In urban development and public spaces, architects, interior designers, and landscape architects play pivotal roles in crafting environments that foster safety, inclusivity, and community engagement. These professionals are tasked not only with the aesthetics and functionality of spaces but also with ensuring that these spaces become vibrant, interactive, and sustainable parts of the community fabric. Their work spans from the grand scale of city planning to the intimate nuances of interior spaces, each layer contributing to the overall well-being and connectivity of communities.

Architects design the frameworks that form our cities and towns, ensuring that buildings are not only visually appealing but also safe and functional. Interior designers focus on the internal environments, enhancing the usability and comfort of indoor spaces, while landscape architects integrate natural elements to create harmonious and sustainable outdoor areas. Together, these professionals create holistic environments that promote health, safety, and positive interactions among community members.

The professional organizations representing these fields in the country—the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), the Philippine Institute of Interior Designers (PIID), and the Philippine Association of Landscape Architects (PALA)—play a crucial role in guiding and inspiring their members. These organizations advocate for high standards of practice, continuous professional development, and interdisciplinary collaboration. They emphasize the importance of innovation, sustainability, and community-centric design, encouraging their members to push the boundaries of their professions and contribute to the creation of spaces that truly enhance the human experience.

In an illuminating discussion with the leaders of three key design organizations in the Philippines, we explored their roles in community building, the significance of their collaborative efforts, and their shared vision for the future. Richard Garcia, National President of the UAP; Paolo Castro, National President of the PIID; and Norman Brito, President of the PALA, offered their perspectives on the transformative impact of their professions.

The Visionary Leaders

Richard Garcia leads the United Architects of the Philippines, an organization with nearly 57,000 members. Based in Quezon City, the UAP is the integrated and accredited professional organization for architects in the Philippines, as mandated by the government. The UAP is approaching its 50th anniversary in 2025, marking a significant milestone since its formation through the merger of three architectural associations.

“We have a strong membership and a robust presence both locally and internationally. Our organization is dedicated to ensuring that every architect in the Philippines adheres to the highest standards of professionalism and ethics,” said Garcia. UAP’s extensive global network, including 198 chapters worldwide and 22 international chapters, strengthens their advocacy efforts and allows them to influence architectural practices on a global scale.

Norman Brito heads the PALA, the sole accredited organization for landscape architects in the country. With almost 700 registered members, PALA plays a crucial role in promoting the profession and educating the public about the importance of landscape architecture. “Our main advocacy is to educate the masses and our co-professionals that landscape architects here in the Philippines exist and play a vital role in creating safe, functional, and aesthetic outdoor spaces,” Brito explained.

Paolo Castro presides over the PIID, the government-accredited organization for licensed interior designers. PIID, with 4,000 members, focuses on continuing professional development and enhancing the technical skills of interior designers in the Philippines. “We are dedicated to showcasing the technical side of interior design and demonstrating the value that Filipino interior designers bring to the table, not just locally but globally,” Castro emphasized.

The PIID legalized the interior design profession wherein it regulates the practice of the interior design profession. Being the first organization in Asia recognized by the government as a professional service, the PIID paves the way for the industry’s growth and recognition in the region. 

Vision and Goals

Each leader shared their vision for their respective organizations and highlighted the importance of future-proofing their professions.

Garcia emphasized the rapid growth in the number of architects and the need to protect and advance the profession. “Our advocacy is about future-proofing the organization and maximizing our network. The growth of the number of architects every year is significant, and we need to ensure that the profession is safeguarded and continuously evolves to meet future demands,” he said.

Moreover, Garcia highlighted the importance of alliances with other professional organizations. “One of our advocacies is to have alliances with our co-professionals like the PIID and PALA. This collaboration allows us to create a unified front in advocating for the involvement of professionals in every public project,” he added. This interconnectedness is pivotal in ensuring that the built environment is designed with a holistic approach, integrating various aspects of architecture, interior design, and landscape architecture.

Brito, meanwhile, emphasized PALA’s focus on public education and the advocacy for the landscape architecture profession. “We aim to create safe, functional, and aesthetic spaces that cater to large populations. By increasing public awareness and involvement in government projects, we hope to enhance the quality of public spaces across the Philippines,” he said. Brito also stressed the need for sustainable practices and the integration of eco-friendly solutions in their designs.

