ASIDE from the Philbanking Corporation building in Manila, which is facing demolition, two José María Zaragoza-designed structures were previously torn down to give way for redevelopment projects.
These important edifices were the old Virra Mall in Greenhills, San Juan, constructed in 1975; and the modernist Union Church in Legaspi Village, Makati, which was built on the same year.
Union Church and Virra Mall were demolished in 1999 and 2005, respectively. The former was replaced by another church structure while the second, which had been gutted by a fire in 2001, was replaced by another shopping mall.
International influences, particularly from Zaragoza’s collaborations with Brazilian architects Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, were manifested in the works, particularly the folded concrete plates that crowned the Union Church and the flowing, sculptural outlines of Virra Mall.
Virra Mall’s architecture was described as “futuristic,” with glass as its main material next to concrete.
It had a cantilevered third level which, according to the 2004 “José María Zaragoza” book, “achieves an ambiance of light, space, movement and unobstruction.”
Its façade of steel and glass has a high-tech or late-Modernism design, characterized by curved walls and reflective glass surfaces popular in American architecture at that time.
In the Union Church, Zaragoza used biomorphic designs (patterns derived from nature), evident in the cantilevered concrete roof which looked like an anahaw (Saribus rotundifolius) fan.
This roof with folded concrete design was the most interesting feature of the circular church, which veered away from Zaragoza’s traditional cruciform plan.
The interior was fascinating, with a horizontal layout which offered an extensive or panoramic view of the church’s nave.
Perhaps the foremost church architect of his time, Zaragoza designed Santo Domingo Church even when he was a still a student of architecture at University of Santo Tomas.
He later took up higher studies on liturgical art and architecture in Rome.
Santo Domingo Church has been declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum.
Flowing lines also characterize his Saint John Bosco Parish Church in Makati (1977); and Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Shrine in Sucat, Muntinlupa (1979).
The old Union Church and Virra Mall were just two of the many major contributions by Zaragoza to Philippine architecture.
Sadly his contributions have often been ignored, neglected, or even demolished.