Art and Architecture in the Philippines throughout the years

art meets architecture

The historical background of Philippine art and architecture is a vibrant tapestry woven through centuries of cultural encounters and influences. From pre-colonial indigenous art to classical architecture, the Spanish colonial period, American colonization, and contemporary developments, the artistic and architectural landscape of the Philippines reflects a unique fusion of diverse cultural elements narrating stories from its rich history.

Pre-colonial influences on indigenous art and architecture

Before the arrival of foreign influences, the Philippine architecture emerged as home to indigenous cultures with well-established artistic traditions.

Indigenous architecture comprised traditional stilt houses, communal structures, solid stone foundations and houses, and buildings constructed from organic materials like bamboo, thatch, and wood. Artistic traditional motifs and architectural structures drew inspiration from the abundant natural surroundings, incorporating elements from mythologies, ancestral beliefs, and spirituality. Notable examples include the intricate woodcarvings of the Ifugao people and the distinctive architectural style of Maranao torogan houses.

The Bahay Kubo, or “nipa hut,” is an iconic indigenous architectural style in the Philippines. It is characterized by a simple, elevated structure made of bamboo or timber, with a thatched roof and open sides. This traditional style reflects the country’s tropical climate and harmonious coexistence with nature.

Early Chinese influences on Philippine architecture can be traced back to the pre-colonial period when trading relationships between China and the Philippines were established and are still seen in various aspects of design and construction. Chinese architectural elements such as raised wooden platforms, sloping roofs, and open floor plans influenced the traditional Filipino house known as the Bahay Kubo. The use of wood, stone, and bricks in construction techniques was also introduced by the Chinese, resulting in more durable and sturdy homes. Chinese artisans and craftsmen brought their expertise in intricate woodcarving, ornate decorations, and vibrant colors, which can be seen in the intricate details and embellishments of Filipino homes.

Additionally, Chinese feng shui principles influenced the orientation and layout of homes, emphasizing the harmonious flow of energy. These early Chinese influences have left a lasting impact on Philippine home architecture, creating a fusion of Chinese and indigenous Filipino elements that contribute to the unique architectural identity of the country.

Spanish colonial period and its impact on Philippine art and architecture

The Spanish colonial period in the 16th century brought significant changes to Philippine art and architecture. Spanish missionaries erected churches, fortresses, and government buildings throughout the archipelago, blending indigenous and Spanish architectural elements. The prevalent architectural styles of the time were Baroque and Neoclassical, characterized by ornate facades, intricate details, and religious iconography. This fusion of Spanish and indigenous elements can be observed in the architecture, sculpture, and decorative arts of the period. This style is evident in our rich history as seen in the construction of colonial churches, government buildings, and ancestral houses.

Notable features include ornate facades, arches, decorative details, and courtyards. Iconic structures like the San Agustin Church in Manila, with its awe-inspiring Baroque architecture, and the Spanish colonial houses of Vigan stand as enduring testaments to this era.

Filipino-Spanish Colonial Revival

This architectural style emerged in the early 20th century and combines elements of Spanish Colonial and American Colonial Revival styles. It features stucco walls, tile roofs, ornamental ironwork, and grand entrances. This eclectic style is often seen in historical government buildings, schools, and ancestral houses.

American and modern influences on Philippine art and architecture

The 20th century marked the era of American colonization, which introduced new trends to the Filipino architecture. American rule firmly established and brought architectural influences such as the American Colonial Revival style, the Art Deco style and the Art Nouveau style. American Colonial Revival features symmetrical facades, gabled roofs, and classical details. Art Deco style architecture and Art Nouveau styles emerged, characterized by geometric shapes and patterns, sleek lines, and decorative motifs.

Modernist and Brutalist architecture gained prominence in the mid-20th century, featuring bold forms, concrete structures, and functional designs. Filipino architects embraced these Western techniques while infusing their work with local materials and craftsmanship. Structures such as the Manila Metropolitan Theater, the iconic Coconut Palace, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines showcase the innovative architectural expressions of this time.

Contemporary developments in Philippine art and architecture

In contemporary times, Philippine art and architecture have embraced postmodern and sustainable design principles. There is a conscious effort to incorporate Filipino identity, cultural heritage, and local materials into architectural projects. Traditional craftsmanship and indigenous materials are being revived and integrated into modern designs, paying homage to the rich artistic legacy of the past.

The advent of digital technologies has brought new possibilities, enabling innovative approaches in design and construction. The National Museum of Natural History, Pinto Art Museum, and The Mind Museum are just a few examples of contemporary architectural marvels that blend functionality and artistic expression.

