Design & Creativity
February 14, 2024
5 minute read time

Eduardo Calma: Branding Our Built Environment

Lex Celera & Pamella Diegor
Photos by
Illustrations by

Eduardo Calma: Branding Our Built EnvironmentHow did you develop your brand as an architect?

My father Lor Calma started to brand his name as a leading modernist architect in the 70’s who introduced modern interior and furniture so we have been blessed to have a good name in the design industry. I just expanded our name to modern and innovative architecture.

Is having a personal style necessary to building a successful architecture practice?

A personal style in architecture for me is superficial. It would be like placing a logo. I have a certain approach in designing which takes into consideration how I see a site with its unique urban characteristics and how the building program relates to its condition. Having no preconceived idea I let the form evolve out.

I also don’t stick to a certain approach. So I think the uniqueness of my approach gives me this distinct edge in my practice.

What are your thoughts on “starchitects”, or architects joining the lines of celebrity?

There are advantages and disadvantages. A disadvantage would be potential clients thinking that I’m expensive so I would lose the commission. An advantage is I get clients who like great design. It also gives me opportunities to be shortlisted in design competitions.

There are always clients looking for good designers offering a unique vision of design. I wouldn’t want to work on something that simply satisfies requirements. Any architect can do that.

In Europe where the building industry is advanced you can go to any engineer or contractor to build you a practical house or building with your own specifications. You go to an Architect if you want a unique vision or to advance the culture of a country or city.

“You go to an Architect if you want a unique vision or to advance the culture of a country or city.”

What role does architecture now play in terms of representing brands?

Innovative companies want people to know that their brands contribute to culture and that they are not just about making profits. By investing in healthy and designed workspaces that improves the well being and productivity of staff. Investing in great architecture, you are contributing to a pleasant environment around the vicinity of the building and eventually to an image of a well designed city. We still have to wait for it to happen here. We built a lot of “developments'' but they only resulted in more congestion and isolated nearby neighborhoods.

How do you balance your clients brand, your creative freedom, and societal requirements?

I haven’t experienced difficulty convincing stakeholders in most projects because I talk directly to the leaders but there are a few exceptions when certain companies allow everyone to make comments on the design. Design is not a democracy.

Should companies invest in designing and constructing buildings that represent their brands?

Companies should invest on design strategies that would create unique urban and interior spatial experiences to the users and visitors that becomes part of their collective memories thereby associating the brand to those memorable experiences because of climate change. Architecture has moved beyond image and about building performance and sustainability. Architects and developers should think about how buildings can be future proof using less energy and easily adapt to changing technology.

Can you describe your process on how you would integrate a brand with your architecture?

The brand doesn’t need to be integrated into the architecture. This is always a default suggestion in design briefs. It just creates too many limitations in the beginning. Ideally there shouldn’t be any kind of limitation when a concept is being formulated. It allows the designer to stretch their creativity.

Looking outwards, how does architecture impact how people experience cities?

Memorable architecture contributes to the image of the city. Cities like Barcelona or Paris where relevant architects designed major buildings throughout history made these cities desired tourist destinations. They continue to be relevant and protected by its people. The challenge for these cities now is to make them sustainable in the future.

What is the Filipino identity in relation to architecture? Is it true that we don’t have a uniquely built identity?

Our cities currently look like any other developing city in South East Asia because our cities currently evolve from standard design templates. We need urban and architectural solutions that highlight the uniqueness of our urban condition.

Since we are uniquely an archipelago the whole country could have maritime cities in which our ports can spawn cities and take advantage of coastal features. Sadly we made all our waterways, seas, waste dumps and developed inland copying western models.

Do you think the Bilbao effect is relevant to Filipino cities?

Hopefully it does. We are actually collaborating with WHY Architects and LORD Museum Planners to design a contemporary art museum in the Circuit along the Pasig river. It will be the first international standard museum in the Philippines. Let’s see what happens after it gets built. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was the first architecture that put the city on the map and a lot of other countries followed to make their cities become architectural tourist destinations.

The Bilbao Effect

The “Bilbao Effect '' was coined after architect Frank Gary’s Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao, which drew tourists to the city resulting in increased economic and cultural activity. It pertains to the way architecture can attract people and businesses, incentivizing them to invest time and money into a city and in turn enabling it to grow and transform.