CDB Architects: The Firm Practice Of Self-Development

April 23, 2021



Shan Arcega

CDB Architects emphasizes the process of using independence to find our true strength.

There are two types of teachers. There’s the kind mentor who’ll be right by your side as you go through the hoops they set up, ready to push you back up when you end up making a mistake. Then there’s the teacher who sets up the hoops, lights them on fire, stands at the far end, waiting for you with a smug smile. In hindsight, it’s a frightening process to go through, but still, quite effective. CDB Architects, in a nutshell, is a young firm that bloomed with this solitary growth process.

CDB Architect’s name was derived from the name Cherry Del Barrio: the principal architect’s maiden name. Perfectly apt since architect Cherry progressed through UP Diliman’s building science track with the idea of self-development. 

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“When I came here for college, I had so many classes wherein I was the only female in a room of 40 students,” recalls architect Cherry. “You know the usual uneasiness when you’re about to enter the classroom? I get thrice that. I would normally sit at the back, with the hopes of not getting called. What’s even more awkward is, by then, we don’t have enough chairs, so whenever I’m late, I’d have to share a seat with a guy, and for someone who just came from the province, that’s quite an adjustment.”

This adjustment was a difficult phase to get through, but easily enough, unbreakable enthusiasm and confidence won over fear and anxieties caused by the sense of isolation for standing ground as the only woman in a room full of men. 

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“Sometimes it’s really not the talent you need, but the balls to do it. I started going to class earlier than usual, and practiced speaking out and shared ideas during class discussions were usually less than 10% of the class participates. It is true what they say, it’s not about perfection. It’s consistency,” she says. “It still took a while before I got used to just men being around me, or before I realized that I’m just too conscious, and it shouldn’t be a big deal, that if I am awkward, they are too. It’s not all struggle, there are actually perks for women in a world dominated by men, we just have to know when and how to swing things around.”

Like architect Cherry, CDB Architects and its team were raised with the same self-development process. 

“CDB positions its employees to be well-rounded by practicing end-to-end process ownership.” Architect Cherry explains, “Instead of the typical architectural firm setup wherein employees are designated specific functions (i.e. Design, Drafting, 3D Rendering, etc.), CDB employees are assigned projects that they work on from start to finish. From ideation up to completing the various technical documents required. We found this very effective as it builds a total sense of ownership to the project and not just to specific tasks.”

This self-development process trickles all the way to its projects as well. As a research-based architectural firm, CDB Architects crafts innovative concepts that tickle the mind. One great example of the firm’s approach is the Titanic house, a study presented in international conferences in China, Russia, and Korea where it won the Best Research and Best Presentation Awards. The Titanic House was previously a single-story house built in 1983. Now, it is a five-story, multi-level informal settlement with 34 rooms and a two-level basement. It occupies a 200 square meter, public-owned land at the center of Barangay Addition Hills in Mandaluyong City.

“This research however doesn’t intend to glorify informal settlements, but to determine the processes that went into its organic development. The study aimed to identify the form transformation, construction systems, and construction materials of the Titanic House and its immediate vicinity within a 30-year development timeline; and also to conclude its effect as a precursor in the development of its adjacent informal settlements in terms of form and structure,” she details. “Its structural system, building shell, and even its cantilevered expansions were purely intuitive, and without any formal computations. This led to the development of improvised connections and apparent hazardous details. But the fact that the building is still standing after about 35 years, challenges the notion of its structural instability.”


This is just one of the many pieces of research and concepts the firm has created over the years and even now, the firm continues to evolve with the integration of research in the design process. So far, it has developed different levels of design review that is involved with lighting, acoustics, energy efficiency, material development, and carbon footprint, to name a few. 

“Our design process continues to evolve as we continue to pursue a high standard of quality, something that is not excessive, not inadequate. It just makes sense. The science in architecture.”

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Among its other projects, CDB Architects has an upcoming piece of work that dives into the beauty of worship spaces. Here in the Philippines, we have structures like the famous San Agustin Church to play model for this beauty. This year, I spotted the firm’s ongoing project on a new chapel in Yapak, Boracay. After a few emails with CDB Architect’s principal architect Cherry Del Barrio, we learned that the breathtaking project is still in its early stages of design.

“The renders we posted actually were from the early process of the design stage,” says CDB’s founder and owner Architect Cherry Del Barrio when asked about the said chapel. “The final and approved one took some time to develop since there are so many environmental considerations that we had to address, and we had a few good consultants brainstorming with us, so we’re really excited to share them.”

Churches have always been one of humanity’s most beautiful creations. In the age where baroque architecture exploded with its bright walls and opulent decor, churches were given the limelight and dominated the 16th century with their striking beauty. 

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Though the exact details on CDB Architects’ new chapel have yet to be shared, it is an ongoing project that looks to be another heavenly chapel that stands as a new beautiful worship structure here in the Philippines. 


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