The De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde (School of Design and Arts) is one of the extraordinary pieces of art that stand out in Manila, Philippines. Seeing for the first time its façade, it can turn your head upward and wandering every details it have that is why it can be describe as the most amazing building in this country because of its uniqueness.
It is very distinctive in its features though the location was a parking space before. It is also the third largest and most advanced campus in the country. Some say that it looks like a spaceship, an inverted computer and even its top view is associated to a type of gun. But whatever the architect idea is, the building is really really beautiful. Just a few questions a person would mind if he saw this structure. How did the architect came up to that master piece?
The Architect of that edifice, Arch. Eduardo Calma, has high standards and quality in designing buildings like the quality of education he had. He studied at Pratt Institute in New York for his Bachelor’s Degree, and his Master’s Degree at Pratt International Studies, Italy and Columbia University, New York. He was trained as a post-modernist and inspired to it. He is a very talented designer who is in love with myriad rectilinear forms and curves. For him curving symbolizes the icon of adventure and this adventure is a reaction to the concept of creating “freedom” to his works. Applying all his aptitude in design, he did a magnificent architecture that shocks the country, the School of Design and Arts.
The School of Design and Arts is the most ambitious project of the De La Salle which costs around 1.2 billion pesos over the three years of construction. It is said to be “the jewel in the crown of the De La Salle University System schools” by Br. Armin Luistro FSC. It features Building Management System with intelligent controls for air conditioning; smoke detection and fire alarms; CCTV; surveillance security system; and has its own sewage management plant. It is also fully Wi-Fi enabled and the first building in the Philippines to be equipped with 10-G technology. It is 14 stories high with an anti-contextual modern design.
The sloping ground creates an elevation for the structure. That sloping ground serves as the drop off part for the structure. It was designed with ribbons elements to create harmony within the ground. It also functions to create a partition along the drop off. The outdoor stairs is located on its right side so that the students interact in one way and for them to appreciate the beauty of the façade at a certain angle. The façade composes of a lot of elements of design that are extremely catchy to the eyes. It is a cantilevered part four floors from the ground. It is around three stories high and functions as the theatre.
It established visual interest with a sophisticated façade in aluminum cladding, full glass curtain wall and intricate multifaceted details. It is considered as one of the most dazzling landmarks in manila’s cityscape. There is a glass beside it that leans towards the stairs so that the people who will go there will focus on their reflection at the glass. During night, it looks like a lantern which is often compares to Louvre, Paris. It is made of steel frames that hold the glass. It is also supported by steel beams inside.Beside the stairs are the deconstructed areas for the Generating Units and Guard’s House. The building has its unique and irregular floor plans and every floor functions depend on the program of design of the students.
The Ground Floor serves as the Lobby and the waiting area for the students who will use the elevators. There are 5 passenger elevators and 2 service elevators in the building. He considered that the Elevator System is one of the behavioral patterns of the users. Since the building is a high rise and the users are the students, it’s a must that he should place elevators or else the building will not be functional.
As you go around the area, you’ll notice the imbalance spaces that complements along the ceiling. The space that is extruding above the Lobby is the compartment for the Chapel.
Along the elevator lines are the balustrades above it which is made of concrete and glass. There is an adorable perspective view there that creates a descending picture.
Along the Mezzanine floor are the Chapel and parking area. The Chapel is very unique in its interior and interprets in a modern way of early catacombs. The furniture is deliberately created and even the cross. Instead of putting a cross which is made out of marble, the architect used the same materials that he used in chairs and the altar which is steel. The yellow light creates a warm feeling and belongingness to God. The ceilings are folded to create a perfect acoustics for the mass. In the third, it covers the Clinic and parking area again. The Councilor’s office and Computer Laboratories are in fourth floor. When it comes to fifth and higher, these floors serves as the compartment for the students to do their behavioral tasks.
The fifth floor is for the Industrial Design and Production Design Students. It also covers the theatre which is the interior of the cantilevered part at the façade. It comprises of 558 seats with perfect acoustics within the interior. Along the left side at the end, there is an open part with the purpose for natural ventilation. It also has hanging plants to filter the air that passes through it since the location is an urban area and obviously the air outside is polluted. The rooms have laboratory apparatus for the program.
The sixth is for the Music Production and Film Making Students. It also covers the Dance Studio for Ballet.
The seventh is composed rooms with Drafting Tables for Interior Design and Architecture Students. It also covers the Learning Resource Center, Sound Production and Computer Laboratory.
The eight also comprises of the extension for the Learning Resource Center which is called the “Commons”. This floor is for the Fashion Design Students.
The ninth and tenth are for the General Subjects.
Eleventh is for the Multimedia Arts and Animation Students. Most of the rooms are computer laboratories because the program uses high technology equipment for the course.
Along the twelfth floor is the Cafeteria which has a sweeping view of Metro Manila; the Cinema that can occupy 105 seats; the Student Lounge and the other rooms for General Subjects. There’s no thirteenth floor since there’s a superstitious belief that this floor can cause accidents.
Anyway, at fourteenth floor are the areas for faculty and staffs of the building but there are several rooms there. Within the interior are the uncolored floors. Arch. Calma used to do it because arts students tend to use a lot of medium in their art works and this medium may scattered at the floor. He also used to create a spacious hallway which can be used as exhibition halls.
Today, the SDA Building maintains its sustainability and aesthetics. It is not visible to some sort of angle because there is a condominium there that covers the view at its right perspective. Then it has same agenda at its left side. But if this building will be explore, then it can objectively describe as beautiful; because the form follows its function.