Spotlight

Finding Joy in Building People’s Homes

Architect Mark Madrid
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“I get satisfaction in building houses for other people, designing it as if I will be the one to live in it.” Thus spoke the mild mannered and articulate Mark Madrid, Architect and BERDE Professional at his office loft in Makati City. Be it a newly constructed house or a renovated one from a few decades ago, there’s that element of being satisfyingly livable: bright with large windows, airy with good ventilation, and surprisingly cozy.

There are no architects in the family. Mark’s mother was a housewife and his father an accountant. But it was when he was in high school that he resolved to be an Architect someday. “My mom has a knack for designing and renovating. Her background is Fine Arts and wanted to take Interior Design but that didn’t push through after she got married. She started fixing up our house, then my grandmother renovated her house and my mom took charge of that as well. She always brought me to these activities that’s why I tended to have a liking for building and designing and I already sort of knew the direction I want to take.”

Starting as an Architect

After graduating from the University of Santo Tomas in 1994, and passing the board exams the following year, he worked in the family business until 1997. After that, he continued his practice on his own, doing both design and construction. When the Asian financial crisis hit, projects were hard to come by and he realised that his knowledge was limited to mostly houses and low rise commercial structures. He wanted to learn how to do bigger projects. 

In 2000, instead of getting a Master’s degree, Mark decided on getting practical training, something that will enable him to learn more than just building houses. He applied and got accepted with the firm of Architect Pablo Antonio Jr., getting assigned at the Asian Hospital & Medical Center which was being built that time. It was here where he learned first hand the formal processes and systems in a corporate setting.

After Asian hospital, Mark wanted to go back and restart his own practice but when new interesting projects were given to him, it was hard to pass off: the FEU renovation and new buildings within the Manila campus, semiconductor projects, BPO buildings and hospitals that were in the proposal stage then and also the Makati Medical Center. Starting as an assistant to the senior architect, he gained the confidence of Architect Antonio that he rose from Junior to Senior Architect, eventually shadowing the architect himself and sometimes, representing him in meetings. In 2008, Mark left the firm and focused on his own practice

BERDE Professional 

Architect Mark took the Philippine Green Building Council BERDE professional course in 2012 and the assessor’s course in 2013. But as far as his projects wanting certification, he laments that there’s none. But he adds that the certification courses greatly enhanced what he already knew on “building green,” like proper orientation, natural ventilation, natural light and selection of materials, and energy-saving equipment. There are other aspects of building green, like materials reuse, rain-water collection, solar power generation, among others. He says, “you consciously try to apply it wherever practical, because if it’s not, then it just becomes an added expense.”

Design philosophy “

Function first. I have to make sure that the plan works, the littlest of wasted space. Of course, at the back of my head, I already know what the prefered theme or design the client wants: modern, contemporary, or traditional. So once I’m happy with the plan, it’s easier to dress it up.” 

The architect’s process usually involves coming up first with a rough sketch, massing, the basic plan, then 3D. He tries to come up with 2 or 3 versions of the basic design but, he says, 80-90%, even with one plan, it already works for the client, and the final design just needs to be tweaked for the interior, detailing, orientation, etc.

Designing and Renovating houses 

Although Mark can do a variety of structures, it’s in designing and renovating houses where he finds more satisfaction. He is open to ideas or styles, depending on the client. It’s more of the personalization, the greater level of attention, personalizing everything for them. He admits that there are easy clients and those that aren’t sure of what they want, which can get challenging when clients keep on changing their minds and the work becomes tedious. But he says that for cases like the latter, it’s more of being attentive to their needs, showing that you are there to guide them. 

On the other hand, “renovations are hard, you have to deal with what’s there, what’s inside. Every time you take out a wall, you see a problem. That’s why the cost of renovation per square meter is generally more than if you were to build from scratch. If you build from scratch, you have total control. If you try to retrofit, it can sometimes be difficult.”

Talking about his house: “When I first saw it, it had good enough balance and right there I already sort of knew what the approach should be. I already had a theme in mind. It was a typical 80s looking house, so I wanted to have something with a modern look. The look of the house reminded me more of Japanese contemporary houses. The basic form remained but it was more a matter of tweaking the roof fascia, making it thinner, enlarging the windows, from arched to rectangular, adding texture like that sandstone wall we put in to add enough accent and add more glass where possible.” 

There are also renovations where the architect admits is really difficult. “If there’s no balance, or if the form is not really nice, it’s limiting. From there, only minimal improvements can be done. The form of the house dictates what is possible or what can be done to make it proportionate, there’s a certain balance that you want to achieve, a curb appeal.” 

Cavernous living and dining space (top), Main door and vestibule at right (bottom)

Baguio old house 

An old Baguio house located at a quiet neighborhood near Wright Park and previously owned by nuns of the Little Flower Convent was restored by Architect Mark in 1994. The structure is probably from the 1930s or 40s. The 2000 square meter, three story structure is built on a slope with the driveway and main entrance level. But it was in such a sad state when it was acquired. The portion starting from the kitchen down tilted precariously because of the earthquake that hit the city in 1990. A gaping hole filled with stagnant water was found below the building, while its wooden posts were decayed. It was easier to demolish than to renovate but Mark decided otherwise, “let’s save it.” 

The ground was filled and stabilized, the tilted portion raised and cement posts were added. Seeping water and age has discolored and moistened the original parquet flooring of the ground floor, which, upon sanding, they discovered to have a light and dark pattern. But because of the condition, they decided to remove the wood, treat it and put it back again randomly.  

The underground is now a spacious driver’s quarters while adjacent to it, a smaller lounge area with a view. It also doubles as a guest room when family members and friends visit. Although the tilting was addressed, it’s only the kitchen now that a subtle slope is noticed. A section was added to the house, now a smaller living room built with a fireplace as the original three story fireplace, one for each level is useless due to clogged vents. A small divider connects a bigger living room at one side, a smaller closed kitchen beside it and a spacious dining hall. Beveled glass windows open to a nice veranda with a great view of pine trees and beyond. 

The staircase was expanded a little while most of the master’s bedroom has been retained. A spiral staircase leads to a three room attic with its original wallpaper still intact. It’s a lovely restored house that benefited well from a good renovation plan and execution, hallmarks of what Architect Mark Madrid can provide whether its designing or renovating for a client. D+C

WORDS + IMAGES: Estan Cabigas

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