Last month, Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa celebrated his 86th birthday. As with everything he did in this storied career, he did it in style, at the National Museum. The celebration came with birthday cake and champagne, as well as a ribbon cutting for a much-awaited retrospective of his creative achievements. This is all fitting for an artist of not just national, but also international, stature.
The exhibition “Mañosa: Beyond Architecture” features his oeuvre, which spans the last 50 years of the 20th century. Mañosa is best known here and overseas for his exquisite Coconut Palace, distinctive resorts like Pearl Farm and the Amanpulo, as well as residential and commercial landmarks that project an architecture, as he puts it, “(that is) true to itself, its land, and its people.”
His work is featured in international publications on Asian and tropical architecture, one of only a handful of Filipino architects to have any recall overseas. I remember that he and his work were acknowledged in courses and material at the National University of Singapore, when I was taking my masters there. Locally, he is among the role models of students and young architects. I normally start my lectures on Philippine architecture and urbanism by asking my young audience to name three foreign architects and three Filipino architects of note. They have no problem listing the foreign ones but most could only list one or two Filipino architects, usually Mañosa or Locsin.
Leandro Locsin’s architecture was exemplified in massive modernist blocks that imposed their will on you by their sheer boldness in glass and concrete. He was also a consummate classical pianist. Bobby Mañosa’s architecture has as much architectural gravitas, but with a comparatively warmer mien. This was achieved by his innovative use of “softer” material in bamboo, coconut, and native timber, as well as his organic flow of spaces that melded indoors with outdoor tropical landscapes.
Mañosa is also a musician, albeit in jazz rather than classical piano. Lindy played mostly in private, but Bobby tickled the ivories with a band The Executives, originally formed by Senator Raul Manglapus. They played regular gigs and were featured in concerts and on TV. Mañosa’s music is reflected in the playfulness of some of his architectural creations.
This playfulness was also expressed in Mañosa’s inventions, which are also featured in the exhibit. These included a range of wooden toys that were produced locally and marketed here in the ‘60s and ‘70s. He also dabbled in furniture design, crafts, and systems of 3D structural components, which also found realization in kits for kids and adults.
The exhibit itself is as engaging as Mañosa’s toys, although I must admit spending a lot of time in that toy section. I spoke to architect Gerard Lico, lead curator of the exhibit. Gerard, who is also heading the team that is reviving the Metropolitan Museum, admitted that they had an embarrassment of riches in material for the exhibit. His main problem was what to choose from a warehouse full of drawings, photos, illustrations and architectural miniatures.
The scale models of built and un-built creations are among the most compelling of the artifacts displayed. I bumped into Luis Intia, master of architectural model making in the country, who put the miniatures together.
The exhibit runs until May 2017and is organized by the Mañosa Group of Companies and in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. Mañosa’s lovely wife, Denise, and his children were also all hand’s on in putting this exhibit together.
Parallel to this exhibit is a series of lectures geared for students of architecture and design, as well as the general public. These will be held on Saturdays at the National Museum Auditorium during the run of the exhibit from February to May. The speakers will cover a range of topics related to culture and design. They include, among others, Art historian Patrick Flores, architects Gelo Mañosa, Gerard Lico, Christian Salandanan and Bamboo maven Ning Encarnacion, Art historian Patrick Flores, Heritage guru Ino Manalo, design creatives Bambi Mañosa, and Medilen Singh, and performance artist Joey Ayala.
In the opening night crowd was Patrick Flores, who assisted in the curatorial plan. Also in attendance were past clients and fellow architects Dom Galicia, Manny Miñana, Andy Locsin, Ning Encarnation, Dan Lichauco, and alumni from the Mañosa office’s over 40 years of practice. Everyone appreciated the sweeping scope of the exhibit. From shrines to palaces, homes to hospitals, civic complexes to islands in paradise, Mañosa’s work mirrors the best of Filipino architecture and reminds us of the high bar we must all excel to.
The artistry on exhibit at the National Museum is more than the sum of the projects on display. It showcases Francisco Mañosa as a renaissance man, a man for all seasons — architect, inventor, and musician — whose creative approach comes from setting no limits save the boundaries of his fertile imagination. We should take his cue and do the same.
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Feedback is welcome. Please email the writer at email@example.com. For more information on the exhibit please email firstname.lastname@example.org or www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph. Erratum from last week’s article: The family name of my host for the tour of Melbourne’s famous laneways is Trevor Hogan, not Trevor Howard.