CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES | PICC :: Philippine International Convention Center


Imelda’s “edifice complex” seemed to have no bounds. In 1976 she opened the-then state-of-the-art, $65 million Philippine International Convention Center at the CCP Complex.

Once again, Leandro V. Locsin was called in to perform his architectural magic on Manila Bay. It would be his swan-song for Imelda. According to the University of Manila’s Gerard Lico, Locsin’s peers consider the PICC to be his “magnum opus.”

The idea of a convention center sprung in the mind of the first lady when she became aware of the intention of specialized agencies of the United Nations to hold conferences in the Philippines. The Philippines’ decision to host the joint meeting of the World Bank-IMF in 1976 was ambitiously aimed to establish Manila as the financial center of Asia.

The construction kicked off in September 1974, barely two months after the inauguration of the Folk Arts Theater … At the behest of Imelda, it was finished at the incredible speed of two years and inaugurated by the first couple on 3 September 1976 with a conference on ‘The Survival of Mankind.’ The inauguration was followed by a national gathering of Batasang Pambansa [the Martial Law-era National Legislature] delegates as a dry-run for the World Bank-IMF meeting in October 1976 …

Floating massive geometric rectangular volumes penetrate the space with the profuse use of cantilevers and wide overhangs, which were a mainstay of Locsin’s signature architecture. The dark-bronze tinted curtain wall and the formal reflecting pool further amplify the buoyant maneuvers of Locsin’s architectural composition and defy, albeit illusorily, the gravitational pull. Again the concept of floating lanes to visually suspend the floor levels were borrowed from the vernacular house on stilts.

– Gerard Lico, Edifice Complex: Power, Myth and Marcos State Architecture. Manila: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2003: 113.

Of course, all those convention goers required five-star hotels to stay in whilst turning Manila into the “financial center of Asia.” So, Imelda (who by then had been proclaimed Governor of Metro Manila and Minister of Human Settlements by her husband), initiated an orgy of hotel building, especially along the nearby Roxas Boulevard:

Many of these “first world” hotels were designed by Locsin. Here is his Hyatt (we stayed there on our first visit to Manila when I had no idea who Locsin was; it’s being converted into yet another casino hotel):

Who owned all of these hotels? It seems that Imelda’s shell companies were the owner of many of them. Locsin designed one for her right in the CCP Complex itself. That’s the topic of the next post in my Cultural Center of the Philippines Suite.

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