The RUSI Building: A Modern Twist to the Bahay Kubo

November 18, 2021



Catherine D. Ong

When you think of the “Bahay Kubo,” it represents one of the most iconic symbols in the Philippines. It also embodies relaxation and calm and is made of local materials such as nipa and bamboo. The name of the primitive Nipa hut is actually based on the Spanish phrase “Cubo,” meaning cube, probably because of its rectangular appearance and “Bahay” is the Filipino word for house.

Architect Ned Carlos of CARLOS & ANTIQUE ARCHITECTS designed the RUSI BUILDING in Dumaguete City based on this “Filipino Cube.” Designed like a rectangular box, the use of right angles so there were no wasted dead spaces. It is structured just like the Bahay Kubo, which usually has no partitions for rooms and designed for family living and all household activities, like dining, recreation and sleeping, take place in one single, open and multi-purpose room. The RUSI Building was designed to maximize the space because it was to be the main warehouse-office-showroom-sales all in one, so the use of right angles best fitted the need.

RUSI (Ramas-Uypitching Sons, Inc.) began as a small family business of the Ramas-Uypitching clan more than 60 years ago in Dumaguete City. In the past couple of years, they began assembling and selling their own motorcycle line. They have also expanded the business all over the country with 100 additional branches every year. The expansion then called for a bigger central headquarters in Dumaguete City to accommodate the growing demands of their customers.

The RUSI management wanted a “globally modern” building that is rooted in the Negrense concept. It had to have the feeling of elevation as one lives in a Bahay Kubo where the cool Dumaguete breeze will keep the interiors well-ventilated. Circulation of management, employees, equipment, spare parts and motorcycle units had to be efficient. Generally, the design was to be based on the Filipino concept of the Bahay Kubo of transparency, mobility, elevation, air and light, and thereby, boosting the morale of RUSI employees and customers alike.

The RUSI management sought the help of Architect Ned Carlos of CARLOS & ANTIQUE ARCHITECTS to achieve their need for a bigger office. Likened to a Filipino family wanting to be surrounded by relatives all the time, the building is a three-storey structure that houses each of the company’s departments in its own optimized facility. The elevated longitudinal form sprawls across its area, reinterpreting the working spaces of its staff like an architectural and monumental masterpiece and a token of togetherness.

The architect designed the building like the Filipino Cube (bahay kubo) and his use of right angles maximizes the space without waste.

The architect knew that this native homestead is typical for the Filipino concept of shared space and limited privacy, as Filipinos are friendly and very hospitable. In like manner, Architect Ned Carlos designed the RUSI Building where everything had to be transparent with an open-plan, so the use of glass as space dividers was inevitable and fewer opaque walls. Transparent walls and windows were used for air-conditioning purposes. Sleek and modern grilled partitions were used for security.

The Bahay Kubo is built to give a welcome refuge in the rainy season and provides shade in the hot summer, thus normally it is built on stilts. The typical structure is raised with thick bamboo poles, one to two meters above the ground, depending on the area where the shelter is constructed, providing the inhabitants a safe shelter from wild animals, snakes and protecting them against torrential rains and floods. Looking upfront without the roll-ups, the RUSI Building seemingly floats on pillars or “stilts.” The large windows allows the use of natural lighting and the wide overhangs protected the interiors from direct sunlight. These help minimize the use of energy for lighting and cooling.

Everything was designed to be transparent with an open-plan, so the use of glass as space dividers was unavoidable with fewer solid walls.

The Bahay Kubo is constructed with natural materials, which are very inexpensive or most freely available in the near surroundings. It can quickly be rebuilt or repaired, using simple tools, if it is damaged or destroyed by fire or natural disasters like a typhoon or an earthquake. The RUSI Building operates on the same concept. The design called for less painting and, therefore, cutting down the use of paint to the bare essentials. Also, the use of concrete without paint was designed for quick repair and maintenance as concrete is readily available even in the provinces; conventional concrete beams are used instead of the usual steel I-beams or post-tensioned beams for every span of 15 meters. Also, an open steel raceway, designed like a suspended ceiling, snakes throughout the building for easy installation of additional wires in the future or rewiring, thereby, eliminating any visual eyesore that electronics work may cause.

“The RUSI building is one structure that is rooted in the Negrense concept but projects a global image. It is one building, perhaps one of the few buildings in Dumaguete City, that serves as a testament to the simple and clean but resilient Filipino spirit, and embodies the character of the provincial landscape.” – Architect Ned Carlos, CARLOS & ANTIQUE ARCHITECTS

The RUSI main building was completed in 2011. An extension building is in the works and is expected to be completed this year.

Article Credits: Descriptions and Photos from Architect Ned Carlos

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