The Far Eastern University (FEU), the largest ensemble of Art Deco architecture that survives in Manila today, has recently garnered an Honorable Mention in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) prestigious 2005 Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.
FEU was cited UNESCO for its “admirable and pioneering regional exemplar of a holistic campus-wide approach to university preservation.” The conservation project, UNESCO added, “maintained a commendable balance between preserving original building design and use while accommodating the organization’s modern needs.”
According to National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Executive Director Cecile Guidote Alvarez, the FEU, particularly the people behind the conservation program, deserves such an award for they created and continue to create an impact in stimulating further conservation works as well as made a significant role in cultural continuity and awareness in the campus.
Since 1989, the FEU Conservation Program, which requires all new construction harmonize with the heritage Art Deco architecture and forbids any exterior alteration to historic buildings, paved way to the conservation and revitalization of five buildings constructed between 1930 and 1950. These buildings had been mostly designed by National Artist Pablo Antonio. In 1994 to 2004, four more Conservation Program projects were undertaken.
“The FEU campus is haven of important architectural structures and campus arts that Filipinos should be proud of. Aside from its collection of Art Deco period buildings, the campus also houses an outstanding art collection such as the paintings by National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco and murals in the Art Deco style by Simon Saulog and Vicente Manansala,” Alvarez said.
Other important artworks in the campus art collection are the paintings by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo; outdoor bronze sculptures by Solomon Saprid; and wood bas reliefs by renowned Italian sculptor Francesco Monti.
“May this UNESCO award bagged by FEU inspire other universities and agencies to initiate and exert efforts in the restoration and conservation of the historic buildings in their respective communities and campuses. The NCCA, through the SubCommission for Cultural Heritage headed by Atty. Rose Beatrix C. Angeles, fully supports all the initiatives to promote and conserve our nation’s tangible, historical and cultural heritage,” Alvarez added.
The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation was established to recognize the achievement of individuals and organizations within the private sector, and the public-private initiatives, in successfully restoring structures of heritage value in the region.
For this year, a total of 34 entries from 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region were submitted for the Heritage Awards. These include six religious buildings, ten institutions, eight residential buildings, four commercial projects, two industrial buildings, three urban conservation program, and one historic structure.
Previous Philippine winners of the UNESCO Heritage Awards were the Gota de Leche Building in Sampaloc, Manila (2003) and the Filipinas Heritage Library. Formerly Nielsen Tower in Makati (1999).
Alvarez is scheduled to leave for Paris to attend the UNESCO General Conference as part of the Philippine delegation headed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo with UNACOM Secretary General Precious Soliven and Education OIC-Secretary Fe Hidalgo.