Castro stressed the technical aspects of interior design and the importance of showcasing Filipino talent. “We want to show the world that Filipino interior designers are not just focused on aesthetics but also on technical proficiency. Our goal is to collaborate with other design professions to create holistic, efficient, and user-friendly environments,” he said. PIID aims to elevate the interior design profession by continuously improving technical skills and promoting the unique talents of Filipino interior designers on the global stage.

Furthermore, with its new board headed by Castro, the PIID focuses on its five goals which includes awareness. The organization aims to enlighten people about interior design as a profession through various initiatives. It also partners with the government to educate people on the importance of hiring licensed interior designers. 

The PIID also focuses on practice progression of its members. Licensed interior designers get to further enhance their skills via workshops and seminars to help them, particularly younger designers, be more innovative and find their own style. 

Collaboration plays a crucial role in PIID, as well. Castro emphasized that interior designers are collaborators to help create spaces beneficial for users. Apart from architects and other creatives, the PIID also collaborates with the government to help create more public spaces that can uplift Filipino lives. 

The organization not only champions Filipino interior designers in the country but also abroad. By joining international exhibitions from Southeast Asia to Europe, the PIID aims to show the world the talent of Filipinos in interior design.

Most importantly, the PIID aims to embark on digitization. In 2023, the organization launched the PIID One App, a mobile app that caters to its members. The app is equipped with a directory of members, making it easier to reach out to each other and foster collaboration between members. The app also allows members to renew their license. 

The Role of Collaboration in Community Building

All three leaders underscored the significance of collaboration among architects, interior designers, and landscape architects in fostering community building and enhancing the built environment.

Garcia stated, “Collaboration allows us to leverage our collective expertise, ensuring that every project meets the highest standards of safety, functionality, and aesthetics. By working together, we can create environments that are not only beautiful but also sustainable and conducive to community interaction.”

Garcia believes that the future of the built environment lies in the integration of various design disciplines. “We need to move away from the idea of competition and embrace collaboration. By working together, we can create spaces that are more than just functional—they can be transformative and life-changing for the communities they serve,” he said.

Brito echoed Garcia’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of a multidisciplinary approach. “By working closely with architects and interior designers, we create holistic environments that support community interactions and enhance quality of life. Landscape architecture plays a crucial role in connecting people with nature, which is essential for physical and mental well-being,” he said.

Brito also highlighted the role of landscape architects in promoting sustainability. “We are pushing for sustainable, eco-friendly designs that cater not just to people but also to the natural environment. Our collaboration with UAP and PIID allows us to implement comprehensive solutions that address both human and environmental needs,” he explained.

Castro stressed the value of a multidisciplinary approach in designing public spaces. “Our joint efforts in designing spaces for public use, such as hospitals, schools, and malls, demonstrate the value of a multidisciplinary approach. By combining our expertise, we can create environments that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and safe,” he said.

He further explained that public spaces should be designed in consideration of strategic space planning, psychological, and proper specifications that can last for a long time. Licensed interior designers would greatly contribute in achieving a well-thought-out public space. 

Advocating for Public Involvement

The leaders also discussed the importance of public awareness and government collaboration in promoting their professions and enhancing public spaces.

Garcia emphasized the need for professional involvement in public projects. “Architects have a responsibility to design spaces that enhance community life. By ensuring that all projects adhere to professional standards, we create spaces that are not only functional but also inviting and inclusive,” he said. To Garcia, the public needs to be more aware of the value that professionals bring to the table. “There is a misconception that hiring professionals is an added expense, but in reality, our expertise can save money in the long run by ensuring that projects are done right the first time,” he added.

Brito highlighted the role of landscape architecture in creating public spaces that bring people together. “Landscape architecture is essential in creating public spaces that foster community interactions. Our designs aim to provide functional, aesthetic, and environmentally friendly spaces that everyone can enjoy,” he said. Brito also stressed the importance of public education. “We need to educate the public about the value of our profession and the impact it can have on their quality of life. By raising awareness, we can encourage more people to seek the expertise of landscape architects,” he added.

