Big, Better, Best: Dimensions of Design—a Paulo Alcazaren ed’s note

Big has always been associated with being better. The Philippines has, however, always been known for and even taken pride in things that are on the opposite end of the scale.

  • October 15, 2018

  • Photo by Samuel Zeller via Unsplash

BluPrint is about to celebrate 20 years in publication. In anticipation of that, we unearth the first Editor’s Note of every editor-in-chief we ever had. After 4 years of starting up with Tina Bonoan, the reins of the magazine were given to Paulo Alcazaren. Here’s his Editor’s Note from Volume 1, 2003.


It must be a guy thing, this preoccupation with size. It always crops up when assessing any artifact, architecture, or achievement. Big has always been associated with being better. The Philippines has, however, always been known for and even taken pride in things that are on the opposite end of the scale. Every school kid knows that we have the smallest volcano (Taal), the smallest fish (Pandaca Pygmea), and the smallest deer (Palawan mouse deer).

This month we size up, or upsize, Philippine architecture and design in an effort to put things in a more balanced perspective. We shall look at the tallest, biggest, longest, and, yes, the smallest buildings in the Philippines. The speed of urban development has so overwhelmed us that we fail to see that our architecture has broken through several barriers in height, length, width, and complexity.

In this issue, we feature three of our tallest buildings—the two tallest condominiums (in Makati and Manila) as well as the tallest all-Filipino designed office building. Don’t worry, we also list others that break the 50-storey mark and even let you take a peek at the world’s tallest—Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers. For the other dimensions of length and width, the winners are NAIA III Terminal (which may still not be open by the time this issue hits the stands) and that grand dame of domes, the Araneta.

READ MORE: Must we pursue Iconism?

From domes to homes, we highlight the biggest house any Filipino has designed or build (No, it’s not a Boracay mansion; it is the royal residence in Brunei). From this palace, Elena Maningat leads you down the path to the country’s largest garden in a shopping complex. Afterwards, we drive you to the country’s largest billboard, right along EDSA. The 60-meter latticework of steel amazingly provides a venue for a cozy Mexican café (we kid you not).

In fact, each of the main structures that we feature house great restaurants that can satisfy even the biggest Filipino appetite. For smaller fare in architecture, big-hearted Jeff Isidro serves up Wham!Burgers, a bright spot in Katipunan’s version of cheesy American strip development.

YOU MIGHT LIKE  Evolution in Design: Why Designers are Motivated to Design

Our survey covers all dimensions of design including smell. We put our noses to work in sniffing out the best smelling buildings in the city (through the olfactory efforts of newbie contributor, Carlos “Crazy Guy” Celdran). We planned to do the noisiest building and found that there is really no quiet place in the city, especially with the pervasive cacophony of cell phones, tricycles, and the Filipino propensity for idle chatter.

So we looked outside the country and asked Marian Pastor Roces (who wanders the globe writing “napalm-edged” prose) to look at the biggest piece of real estate in the world—China. Her article “Looking for Mr. Big” is the first in a new travel series called Geologics. Marian promises more bang for your 250 bucks in succeeding issues.

We know this issue is big enough, but to be sure we asked Dan Silvestre to recommend all manner of tools and gadgets you could use like measuring tapes, calipers, and levels. If this still leaves your expectations short, try our regular fashion feature. The settings chosen, however, are far from regular as we discovered that big architecture makes outstanding backdrops for over-the-top fashion. Less ephemeral statements, in similar settings, are engaged by art critic Eric Florentino. His prognosis—our large art has big problems.

Delving on the problematic, we have commentary from Bronne Dytoc who has issues with size. Do we build at this scale or not? Should we go up, down, or sideways? What do we gain… or lose from too many towers in a city already lacking civic dimension? Finally, another regular contributor, Arcadio Gonzalez, ties this issue all up with a final fusillade at all this fuss about dimensions.

So it may be a male macho thing, this dimension dementia. Men still outnumber women in the profession of architecture (though the situation is slightly better in other design professions). Regardless, any effort to improve our design, architecture, and urbanism should include addressing the problem of size. From the smallness of Filipino culture of our past, we face an XL future of mega-cities, mega-structures, and mega-complexity. The paradigm shift needed means thinking big without losing attention to detail or bowing to the hegemonic gigantism of consumerist global culture. Only then can our architecture measure up.

Enough of this big talk, we hope you enjoy the issue. 



The value is: