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Conservation bid in Baguio draws support of architects

07:30 AM September 12, 2014

THE BAGUIO Cathedral is one of 36 structures in the summer capital which Baguio folks have asked to be declared as heritage sites. RICHARD BALONGLONG/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Acknowledging the need to make amends for their role in the “overdevelopment” of the summer capital, a group of architects has started a movement to popularize structures built by American colonial engineers and Filipinos to support a renewed Baguio conservation drive.

Aris Go, Baguio chapter president of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), said he and volunteer architects have been examining the foundations, design and building materials of old structures like the Diplomat Hotel at Dominican Hill and the Baguio Cathedral.

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The city celebrated its 105th foundation day on Sept. 1.

Go said the group would lay down the principles behind Baguio’s old structures for an audience of engineers and building professionals, hoping to explain the structural character of the city designed by the late Chicago architect Daniel Burnham.

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The move may also inspire Baguio architects to become more protective of these structures, he said.

“We polled our [300] members, and about half of them turned out to be building contractors also, who bid for private and government projects,” he said. “This means some architects have different stakes when they pursue a construction job.”

Go spoke at a news conference organized by the Baguio Heritage Foundation, which outlined the progress made in securing heritage status for 36 proposed historic sites here, among them the Baguio Cathedral and the Dominican Hill.

Go offered his apologies on behalf of his fellow architects, for their role in projects that contributed to the loss of landscapes or skylines that should have been preserved.

Joseph Alabanza, former city architect and a heritage foundation member, said he is worried about the overdevelopment of Baguio.

“We have a building [along downtown Baguio] that exceeded the skyline of many buildings. We have new tall buildings rising around historic roads that should be lined instead with humbler structures that tell the story of Baguio so these roads could be preserved,” Alabanza said.

Baguio Bishop Carlito Cenzon described Baguio as “a city under construction” because people who have decided to make the summer capital their home rarely agree as to how best they would live together without exhausting the resources of a city designed for only 25,000 people.

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Go said the Baguio architects’ task now is to recreate the charm and glamour of vintage and historic Baguio.

He said, except for its cool weather, the city is no longer different from lowland cities. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Baguio, Conservation, heritage
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