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The National Artist Award is the highest distinction bestowed upon Filipino Artists whose body of work is recognized by their peers and more importantly by their countrymen as sublime expression of Philippine music, dance, theatre, visual arts, literature, film and media, arts, architecture and design. These are artists who have promoted Filipino cultural identity and dignity through their art. Administered by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (Sentrong pang Kultura sa Filipinas) through proclamation no.1001 dated April 2 1972 by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos, the government of the Philippines confers the award to deserving individuals as recommended by the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).

       The National Artist Award for Architecture has only been bestowed to three notable architects. Each of them has contributed, through their body of work, a style of architecture that has elevated the standards of architecture in the country. Their architecture, modern and contemporary for their period are at the same time a symbol of Filipino architecture.

Juan F. Nakpil: 1899-1986

       Juan F. Nakpil is a pioneer of modern Philippine architecture. As an architect,  Nakpil has contributed immensely to the present shape and form of Philippine modern architecture. Born on the 26th of May, 1899 in the district of Quiapo, Nakpil first ventured into the arts as a young child. Joining various competitions in school, Nakpil showed his immense talents in arts winning various distinctions in his drawing classes. As a young man, Nakpil took up and eventually obtained a degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Kansas in 1922, where in 1950 he was honored by the same school as “distinguished alumnus”. After being encouraged by an uncle, the young Nakpil ventured in 1922 into his first love, architecture, enrolling at the prestigiousFontainebleau School of Fine Arts in France, Nakpil under the tutorage of Carlu and Laloux, noted architects of the Palais de Chaillot, gained insights into European architecture particularly French Beux Art which was still popular at the time. As a student in Fontainebleau, Nakpil showed great talent being listed as among the top 10 of 40 in his class. Being a Filipino in Europe at that time, Nakpil was able to continue the great triumphs of early Filipino nationalists such as Luna, Hidalgo and most notably Rizal, a couple of decades earlier. With a degree in both civil engineering and architecture in hand, Nakpil furthered his education by gaining the Joseph Evelyth Scholarship in 1925 at the Harvard Graduate School for Architecture. While studying in Harvard, Nakpil entered a design competition open to students of Boston Institute of Technology , the Architects Club of Boston and the students of Harvard University. As a Filipino student in a bastion of White American society, Nakpil triumphed among all others, being the only student not only of Harvard but from the Philippines to have won.

       Juan Nakpil eventually returned to the Philippines in December of 1926 to work as an assistant architect to the then Bureau of Public Works and at the same time pursue Anita Noble, whom he married and had 5 children with.

       In 1928, the young Nakpil joined the prestigious firm of Andres Luna de San Pedro. Working on noted projects such as The Crystal Arcade and the Don Gonzalo Puyat and Sons Building. Influenced by the great artist’s son, Nakpil opened his own firm in 1930, creating marvels of modern architecture. Throughout his long studies abroad, as well as the diverse influences he has received, Nakpil has created in time a diverse catalogue of structures. Showing influences of French Beau Arts, Art Deco, and the International Modern Style. A master of designing, Nakpil was able to merge and create a distinctly Filipino Style with the different mediums he handled. A much honored Architect, Nakpil received the highest honor for his craft in 1973. He died in 1986 leaving a vast legacy of monuments in honor of the modern Filipino architect.

Pablo S. Antonio 1901-1981

       Pablo S. Antonio was born in the Manila district of Binondo in 1901. The son of Apolonio Antonio, a maestro de obras as well as amateur painter and sculptor, the young Antonio learned his craft through his father. Not receiving any formal training in arts and architecture, the young Antonio worked his way to his profession by gaining experience as a draftsman for the Bureau of Public Works while pursuing his High School diploma. Upon finishing secondary education, the young Antonio took a correspondence course in architecture and structural engineering. Eventually, enabling himself formal education, Antonio enrolled in Tomas Mapua`s newly opened school of architecture but due to pressures from work, he dropped out of the course. After resigning from the Bureau of Public Works, Antonio worked as a draftsman and construction foreman to his former mentor in Mapua, the Mapua-Arevalo-Siochi Construction Company. In 1927 after being lent money by one of the partners, Antonio went to the University of London where he finished a five-year course in architecture in three years. He triumphantly returned to Manila and successfully passed the licensure examination in 1932.