Castro emphasized the technical aspects of interior design and the importance of showcasing Filipino talent. “Interior design plays a crucial role in how people experience and interact with spaces. Our work ensures that spaces are comfortable, efficient, and conducive to positive interactions,” he said. Castro also highlighted the need for public awareness. “We need to educate the public about the technical side of interior design. It’s not just about aesthetics—it’s about creating spaces that are safe, functional, and efficient,” he added.

Emphasizing Technical Expertise and Sustainability

The leaders highlighted the technical expertise required in their professions and their commitment to sustainability.

Garcia pointed out the need for professional standards and compliance. “Our purpose is to make every Filipino’s life better through our designs. During the pandemic, we realized the importance of rethinking and reimagining our approaches to improve the built environment,” he said. Garcia highlighted the importance of adhering to codes and regulations. “We are code compliant, and we ensure that all our projects meet the necessary standards and permitting requirements. This is crucial in ensuring the safety and functionality of our designs,” he added.

Garcia also stressed the importance of sustainability. “We need to rethink our approaches to design to address the challenges of climate change. By incorporating sustainable practices, we can create environments that are not only beautiful but also resilient and eco-friendly,” he said.

Brito emphasized the importance of technical expertise. “Landscape architecture requires a deep understanding of various factors, including plant species, soil conditions, and climate. This expertise is crucial in creating designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and sustainable,” he added.

Castro, on the other hand, focused on the technical aspects of interior design and the importance of sustainability. “We specify materials and design elements that promote sustainability and efficiency. Our technical skills ensure that spaces are safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing,” he said. Since people spend most of their time indoors, the specifications of an interior designer are crucial.

Castro further highlighted the importance of continuous professional development. “We need to continuously improve our skills and stay updated with the latest trends and technologies in interior design. This is crucial in ensuring that we can provide the best possible service to our clients,” he added.

Addressing Misconceptions

The leaders addressed common misconceptions about their professions and emphasized the value that professionals bring to the table.

Garcia highlighted the importance of professional involvement in ensuring the safety and functionality of designs. “Architects play a crucial role in ensuring that buildings are safe, functional, and aesthetically pleasing. Our expertise is essential in creating environments that enhance quality of life,” he added.

Brito addressed the misconception that landscape architecture is just about beautification. “Landscape architecture is not just about beautification—it’s about creating functional, sustainable, and environmentally friendly spaces. Our designs aim to enhance quality of life by providing safe and enjoyable outdoor environments,” he said. Brito highlighted the importance of public education in addressing these misconceptions. “We need to educate the public about the value of our profession and the impact it can have on their quality of life. By raising awareness, we can encourage more people to seek the expertise of landscape architects,” he added.

Castro specified the misconception that interior design is just about aesthetics. “Interior design is not just about aesthetics—it’s about creating spaces that are safe, functional, and efficient. Our technical skills ensure that spaces are comfortable and conducive to positive interactions,” he said. Castro highlighted the importance of showcasing the technical side of interior design. “We need to educate the public about the technical aspects of our profession. By showcasing our technical expertise, we can demonstrate the value that interior designers bring to the table,” he added.

The leaders of the UAP, PIID, and PALA share a unified vision of fostering collaboration and leveraging their combined expertise to create spaces that enhance community life and promote sustainability. Their collective efforts demonstrate the power of multidisciplinary collaboration in creating environments that not only meet technical standards but also enrich the lives of those who use them.

By working together, these organizations are transforming the architectural and design landscape of the Philippines, advocating for professional involvement in public projects, and promoting the value of their professions in building a better future for all Filipinos. Their commitment to sustainability, public education, and professional development ensures that they are well-prepared to address the challenges of the future and create environments that enhance quality of life for everyone.

READ MORE: Conrad Onglao’s Pursuit of Subdued Splendor in Design


Credits

Text Rick Formalejo
Photography Kieran Punay
Videography Excel Panlaque
Video Editor Brylle Sarmiento
Art Director Jehd Francisco
Sittings Editor Geewel Fuster 

HMU: Cats del Rosario
Stylist: Rouella Garcia assisted by Melanie Gumatay

Shoot Coordination: Mae Talaid

Other photos courtesy of the UAP, PIID, and PALA

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