Optimism Embodied: Buensalido + Architects Builds The LYFE Tower

June 18, 2022



Shan Arcega

According to a Harvard Business Review article by Art Markman, working together in-office allows for more organic collaboration. In face-to-face interactions, colleagues can find solutions quicker and easier when a question is asked. Even informal conversations can urge the explosion of information that can be used in projects. Another is highlighting a better sense of purpose. With human interaction, employees may be able to feel more connected to the organization’s mission. 

“Believing in what the organization wants to accomplish reinforces that sense that a job is a vocation or calling and not just a way to earn a paycheck.” 

Art Markman

In today’s urban setting, it’s imperative to have buildings that are not just vertical glass towers to place employees. Authentic architecture must strive to be, in its own way, palaces of art that touch the psyche and emotions of people. In other words, cities now need optimistic architecture–structures that seek to express purpose in every design in a way that onlookers can see that life should be celebrated while wellness is promoted at the front line of daily life.

With more optimistic architecture, placemaking in cities would be more prevalent, ushering in an age where people are more tethered to public spaces and, in turn, take better care of their own environments. With this type of architecture, people will be inspired to work harder, to strive further for their dreams while urging the surrounding urban space to design more structures as dynamic as this piece of true architecture. The Philippines itself hasn’t been left behind in terms of making communities better spaces for the public. Continuous exploration, education, and actual project development of optimistic architecture now seem to be rolling into a steady path that’s open towards making more people-centric spaces.

The world of architecture has several architects who have been influenced by art that has surrounded them since childhood. They come from different places but have been commonly introduced to their disciplines at a young age. In the end, these people became legends and inspired others to come to their level. One of these inspiring architects is Jason Buensalido–one of the Philippines’ architectural masters who stands at the helm of the local architectural firm, Buensalido + Architects.

Being one of the most influential architects of today’s generation, Jason Buensalido is making generous collaborative designs influencing optimistic placemaking and architecture.

Buensalido + Architects is an architectural, interior, and urban design laboratory that started creating its fascinating and eye-catching designs in 2006. Since then, it has been famous for crafting architecture that is fresh, bold, and innovative. Structures that are inspired by life and context.

Over the years, Buensalido’s work has centered on design manifestos that carry the identity of Philippine architecture and have become extensions of the Philippine environment. As an award-winning architect, Buensalido’s work has become great inspiration for new architects who wish to highlight and reflect culture through their designs.

How does architecture inspire us?

If you look hard enough, inspiration can strike anywhere at any time. For any architect who aspires to make a difference, this is enough to remind them that their structures can also be a source of inspiration for a tired artist planning their next masterpiece, a story prompt for the wordsmith suffering writer’s block, or simply someone who wants to see more beauty in life.  

At Buensalido + Architects, architecture is their sword against the lack of inspiration in life. Consistently, the firm has been integrating Filipinism in all of its projects, working as one of the model firms that promote the modernization of Philippine architecture. Recently, the firm finished designing and building LYFE Tower–an homage to the client’s late father, who helped the family flourish through the future by founding a manpower agency that has grown into other enterprises. For this project, Buensalido worked with an equally talented project team headed by Associate Architect and Lead Project Architect Jerome Bautista and Project Architect Nikko Bumanglag.

Project Team (from left to right): Nikko Bumanglag, Jason Buensalido, and Jerome Bautista
Project Team (L to R): Jerom Bautista, Nikko Bumanglag, and Jason Buensalido
Project Team (L to R): Jerom Bautista, Jason Buensalido, and Nikko Bumanglag

Project Team (from left to right): Nikko Bumanglag, Jason Buensalido, and Jerome Bautista

“To the owners of the building, we wanted it to be a reminder of their WHY.” Buensalido says, “Their mission statement: One million jobs for one million Filipinos. I also thought of making the building a kind of reminder of their roots. They built the company from scratch, pretty much how we built the project from scratch and the hard work built with one goal of making a difference. LYFE Tower is something we wanted the project to express and represent the client. For their employees, we wanted this building to be an inspiring place to work in. For the owners, we wanted the building to project an image of professionalism and commitment. “

The tower is a diamond in the rough built along Shaw boulevard and is seated far from the central business district (CBD). 

