Heritage conservationists decry demolition of InterCon, Mandarin

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo, Special to ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 25 2014 04:13 PM | Updated as of Aug 26 2014 12:13 AM

A photo of the Mandarin Oriental, Manila hotel in 1978. Photo from the hotel's Facebook page

MANILA -- The impending demolition of the iconic Mandarin Oriental, Manila has raised the hackles of local heritage conservationists who described this as the ultimate disrespect to the legacy of National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin, who designed the 38-year-old landmark Makati hotel.

The Heritage Conservation Society (HCS) – a non-stock, non-profit organization advocating the protection and preservation of Philippine built heritage – has also urged Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) to reuse Hotel InterContinental Manila, another Locsin-designed hotel, as part of the company’s planned redevelopment of Makati City.

In a press statement, architect Dominic Galicia, a heritage conservation expert, said: “The impending demolition of the Manila Mandarin staggers the mind that still reels at the loss of the old Ayala Museum and of Benguet Center. Perhaps one may argue that we need not preserve every structure that Mr. Locsin built, but must we destroy his best work? Did Mr. Locsin have to build so well, and plant those images so deeply in our imagination, so that it is only there that they would eventually abide?”

Galicia has served as HCS vice president and currently sits on its Advisory Council. He also represents the Philippines in the International Scientific Committee on Twentieth-century Heritage of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos). Icomos is a network of experts working toward the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places.

The HCS described the Mandarin Oriental and 45-year-old InterCon as “two of the finest works of …Locsin and are protected by Republic Act No. 10066.” RA 10066 is the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, protecting structures older than 50 years old. It also protects works of art by National Artists and gives the government-run National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) jurisdiction over their disposition.

Asked for comment, ALI’s Corporate Communications Department told ABS-CBN News.com: “The redevelopment plans for the Mandarin Oriental and InterContinental Manila sites are still being studied at this point, and with the architectural consultancy work of LVLP (Archt. Leandro V. Locsin’s firm) in the case of the Mandarin Oriental site.”

It added that the property firm “will coordinate with the appropriate government agencies and heritage groups on our future plans, and consult them on how we should best honor the legacy and works of Archt. Locsin in the redevelopment.”

The Hotel InterContinental Manila. Photo from the hotel's Facebook page

For his part, HCS president Ivan Anthony Henares, in a letter to Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay dated Aug. 22 urged the Makati City government not to grant any permits to ALI “until the necessary clearances are secured from the [NCCA], which is responsible for the protection of works of National Artists. We also encourage Makati City to dialogue with the NCCA National Committee on Monuments and Sites to determine which other buildings are worth preserving and earmark them for conservation through a local ordinance.”

Henares added: “If we are able to protect our late 20th century architectural heritage this early, this will be the legacy of the City Government of Makati for future generations of Filipinos.”

HCS and Galicia expressed hope that ALI reuses Mandarin Oriental and Hotel InterCon as part of the redevelopment plan for Makati.

Galicia noted “the more sophisticated approach of adaptive reuse, or of re-using existing buildings, in whole or in part, as the context of new construction. It is the dialogue between old and new that has made the best of our cities rich, compelling, and humane."

He suggested: “The Mandarin, for example, could be used as the base of a new and taller tower that still, architecturally, coheres with the over-all vision of the proposed development. Re-using the Mandarin as an anchor signifies a corporate commitment to permanence and beauty. Imagine a state-of-the art steel-and-glass skyscraper, translucent, transparent, light, soaring above the stolidity of Locsin’s Mandarin. It could be one of the most sophisticated buildings on earth.”

The Mandarin Oriental is slated to be closed on September 9, and will reopen as a new structure within the Ayala Triangle in 2020.

ALI has also announced plans to redevelop the area occupied by InterCon. Both sites will be part of the P65-billion plan of the Zobel-led property firm to redevelop Makati City.