       1933 saw Antonio’s first major work, the construction of the Ideal Theatre in Avenida Rizal, then one of Manila’s popular thoroughfares. His triumph subsequently led to other commissions notably, the Far Eastern University Buildings, the Boulevard-Alhambra Apartments (re-named Bel-Air Apartments), Capitan Luis Gonzaga Building, Manila Polo Club and others.

       Compared to his predecessors, Antonio’s architecture represented a new direction in Philippine Architecture. Characterized by clean lines, plain surfaces, and bold rectangular masses, his style identifies itself with the International Movement popularized by le Corbusier in Europe. A master of wood, stone and reinforced concrete, Antonio regarded every design project as unique and imparted to every building he created a distinctive form and character, avoiding anything that might be seen as a trademark.

       He was honored Architect of the Year by the Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA) in 1952 and was bestowed posthumously the highest distinction in the land, the National Artist Award for Architecture in 1976.

Leandro V. Locsin 1928-1994

       Leandro V. Locsin had his early schooling in his home town of Silay in the province of Negros Occidental in the island of Negros in the Visayas. In 1935, the young Locsin was brought to Manila by his parents and enrolled with the La Salle brothers. During the outbreak of the second world war, the Locsins returned to their province of Negros and there the young Locsin continued his schooling. After the war, Locsin returned to Manila to continue his education at La Salle and after finishing secondary education was enticed to pursue three professions: music, architecture and medicine. Though his mother wanted him to pursue medicine, and initially frightened by the mathematics involved in architecture, the young Locsin settled for a degree in Music being his first love. A talented pianist, he persuaded his parents into enrolling him at the Conservatory of Music of the University of Santo Tomas. During his free time, Locsin as well enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts while pursuing his degree in Music. This detour eventually led him to another course, architecture to which he shifted after only one more year from finishing his degree in Music.

       A fervent artist, Locsin grew interested in modern painting. While frequenting the Philippine Art Gallery, Locsin became acquainted with Fernando Zobel, curator and patriarch of Ayala Corporation, one of the Philippines foremost corporations. Locsin initially landed a job with Ayala Corporation as an artist-draftsman and after finishing architecture in 1953 he was recommended by Zobel to Sñr. Ossorio of Victorias Mills to design a chapel in Victorias, Negros Occidental. Though this project never materialized, the glorious road to success was not far behind. In 1954, Locsin met the influential Jesuit priest Fr. John Delaney S.J. then, chaplain of the University of the Philippines. Fr. Delaney requested Locsin to design a chapel for the university and the result was a creation that was unique in Philippine modern architecture. A chapel in the round, whose sides were open from outside. This innovative design became the hallmark of Filipino modernism for a very long time. Continuing his association with the Zobels and the Ayala Corporation, Locsin`s star continued to shine with commission for houses, buildings and commercial structures. His greatest triumph came in 1966 when after being heralded as among the “Ten Outstanding Young Men” of 1959, was invited by then First Lady Imelda Romualdez-Marcos to design the Cultural Center of the Philippines. This work, designed as the home of Filipino Culture emphasized Locsin`s architectural grammar. Floating volume, the durability of light and heavy, buoyant and massive became his trademark . Locsin has received countless awards for his craft, from his peers to various government agencies. And as truly Filipino Architect with no foreign training, Locsin was honored with the National Artist Award for Architecture in 1990.

About the Author:
Manuel D. C. Noche took up masteral studies at the Bartlett School of Architecture & Planning, London majoring in Environmental Design and Engineering. His love for travelling and photography eventually led him to the doors of the country’s historic churches, which he hopes to someday catalog in a book. He is currently the principal architect for Art, Architecture, and Design.