Magsaysay Center

The hard-edged Ramon Magsaysay Center in Malate, Manila, is a dignified and immaculate stature along a busy thoroughfare. It features 18 storeys and was built in 1967 by Afredo Luz and Associates with Pietro Belluschi and Alfred Yee Associates in honor of the late former President Magsaysay, who perished in a plane crash.

The Peninsula Manila

The Peninsula Manila, also known to most as "Manila Pen," is considered as one of the grandest hotels in the Philippines and it is unapologetically Brutalist! This institution of luxury in Makati City has been around since 1976 and was designed by the late architect Gabriel Formoso.

Philippine International Complex Center (PICC) and the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex

The Philippine International Complex Center in Pasay City is just a stone’s throw away from another Brutalist behemoth, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex. These two structures were designed by the late National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin and were built during the turbulent years of the Marcos regime in 1976 and 1969, respectively — a time of infrastructural progress, some would try to argue, but also a harrowing period marked by thousands of killings, forced disappearances, and human rights abuses.

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