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Project Profile


2003 Honourable Mention

Gota de Leche

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Project Title: Gota de Leche

Date of Completion: September 2002

Location: 859 S H Loyola Street, Sampoloc, Manila

Size: 337.65 square metres

Cost: US$ 71,201

Client: Ms Lourde L Sarabia, Augusto Villalon

Heritage Architect: Augusto F. Villalon, Jainab Aimee Tajil-Atillero, Amo Katrina de Leon, Liliane Rejante Manahan

Contractor: Felicisimo M. Consuelo

Project Synopsis

Situated in the congested ‘university belt’ of Manila, the Gota de Leche (drop of milk) building is an exceptional structure surrounded by medium-rise buildings of nondescript architecture. The building was designed in 1915 by Arcadio Arellano, who is considered one of the founding fathers of Philippine architecture. Modeled after the Ospedale degli Innocenti, an orphanage in Florence created by renowned Renaissance architect Brunelleschi, the Gota de Leche is an example of a successful adaptation of Italian Renaissance architecture to the tropics. The building incorporates an arcaded loggia with glazed terra-cotta spandrils, providing a wide verandah that shades the large windows of the building from the tropical sun.  Since its construction in 1917, the Gota de Leche building has been the home of La Proteccion de la Infancia, a charitable organization providing free pediatric care and food to indigent children.

While the Gota de Leche has long been regarded as an icon in Philippine architecture, in recent years it had begun to show signs of significant decay and, due to high land values, the site was a target for real estate developers. But while most heritage buildings in Manila are being demolished to make way for modern structures, the owners of Gota de Leche wanted to restore the building to its original 1917 condition and demonstrate that heritage buildings are viable in contemporary Manila.

As a result of the project, the grace of the Gota de Leche building has been restored, and the building now sits in stark contrast to the urban decay of the surrounding environment, while the re-landscaped front garden is a welcome green space in the congested and polluted inner-city neighborhood.

Highlights of Conservation Approach

Authenticity was the main principle guiding the restoration process so the first step was to remove additions and changes made to the building and restore it to its original appearance.  The structure that had been attached to the Gota de Leche building during the 1950s was removed, along with the added low ceilings which covered the original carved-wood ceilings. The front garden was restored with period landscaping.

Most materials used in the original construction are still available in modern Philippines, so almost all materials used in the restoration process were the same as the original. The flooring tiles, for example, were replaced with the same tiles as the originals, which were even produced by the same company. Similarly, the wooden-framed kapis shell window coverings were duplicated. They were sourced from Albay province where the traditional skills and raw materials still exist. 

In the repair and replacement of broken grillwork, the project architect together with local iron forgers used existing examples on site to revive the method of attaching steel bars with rings and riveting as well as the manufacture of lead decorative elements. Likewise, local painters were trained by the heritage consultant in classic wall finishing techniques in order to undertake hand-finishing of wall and ceiling surfaces.

The foundations and structural system of the building were still in an excellent state at the time of restoration so no major structural works to the main building were required. 

Conservation and the Community

The restoration has revived public awareness of the viability of the integration of heritage structures with contemporary lifestyles and is now a landmark. The building continues to be used for its original function as well as being used for exhibitions. Structures at the rear of the Gota de Leche building will be used for student and community functions and office space has been rented to the Women’s Rights Foundation in order to generate further income.

In May 2003, the National Historical Institute of the Philippines honored the structure with a historic marker, citing the architectural merit of the building and thus protecting the structure from any future interventions.