Pride of Place

DOT building to be transformed into Museum of Natural History


DIGITAL rendering of the stylized helix representing Filipino DNA and heritage

At long last the Philippines will have a Museum of Natural History.

The Department of Tourism building will soon be retrofitted to house the third museum in what shall become Manila’s Museum Precinct.

Anchoring the precinct is the newly completed National Gallery of Art, formerly the Senate Building on Burgos Drive, where the country’s definitive collection of paintings is on display.

Across the street is the Museum of the Filipino People that once was the Department of Finance Building, whose curved façade frames Agrifina Circle.

Across the Circle is its twin structure, the DOT building, originally the Department of Agriculture building.

The three heritage buildings, all in Neoclassical style, dating from pre-World War II American colonial era, form an elegant architectural cluster on the eastern end of Rizal Park along Taft Avenue.

This urban ensemble, once completed, will undoubtedly evolve into one of the most remarkable open-air spaces, a landmark in congested Manila.

The National Museum of the Philippines invited five architects to submit design concepts in a closed competition for the DOT retrofitting.

SHOWN by blue arrows, air circulation through the central courtyard passively cools the interior environment. Low-emissivity glass reflects solar heat, as shown by yellow arrows.

The board of trustees awarded the project to the team of architect Dominic Galicia and interior designer Tina Periquet.

In preparation for their design, Galicia and Periquet combed the National Museum premises, went into its laboratories and dug into storage facilities, looked at specimens and interviewed the staff of scientists before realizing that DNA is “the stuff that connects us all.”

Galicia scheme

DNA also unites all architectural elements in the Galicia scheme for the Museum of Natural History.

Supported by a stylized steel double helix representing our shared DNA, a glass dome covers the central courtyard of the building. Rising six stories above the courtyard’s floor, the helix is the sculptural focus of the Galicia scheme which visually and intellectually unites nature with art.

Gallery and office spaces on the periphery open out to six levels, looking out to the enormous glass-covered courtyard cooled by an energy-saving system that circulates air throughout the six levels.

Despite reconfiguring interior spaces and, in some areas, opening up some floors to introduce double-height rooms, the Galicia design shows careful respect for the original vision of Antonio Toledo, the architect who designed the building in the 1930s.

Interior spaces previously altered to suit the Department of Tourism’s needs are restored to their original design. Original building and decorative details that have been lost are returned.

The retrofit of the heritage buildings leaves all façades untouched, an approach that reinforces the architectural unity of the Museum Precinct, a group of heritage buildings that forms the urban landscape that was one of the primary focal points of the Daniel Burnham Plan for Manila of 1905.

To be an integral part of the Museum of Natural History team, the National Museum has appointed Cultural Solutions, a group of museum consultants led by Chuck Sutyla who have planned and designed museums across Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, and particularly the Museum of the Filipino People in Manila which they worked on over a decade ago.

EXTERIORS of the heritage DOT building will be maintained, except for the addition of a glass dome covering the central courtyard.

Most important, the new Museum of Natural History will be the result of a communal effort.

The National Museum staff, members of the Philippine scientific community and natural heritage NGOs have been meeting to conceptualize the new museum, set the direction its exhibits will take, and decide on the educational messages the museum will present to its viewers.

The collection to be exhibited at the Museum of Natural History should be rich and varied, befitting the multifaceted biodiversity of the Philippines which is the best in the world.

The days of stuffy museums are past, today’s museums are out of the ordinary, eye-catching and, most of all, super educational environments; the Museum of Natural History truly intends to be such.

The directive of the National Museum to its staff and team of consultants is to produce a truly world-class museum, and that is what we are going to have at last.

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  • Joel Dela Cruz

    I see wall garden, make it lots of Sanggumay. And all plants and trees should be all from our native flora.

  • Juan Delacruz

    sana malaki siya. yung may proper wow factor.

  • kil

    Our culture and history rightfully deserves a grand museum. I hope this will be a success!

  • Platypus09

    I would like to see more of these types of beautiful architectures and huge buildings here in the Philippines.

    They just look majestic and very interesting to look at. They remind me of old, magnificent buildings in Europe and Washington, DC.

    Another thing, I think, it is about time for our government officials to start planning on grouping all big government buildings and offices in one strategic location outside of Metro Manila where TRAFFIC congestion would never get better due to its huge population, including the presidential Malacanang Palace, and make it as the official national capital.

    If Washington, DC, the capital of US where White House, Capitol Building, Pentagon, etc. are located, is few hours away from the biggest American city, New York City, then why can’t we group our major government offices as well here in the Philippines. I would love to see them in one major location outside Manila, but close, where traffic congestion is less likely and manageable, and expansion for more bigger buildings such as memorial buildings, monuments, national government offices is viable and always doable with hectares of empty lands all around.

  • Fortunato Grandeza

    i just want to suggest na ilipat po sana si Lapu-lapu to a new location, park dedicated only to him,, kasi si Rizal may BANTAY, si Lapu-Lapu may TAMBAY,, sana if gagawin itong renovation,, e ibalik dn yung original na centerpiece the dalawang neoclassical na building,, gawing flat, para po pag tinignan yung building,, may wow factor tlga, and yung feeling na ioovercome ka nya sa sobrang grand ng facade nya,, sana lang po mailipat tlga si Lapu-lapu,, hindi dahil ayaw natn sa kanya doon, but rather,, we want a better park organization and we believe that there never is a secondary hero, lahat sila are due of our respect and awe.. thanks!!

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