Manila Plan: The Imperial Ambition

The three books/journal below critically view the Manila Plan as Burnham’s means of enforcing American imperial ambition to the Philippines as a colony. The principles of efficiency, order and progress of the City Beautiful movement are reinterpreted by the ideal embodied in the ideology of the colonizer. The wide boulevards and extensive transportation networks that connect areas of political and economic importance as a major example, can be reinterpreted as a means of achieving a more political and economic hegemony.

1. Hines, T.S. (2009) Burnham of Chicago: Architect and Planner. 2nd Ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

“adapting the city of Manila to the changed conditions brought about by the influx of Americans who are used to better conditions of living than had prevailed in those islands

As an architectural historian, Thomas Hines provides an in-depth biography of Daniel Burnham as well as a vivid portrait of the growth of American city. Burnham’s practice in Manila is included in one of the chapters under the title ‘The Imperial Facade’. It clearly portrays how Burnham’s concept of planning Manila resembles his previous projects in the US. Despite the generally “imperial” manner however, the Burnham’s Manila Plan is ultimately remarkable in its simplicity and its cognizance of Philippine conditions and traditions.

2. Lico, G. (2003) Edifice Complex: Power, Myth, and Marcos State Architecture. Ateneo de Manila University Press, Philippines.

“[architecture is] not only the aesthetic and formal preferences of an architect/client but also the aspirations, power struggles and material culture of a society

Gerard Lico investigates the relationship between architecture and power, focusing on the architectural aesthetic supported by the dictatorship of the Marcoses. This book introduces a novel way of writing Philippine architectural history, with historical narratives and architectural criticism of the buildings established during the Spanish and the American colonization. Burnham plan is portrayed as a way of materializing the myth of an American Tropical Empire and a start of neo-classicism as the official architectural style in the Philippines.

3. Cabalfin, E. (2005) ‘Modernizing the Native: The Vernacular and the Nation in Philippine Modern Architectures’, Docomomo, pp3-5.

vernacularization in modern architecture is a highly politicized and biased operation

Believing that architecture is both an agent and a product of nationalism, Edwin Cabalfin traces the process of vernacularization as a strategy used in expressing the national character of modern architecture in the Philippines from American colonial period to post WWII. William Parson’s buildings built during Manila Plan are hence included in this journal, alluding to indigenous social, cultural, political and historical context.


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