“The closest CBD is Ortigas. So there you can see the flashy buildings, new kinds of architecture, more western, the project site is located within more organic structures in terms of growth and design. Design and development guidelines are more relaxed compared to CBDs. One of the things we put on ourselves as a goal was to encourage the community to up its game in terms of urban design quality. So perhaps if we introduce or transplant something with an optimistic and a future-forward design here, maybe the future developers will be inspired to follow suit. That’s kind of how we also see architecture–that it has the potential to create a positive change not just in the users, but also in the immediate vicinity, and perhaps even in the country. You’ll never know.”

On the context behind this beautifully designed and poetically named building, Buensalido mentions that it ties well to resilience and optimism–two characteristics required in making art and otherwise succeeding in life.

LYFE Tower projects commitment to continuously evolve towards excellence.

“It’s about prosperity. If the building is kind of a herald of something, a deliverer of a message, it’s like the building is a promise to a better life, to a more prosperous life to multiple people. It’s a testimony, a promise, and a reminder that the mission, the dream, and the purpose of the company is being, will be, and must be attained. It’s a projection of commitment to continuously evolve towards excellence. For CNT, the main company that LYFE Tower houses, the building is a symbol of a promise to flourish. It is also a testimony to the family who owns and runs the business, built in the memory of their father.”

Digging deeper into context, LYFE Tower gets its name from the clients themselves and became an ode to the family matriarch (Lydia) and the company’s founding father (Felix). Put their names together and LYFE Tower is born with a name that radiates life itself. 

Overall, LYFE Tower’s design is Buensalido + Architects’ critique and love letter to Philippine cities. At the same time, it is also a sample of what high-rise structures in tropical climates can be. Unlike the stereotypical western glass towers that dominate Philippine central business districts, LYFE Tower has a design that radiates tropicality and individualism. It’s not just a building that was built for the sake of sheltering people and working as headquarters to a firm. But like every project, there were challenges and loopholes that had to be plugged in. The project was a tough one to complete, especially since it was built on a small lot of under 400 square meters. The effect of the site’s small space was a problem that bled into both the design and construction phases.

“For the design, we really had to prioritize fitting in all of the spaces first with the required adjacencies and optimal flow and function, after which solving other design issues accordingly” Bautista says, “Even in construction, it had to be planned and sequenced properly. For example, there’s obviously only room for one crane on a 300 plus square meter-wide lot. So if there was work that had to be redone that required heavy machinery after the crane was dismantled, you can imagine the effects you have in terms of cost and timeline. So there’s no room for error literally and figuratively.” 

Alongside its unique design, the structure is on its way to getting EDGE certified–an online software whose process serves as an international green building certification system.

According to Bumanglag, the firm also experienced a few other major challenges that included working around the soft nature of the site’s soil which urged them to use pile foundation for the project, the challenge of fitting all of the spaces within the small plot, and managing vertical circulation (of both people and vehicles) given that the lot is small and digging a basement would be super expensive and impractical due to the soil condition. Putting these challenges together, the firm made a tactical decision in pre-fabricating the whole facade and simply installing it onsite. Even the interior finishes were pre-fabricated and pre-finished to minimize wet-works on site.

Despite these issues, the firm was able to craft a 16-story structure that embodied the inner strength needed to go past problems. The design phase took six months at most while construction took three years. Which, adding the pandemic strains into the timeline, is quite an impressive feat to complete. 

Among LYFE Tower’s unique features is the brise soleil facade–a design that addresses heat problems and provides comfortable interior working spaces by blocking the heat from even coming into contact with the glass. Though low-e and double-paned, the building’s glass can still have heat seep into the building through convection.

“The typical design of office towers are taken from western models of glass-enveloped boxes, which in a tropical climate, may not be the appropriate solution all the time.” Buensalido says. Putting this glass box formula into local Philippine architecture isn’t as effective and fitting for the tropical climate. Not only that, but it also ends up being a monotonous reflection of city structures, stealing the city’s sense of place.

“The problem is, if you paste that model all over the world, all of the cities start to look the same. What if we get that western model and combine it with the typical responses of vernacular architecture? If you look at these local structures, you always have external elements that prevent heat from coming in but also maintain a high level of porosity so that views are allowed outwards and the wind is allowed to penetrate (like the sawali or bamboo-slatted walls of the bahay kubo or the ventanillas of the bahay-na-bato).Yes, there are technologies such as low-e glass, double-paned curtain wall systems to prevent heat from penetrating the interiors, but the best way to prevent the harsh sun from going inside is by blocking it from outside even before it comes in contact with the glass. This also lowers the cooling and energy requirements of the building. We were able to do this by introducing a brise-soleil or a sunscreen, in the form of external aluminum fins, inspired by the company identity and whose main gesture is that of an upward, optimistic, and aspirational sweep.”

