Philippine General Hospital – A Modern Medical Institution

Public facilities play an important role in Manila Plan, one of which is the Philippine General Hospital Complex designed by William Parsons, who executed Burnham’s plan. Since public health and sanitation problems are major concerns of the Americans (Shatkin, 2005), Philippine General Hospital Complex was given priority in construction and thus is a realized building in Burnham’s plan. It is considered as a modern architecture from three aspects – the composition, spatial arrangement and materiality.

First, Philippine General Hospital is a tripartite medical complex which consists of a general hospital, laboratory, and medical school. Rosenberg (cited by Daque, 2009) argues that it is considered modern at that period because it brings practice, scientific research and education together. The three parties benefit among each other – the laboratory performing routine analysis to create original scientific research on tropical disease for the hospital; the students from the school of medicine were taught by the laboratory scientists and gained practical experience in the hospital.

Site Plan of Philippine General Hospital medical complex
Site Plan of Philippine General Hospital medical complex


Philippine General Hospital
Philippine General Hospital
Bureau of Science, 1905
Bureau of Science, 1905
Medical College
College of Medicine and Surgery

Second, the spatial arrangement in Parson’s plan illustrates his response to a highly institutionalized hospital. The maternity, medical, surgical, orthopedic and private rooms are separated to different wings (refer to Site Plan above) to distinguish the programs according to their professional purposes. In addition, the cellular spaces in administrative blocks and private rooms in maternity wings also demonstrate modern spatial arrangement which contrast with the openness in the public realm.

Maternity Wing Plan
Plan of Maternity Wing showing the cellular spaces of the private rooms.

Last but not the least, Philippine General Hospital was mainly constructed of a modern material – reinforced concrete. It is also considered a relatively more permanent material compared to the traditional use of stone, timber, and bamboo in vernacular architecture. Apart from the main structure, the finishing materials also state its modernity. The steel trusses and hydraulically pressed cement tile roofing was imported from Chicago and crimped metal ceiling was imported from Australia. These materials require qualified individuals to construct and thus is regarded a technological breakthrough from traditional construction. (Duque, 2009)

Internal view of the General Hospital showing reinforced concrete construction.

To conclude, Philippine General Hospital is a modern medical institution that integrated medical practice, research and education as well as implemented modern building technology. Apart from architectural significance, it is also historically influential since it reversed the health crisis in the early colonial period and brings stable population growth to Manila under American colonization. The significant influence continues as Philippine General Hospital remains the largest comprehensive medical complex today.



Duque, E. (2009) ‘Modern Tropical Architecture: medicalization of space in early twentieth-century Philippines’, Architectural Research Quarterly, 13(3-4), pp. 261-271

Shatkin, G. (2005) ‘Colonial Capital, Modernist Capital, Global Capital: The Changing Political Symbolism of Urban Space in Metro Manila, the Philippines’, Pacific Affairs, 78(4), pp. 577-600.


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