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Neighborhood Character - Standards and Guidelines

In the study of the relationship between the De La Salle University College of St

Benilde with its surrounding neighborhood, a harmonious interaction of space
and architectural elements is essential. The school and its surroundings can be
considered as two completely different and somehow independent entities; each
with their own histories, cast of characters, problems and needs and
requirements that may or may not be answered by either entity.

One must note that the school had only sprung into existence recently in the
neighborhood’s long history and could thus be considered an invasive organism.
But because the school does enhance various livelihoods in and around the
community, it has been accepted as a large, if not slightly disruptive occupying
[or liberating] army, much like the American presence in Manila immediately after
the Second World War. In the same vein, the Benildean presence is bound to
change the landscape not only with its sheer mass but with its influence,
economically and environmentally. To maintain a significant and harmonious
existence with the neighborhood, a common ground must be achieved; to keep a
positive architectural presence, a harmonious if not common vocabulary must be
maintained between the school and its surrounding community. As in the
American occupation experience, the result of St Benilde’s interaction must be
lasting but positive mark on the local landscape.

Some of the ways this harmonious existence can be achieved is through:

1. A human-scaled architectural vocabulary- The community, being a

traditionally residential district that outgrew itself and evolved to a more
commercial one, retains its roots and “vibe”. Scattered throughout are sari-sari
stores and small shops that have catered to the neighborhood and the
residences that have enjoyed their services for decades. To blend in, any
succeeding structures would do well to follow the ‘arcade’ lines, odd balconies
and eaves that define the buildings around. The density of the neighborhood also
encourages [actually demands] that a walkable layout be utilized, and a human-
scaled vocabulary is needed to embrace this sensibility.

2. The use of ‘commercial-friendly’ design elements- As with the ‘American

occupation’ experience, the presence of the College has marked a surge in
commercial establishments where a sedate and quiet district used to be. In this
respect, the proposed newer structures should be prepared to accept appliques,
add-ons and other superstructures that may carry signages, ads and multi-media
displays. This could be planned in such a way that the structures anticipate these
add-ons in a non-disruptive manner; leading the eye around structures, hiding
possible service areas and elements but not blocking positive views and
arranging these without clutter or visual pollution.

3. A forward-looking but non-intimidating sensibility- Taking a cue from the

SDA Building and the subsequent buildings that have grown together with it, an
honest, confident and look is needed to raise the spirits of the surrounding urban
community. Looking back and using tried-but-tired motifs will only look hokey and
trite in a neighborhood that has already moved on from pre-World War II forms.
Very little of these venerable structures remain in the immediate vicinity of the
school, and it would be best to move forward and lead the way in the aspect of
design. A modern look that embodies this idea but without resorting to an out-
and-out iconic shape can inspire residents and future designers.

4. The use of sustainable materials- The area, being an older residential

district, is in a constant flux of repairing, replacing, and substituting the many
elements of their existing structures. Proposed structures that will use
sustainable materials can lead the current stakeholders to emulate these for their
own newer structures, hopefully starting a snowball effect of sensible design and
materials use.

5. A respect for existing structures; paying tribute to older ones- Although

pre-WWII structures are few and far in between, some Post-War and 1960s
structures do exist, and they serve as commercial establishments and residences
for the older denizens of the neighborhood. Although of limited architectural
value, they do serve as a sentimental and way-point landmark; restoring or
maintaining these can raise the residents’ pride of place and add color and
texture to the community.

6. Introducing an ‘arcade zone’ where appropriate- As part of the walkable

human scale to the community, introducing this element can encourage foot
traffic and introduce circulation to otherwise stagnant areas of the neighborhood,
opening these up to more commercial or service activity.