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Project Profile


2005 Honouable Mention

Far Eastern University

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Project Title: Far Eastern University

Location: Manila, Philippines

Size: 34,210.48 square meters

Cost: US$ 4,051,335

Responsible Party: Far Eastern University

Heritage Architect: Pablo R. Antonio, Jr., Augusto F. Villalon

Contractor: ANDO Philippines Corporation, A. Viray Construction

Date of Completion: 2004

Project Synopsis

Far Eastern University (FEU) is a private, non-sectarian institution of higher learning that had its beginnings in the merger of Far Eastern College with the Institute of Accounts, Business and Finance in 1934. With its first campus housed in a converted tobacco factory, the university eventually grew to encompass numerous buildings on a 10-acre campus.

Noted local artist Pablo Antonio (1901-1975), who was later appointed a National Artist of the Philippines, designed the campus’s early buildings in an Art Deco style adapted for the tropical context. Constructed in 1939 and named for the university’s founding president, Nicanor Reyes Hall is the university’s oldest building. The low building with its strong geometric façade and streamlined interiors marked a turning point in modern Filipino architecture and influenced the design of subsequent campus buildings.

During the Second World War, Japanese Imperial troops occupied the campus and a number of buildings sustained heavy damage. The university reopened in 1945 following repairs to the structures.

Over the subsequent decades the area surrounding the FEU campus became one of the most congested and chaotic urban districts in Manila. With pressure from the growing population and inadequate maintenance, the buildings in the area, including within the FEU campus, deteriorated.

In 1989 the university made a commitment to take care of its heritage buildings, putting in place a comprehensive conservation programme for the campus. This was in recognition of the early FEU buildings comprising Manila’s most extensive surviving collection of Art Deco architecture.

Undertaken between October 1994 and October 2004 the FEU Conservation Programme focused on five buildings constructed between 1939 and 1950 that were most identified with campus history. These buildings were: Nicanor Reyes Hall; Girls’ High School, which now houses East Asia College; Boys’ High School, which is now the Law and Nursing Building; the Auditorium/Administration Building; and the Science Building. These were conserved and revitalized for contemporary use.

The conservation programme, part of a larger initiative aimed to restore the university’s image and improve the campus’s overall setting, put in place a regulatory framework while earmarking financial support for future maintenance of campus buildings and landscaping.

Conservation Approach

The principal aim of the conservation programme was to celebrate the university’s history by returning buildings and landscape to their original appearance, maintaining the architectural integrity of the Art Deco structures.

The conservation programme mandated that no changes were permitted to any historic façade. Any new architecture, in the form of additions, had to harmonize architecturally with the old to ensure a visually harmonious ensemble.

A key issue was to ensure a balance between remaining true to the original building design and responding to changing requirements. Interior upgrades were made to provide necessary modern facilities. Much of the work on the interior involved the insertion of new mechanical systems into the structures. This was done as unobtrusively as possible and with minimal damage to the historic buildings. Interiors also experienced refinishing of surfaces and the provision of new carpeting and furniture.

In Nicanor Reyes Hall, the library was expanded and refurbished with better lighting, while retaining the original interior design, furniture and shelving. Likewise in the Auditorium, the original finishes were conserved and the acoustic, lighting, and sound systems were upgraded. Rooms in the former Girls’ and Boys’ High Schools were reconfigured to accommodate new classrooms and laboratories.

On the exterior, incongruous additions from past years were removed. Earthquake damage to the Science Building required the demolition of the top two floors and other repairs. The project also involved repairs and replacement of the existing metal industrial sash windows on the five buildings. Workers also applied new coats of concrete plaster and sandstone coloured paint in keeping with the original colour scheme. Other buildings on campus received the same colour scheme.

Structural investigation prior to the conservation work attested to the structural integrity of most of the buildings. The five buildings conserved under the project were all built of steel and concrete, with decorative elements in cast concrete, carved hardwood and wrought iron. These construction technologies, materials and craftsmanship were still available in the country and were deployed during the conservation project. The refurbished buildings, set in a well-groomed landscape with plazas accentuated by outdoor sculpture and mature trees, have re-established FEU’s historic visual integrity.

Conservation and the Community

The conservation programme instilled faculty and students with a renewed sense of pride in the unique architectural heritage of FEU and strengthened their ties to the university. The restored campus provides a tangible reflection of the university’s commitment to excellence in education and to providing a stimulating learning environment for students.

The university’s conservation efforts catalyzed neighbourhood revitalization in the immediate vicinity surrounding the university. Local stakeholders privately initiated a series of small street improvement projects that included repainting building facades and repairing sidewalks. The city government responded to these initiatives by providing additional street improvement by repaving the streets and installing new lighting. The government also instituted a “University Belt Redevelopment Project” to provide municipal support for future work. This evolved into an unprecedented public-private partnership and the establishment of a local stakeholders’ association for neighbourhood revitalization.

Quote from the Project Team

“Unforescreen was the extent that the FEU conservation program catalyzed neighborhood revitalization undertaken by stakeholder in the streets surrounding the university. After a series of small street improvement projects privately done by the stakeholder the city government took notice of their initiative and responded by providing additional street improvement.”