By planning workshops and collaborating with suppliers, design consultants, and contractors, Buensalido + Architects was able to achieve an efficient design that is distinctly Filipino and embodies the client’s overall history and identity.

“So that’s what we wanted to achieve. A new kind of tropical high-rise structure that can be distinctly Filipino. We wanted to combine context with identity. It’s important to have and reflect identity in something whether that is architecture or self. That kind of thinking is the same when it comes to architecture. The real and honest reflection of self is what makes each structure different from each other.”

Jason Buensalido

This facade also extends into the structure’s interiors. From the lobby that connects to the outside world through an escalator that’s open to a mini-plaza entry, visitors are greeted with the main lobby that’s a double-height space carrying the same idea of the slats, the facade’s diagonality. Higher into other floors is the vertical parking area that extends from the 4th to the 6th floors. Some parking levels can be converted into social spaces: a basketball court, a digital driving range, and even a space for parties. On the 7th floor are the training rooms where rooms can be combined and divided depending on the number of employees that need to be trained. Higher up are the floors reserved for CNT Promos and Ads’ multiple sister companies such as a cooperative, digital marketing and events agency. Each of these floors expresses each company’s distinct identity and gives occupants a sense of what floor they’re in. 

“You see these patterns on the walls, these are all acoustic panels that we customized one by one that are differently themed per floor.” Bautista adds, “So it becomes a navigation tool as well. If you’re on the orange floor and see orange panels, you know that you’re on a certain floor.”

As a way to balance work with play, the LYFE Tower also has the beautiful Polari sky lounge, a topmost floor dedicated to the music lounge where employees (and even the general public) can enjoy musical performances while dining out with fellow colleagues. 

“The concept here, especially at night, is dancing and dining under the stars so even the light fixtures are almost like constellations of sorts.” 

“Sustainability is actually at the core of the design, so much so that we are actually at the last stages for auditing for green certification through EDGE.” Bautista adds. All in all, LYFE Tower is a physical manifestation of the client’s culture, core foundation, dreams, and goals. In a way, it is a lighthouse for the clients and their employees, and a reminder to people that individualism, perseverance, optimism, and grit can give birth to something akin to artistry. 

“We’re not exactly in the Central Business District. The owners could’ve easily built a structure that blends but they wanted a structure that stands out, that could cause a kind of inspiration and a ripple effect so that the architecture, the people around us could also follow suit, that could all kind of work together to create a desirable and inspiring urban environment to exist in.” Buensalido says, “At the end of the day, I think if we are able to cause lives to be a little bit better, then I think we have done our job.” 

Click on the Link to watch BluPrint’s Conversation with Buensalido + Architects

Project Name: LYFE Tower
Project Status: Completed
Construction: 2018-2021
Completion Year: 2021
Location: Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines
Client: LYFE Land
Lot Area: 393 sq.m.
Building Area: 5,192 sq.m.

Architecture and Interiors: Buensalido + Architects (Jason Buensalido,Jerome Bautista, Nikko Bumanglag and Kash Pacia)


Project & Construction Management: AVA Consultancy, Inc.
Structural Consultant: BCECS
Plumbing & Sanitary Consultant:
RSGutierrez Engineering Design & Consultancy
Mechanical Consultant:First Flow HVAC Technologies, Inc.
Electrical Consultant:Ibarra Almajose and Associates
General Contractor: Thaison Builders
Facade Contractor: SOTA Phils., Inc.
Interior Contractor: Don Pin Corporation

Car Lift: IFE Elevators Philippines, Inc.
Elevator: International Elevator & Equipment, Inc.
Lighting: Sparklight Marketing, Inc.
Tiles Supplier: Niro Ceramic Philippines, Inc.
Office Furniture & Acoustic Wall Cladding: Group Perspective, Inc. Laminates, Wood Decking: Multi-Rich Home Decors, Inc. (WilsonArt) Movable Acoustic Partition: Walls In Motion, Inc.
Interior Wall Finish: The Fourth Dimension, Inc. (VASARI Wall Plaster) Vinyl: Kent Floors
Stone: Guanco Development Corp.
Toilet Fixtures: Kuysen
Exterior Paint Finish: Davies Paint Philippines


Portraits ED SIMON
Sittings Editor GEEWEL FUSTER

Video Credits CHAPTERSPH
Social Media Video Producer ANDREW WAYNE

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