Revitalized First United Building Bags Malasakit Gran Prix Award at 2024 Good Design Award PH

July 3, 2024



Rick Formalejo

On June 29, the Department of Trade and Industry-Design Center of the Philippines (DTI-Design Center) celebrated the pinnacle of design excellence during the 2024 Good Design Award Philippines, held at The Globe Tower, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. The highlight of the evening was the awarding of the Malasakit Gran Prix Award to the First United Building in Escolta, Manila. 

This historic structure, once known as the Perez-Samanillo Building, has been transformed through a vision of restoration and “adaptive reuse” to become a beacon of urban regeneration. Designed by Andres P. Luna, the son of the famous painter Juan Luna, this Art Deco landmark stood as Manila’s tallest building upon its completion in 1928. Today, it is a vibrant hub for creative communities, showcasing the symbiosis of historical preservation and contemporary use.

The First United Building Community Museum, a cornerstone of this revitalization, offers a rich narrative of Escolta’s golden era as Manila’s premier business district. The museum’s presence enriches the area’s cultural landscape, drawing visitors to explore the history and heritage encapsulated within the building’s walls.

Mylene Abiva, the Jury Chair of Good Design Award Philippines 2024 and Co-Chair of the Design Center’s Design Advisory Council 2024-2027, praised the project: “The historic building’s transformation shows the power of placemaking, where it’s not just the walls and posts that make a place but the communities that flourish in it. The restored First United Building in Escolta revitalized the district, attracting creative tenants and drawing a new demographic of visitors and regular audiences that come to Escolta to escape the cookie-cutter spaces that proliferate in many urban areas. Despite challenges, the building’s revival showcases the power of design and preservation, not only in restoring its past but also in fostering Escolta’s economic resurgence that caters to the next generation of the creative class.”

Gold Awards for Philippine Design

The evening also celebrated two Gold Award winners. The Right to Care Card from Quezon City, a healthcare proxy document, empowers same-sex couples to make medical decisions for each other during emergencies, highlighting design’s role in fostering inclusivity in government services. The Philippine Textile Table Swatchbook, created by ANTHILL Fabric Factory, showcases indigenous Philippine fabrics through storytelling narratives and interactive features, emphasizing the importance of cultural preservation.

Rhea Matute, Executive Director of the Design Center of the Philippines, remarked on the significance of these awards: “This year’s awardees are indeed a reflection of the transformative journey of Philippine design as a strategic problem-solving process that drives innovation, builds business success, and leads to a better quality of life through innovative products, systems, services, and experiences. Our designers are storytellers, changemakers, and agents of malasakit (compassion) who exhibit the resilience and creativity of the Filipino spirit.”

Crisela Magpayo Cervantes, Vice President of Marketing Communications for Globe Telecom, emphasized the international impact of the awards: “The Good Design Award Philippines connects this year’s winners to the world. We are excited to see and support our country’s designers in introducing Philippine design to the global market.”

Collaboration and Global Recognition

The success of the Good Design Award Philippines is built on a foundation of collaboration among the Design Center of the Philippines (DCP), the Japan Institute of Design Promotion (JDP), and the ASEAN-Japan Center (AJC). The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ensured that entries aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), addressing critical global challenges. The Department of Science and Technology’s Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI) provided technical expertise, while Globe Telecom facilitated the digitization of the award system.

This biennial program saw a remarkable increase in entries this year, with 204 submissions and 84 shortlisted finalists. Awardees received a commemorative trophy, a miniature replica of an Arturo Luz sculpture, and the prestigious Good Design Award Philippines seal, along with the opportunity to compete for Japan’s G Mark. This international recognition paves the way for Philippine design to reach a global audience, fostering trade ties with Japan.

The 2024 Good Design Award Philippines ceremony coincided with World Industrial Design Day (WIDD), emphasizing the power of design to transcend aesthetics and functionality. Both events highlight the importance of emotions and “design with malasakit.” By putting compassion at the forefront, the Good Design Award Philippines aligns with the global call to evoke positive change and inspire a brighter future through design.

Related Read: Nostalgia and Sustainability Combined: The Kilyawan Farm Resort by Dominic Galicia Architects

Photos by Ed Simon

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