Aug 23, 2019

When news started spreading that the Art Deco Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) is being demolished to give way to a mall, all of Manila came to its defense. One of the first to do so is architect Gerard Lico, who is also behind the rebirth of the Metropolitan Theater.

Lico, who has been at the forefront of the advocacy for heritage conservation, is currently heading the 5-month long rehaul of the 1934 Juan Arellano-designed stadium that will be used later this year for the Southeast Asian Games. But while all that is happening, he leverages the attention that is being directed at his project by putting up informative hoardings detailing the history of the sports complex.

Gerard Lico’s idea to put up fence exhibits around his projects begun when he was undertaking the rehabilitation of the Metropolitan Theater, where he noticed that people, when given avenues for engagement, actually care more about their heritage.

“For me, it should be standard practice to install this kind of hoarding when working on public buildings that are classified as important cultural property,” Lico says. “Apart from generating public interest it also averts negative assumptions and wrong perception regarding the project.”

Merong pagmamalasakit ang mamamayan sa kanilang heritage, [kailanganbigyan lang sila ng opportunity [to engage].”

He did the same with his work on the Met which he believes is “a way to engage the public and reinstate the significance of the built heritage in the collective imagination.”

[READ: Remembering the Manila Metropolitan Theater ]

The graphic design of the hoarding is done by University of the Philippines architecture graduate JB Cunanan. A timeline of the RMSC’s developments and the major sporting events it hosted such as the 1954 Asian Games, three editions of SEA Games (1981, 1991, and 2005) is part of the exhibition. All of the texts in the display are also set in side-by-side Filipino and English languages.

The fence exhibit will be on display until November when the project would have been completed.

Started last July, the renovation will update some parts of the structure including the playing and seating areas plus dressing rooms. However, its facade will be retained because of its status as a historical landmark. “We have a tight schedule of fewer than 120 days so we are working 24 hours to beat the deadline because national pride is at stake,” Lico says.

“We are bringing back the building to its original splendor and removing the additions that diminish the heritage value of the structure, plus exposing the beautiful Art Deco details that were concealed through several renovations,” the architect says.

Last Jul. 30, Lico and his team uncovered a porthole with an original grillwork, which was hidden for many decades behind concrete walls. They were able to locate it by referencing an archival photo taken during the inauguration of RMSC.

Pictured here is Jorge Vargas, one of the key figures in the establishment of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. He was tapped by then president of the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation Antonio de las Alas, the man who conceived the idea of the biggest multisport arena in Asia.

On his personal Facebook account, Lico also gave a glimpse of what the RMSC will look like once its renovations are done in time for the SEA Games in November.

Gerard Lico is a professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman College of Architecture, designer, and curator of pioneering exhibitions in architecture. He also authored several publications on Philippine architecture and cultural studies.

In May 2017, he spoke at the TEDxUPDiliman, where he discussed the efforts to rehabilitate the Metropolitan Theater, another notable Art Deco structure in Manila. He noted that the public, when given avenues to engage like the on-site exhibit, are more likely to care about their national heritage. “Merong pagmamalasakit ang mamamayan sa kanilang heritage, [kailanganbigyan lang sila ng opportunity [to engage].”


All photos courtesy of Gerard Lico

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TAGS: art deco Gerard Lico heritage conservation Historical structures Rizal Memorial Sports Complex