Juan F. Nakpil, Artist and Filipino
Outstanding Early Career
Upon his return to Manila in December 1926, Nakpil began working as assistant architect at the Bureau of Public Works. He then joined the firm of the reknowned architect Andres Luna de San Pedro two years later as junior partner. Among the projects resulting from Nakpil’s collaboration with Luna were the Perez-Samanillo building, St. Paul’s Chapel, the Crystal Arcade and residences like those of Rafael Fernandez and of Jacobo and Alfonso Zobel.
Nakpil began to apply some of his observations on modern lighting and architectural treatment at the Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs et Industriel Modernes of 1925, such as in the remodelling of the old Ideal Theatre. The exposition which gave the Arts Deco movement its name, also influenced him as he introduced the latest concepts in furniture design as the designer for Gonzalo Puyat and Sons from 1928 to 1931. Also wonderful models of this style adapted to the Philippine setting are the Manila Jockey Club Building and the residences Nakpil designed for Javellana, Lacson, Legarda, and Vicente Lim, gracing the Vito Cruz area in Pasay City. By this time, he had already established his own architectural firm in 1930.
At the same time that Nakpil embarked on his first architectural projects, he also began teaching. He joined the Mapua Institute of Technology from 1927 to 1931, teaching history of architecture, theory of architecture and design for the junior and senior years. Then in 1931 to 1938 he taught at the University of Sto. Tomas College of Architecture. Thus he helped educate a generation of architects, such that during a certain period, all six deans of architecture of different schools had been his students.
In 1941, Nakpil founded the Philippine College of Design with many of the leading architects like Andres Luna de San Pedro, Juan Arellano, Pablo Antonio and others, until World War II interrupted this project. Earlier, in 1933, he had also established with other top architects the Philippine Architects Society (later renamed Philippine Institute of Architects) and served as its first president.
The Architect as Citizen
Juan F. Nakpil also held various positions of trust with the government, as he generously contributed his skills. Among the positions he held were Chairman of the Board of Examiners for Architects, member of the Building Code Committee of Manila, member of the Zoning and Building Committee of Manila, Consulting Architect of the Republic assigned to the University of the Philippines and member of the Philippine Historical Commission.
He was also Consultant to the Headquarters, Philippine Army for 1936 to 1958, and responsible for the design of its building, uniforms, medals and insignias. For his services during the war as engineer and planner, he was promoted to Colonel and awarded various medals and commendations by both the Philippine Army and United States Army.
Nakpil was also an active leader of various civic organizations like the Rotary, Boy Scouts of the Philippines, Knights of Rizal and Philippine Tuberculosis Society, where he often donated his services. In 1947, he was made a papal knight of the Order of St Sylvester for distinguished services rendered to the church. He was architect of the 33rd International Eucharistic Altar, and much later the 2nd National Eucharistic Congress altar, as well as the Quezon Institute Chapel and the Santiago Hospital Chapel and various restoration projects.
A Concern for History and Heritage
An early project of Juan F. Nakpil was the renovation and enlargement of the Quiapo Church after it had been razed by fire in 1929. His work on the restoration of the home of Dr. Jose Rizal in Calamba started with researches in 1932, until its completion and inauguration in 1950. He also did the restoration of Rizal’s cell in Fort Santiago.
Another restoration project that Nakpil worked on much later in the late 1970’s was the Sta. Ana Church in Manila. He earned the grateful prayers of the parish leaders, as he supervised pro-bono the careful tasks of bringing back the old church to its former glory of round-domed towers and stained-glass windows.
Nakpil also designed the Mabini Shrine in Tanauan, Batangas. Ironically, some of his designs were considered “too modern”, such as his early design for the Bonifacio Monument, which won 2nd place in the competition. Much more controversial was his stainless steel shaft/pylon superimposed over the granite obelisk of Dr. Jose Rizal’s monument in Luneta in celebration of Rizal’s centenary in 1961. Although the design was actually fitting as part of a modern national theatre and arts complex designed by Nakpil for the area, it was eventually removed two years later, still unappreciated by the public.Related topics: anniversary, architecture, art, Articles, katipunan, nostalgia, old manila, personal account, revolution