Other modern era contemporary styles commonly known are:

Contemporary Modern

Contemporary modern architecture in the Philippines reflects the influence of global design trends and the desire for sleek, minimalist aesthetics. This style emphasizes clean, simple straight lines throughout, open spaces, and the use of modern durable materials such as glass, concrete, and steel. Large windows, open floor plans, and minimalist interiors are common features of such buildings.

Tropical Modern

The tropical modern style in Philippine architecture is well-suited to the Philippine climate and environment. It combines modern design principles with elements that promote natural ventilation, sustainability, and a connection to the outdoors leaning more towards environmental design. Features may include open layouts, extensive use of glass, verandas, and landscaping that integrates indoor and outdoor spaces.

Filipino Vernacular

The Filipino vernacular style draws inspiration from traditional architectural structures, designs and local materials. It focuses on sustainability, cultural authenticity, and indigenous craftsmanship. This style incorporates features such as thatched roofs, traditional bamboo or timber structures, and the use of native materials to create a harmonious relationship with the local environment.

Read more at Bria Homes Philippine Vernacular Architecture: Honoring Heritage, Embracing Diversity in Design


The Philippine Post modern architecture emerged in the late 20th century and features a playful and eclectic approach. It often combines elements from various architectural styles, incorporates bold colors, shapes, and decorative details. Postmodern buildings aim to challenge traditional design conventions and express individuality.

In a nutshell, the historical background of Philippine art and its existing architecture is a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage. From indigenous artistic expressions to the impact of Spanish colonization, American influences, and contemporary developments, the Philippines has a diverse and ever-evolving artistic and architectural landscape. This fusion of cultural elements and the preservation of heritage contribute to the uniqueness and vibrancy of Philippine art and architecture, inspiring both locals and visitors alike.

Common Artistic Elements in Philippine Homes

Artistic elements and popular existing style in Philippine homes reflect the diverse cultural heritage of the country and the individual tastes and preferences of homeowners. Here are some commonly observed artistic elements in Philippine homes:

Vibrant Colors and Patterns

Many Filipino homeowners embrace vibrant and bold colors in their interior design. Bright hues such as yellows, oranges, and blues are often used to create lively and energetic spaces. Patterns, such as floral motifs or geometric designs, are also incorporated into textiles, wallpapers, and decorative elements.

Incorporation of Traditional Filipino Motifs and Designs

Filipino homeowners often draw inspiration from traditional Filipino art and incorporate indigenous decorative motifs, and designs into their homes. This includes patterns and symbols inspired by tribal art, ethnic textiles, and traditional weaving techniques, such as the intricate patterns of the Ikat or the geometric designs of the Mindanao tribes.

Read more at Bria Homes’ Filipino Home Décor: A Touch of Culture to Your Living Space

Indigenous Materials and Craftsmanship

The use of indigenous materials is a popular artistic element in Philippine homes. Bamboo, rattan, abaca, and other locally sourced materials are often incorporated into furniture, flooring, and decorative pieces. These materials not only showcase the natural beauty of the Philippines but also support local artisans and craftsmanship.

Artisanal Handicrafts

Filipino homes often feature artisanal handicrafts as a way to showcase the country’s rich craft traditions. Handwoven textiles, pottery, wood carvings, and capiz shell decorations are just a few examples of artisanal pieces that add a touch of uniqueness and authenticity to the interior design.

See related article at Bria Homes’ The Art of Batik: Incorporating Traditional Filipino Textiles into Home Decor

Artwork and Wall Décor

Artwork plays a significant role in Philippine homes, with homeowners often displaying paintings, sculptures, and other forms of visual art. Filipino artists’ works, as well as pieces from the international art scene, are showcased to add depth, beauty, and personal expression to the living space. Existing style of wall decors such as tapestries, traditional masks, and framed photographs are also popular choices for adding visual interest.

Balancing Modern and Traditional Elements

Many homeowners in the Philippines strive to achieve a balance between international modern style and traditional elements in their interior design. This involves incorporating modern furniture and fixtures alongside traditional Filipino design elements to create a harmonious fusion of styles.

Indoor Plants and Greenery

The use of indoor plants and greenery has become increasingly popular in Philippine homes. It not only adds a touch of nature but also contributes to a calming and refreshing ambiance. Vertical gardens, potted plants, and hanging planters are often used to bring the outdoors inside and create a more sustainable and eco-friendly living space.

See related article at Bria Homes’ Green Architecture: A Design for a Sustainable Living and Business

Lighting and Illumination

Creative lighting arrangements and fixtures are considered important artistic elements in Philippine homes. Pendant lights, chandeliers, and unique lamp designs are used to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the space and create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Overall, the artistic elements in Philippine homes celebrate the country’s cultural heritage in its, showcase local craftsmanship, and allow homeowners to express their individuality and creativity. These elements contribute to the unique and visually appealing interiors that reflect the diverse artistic sensibilities of the Filipino people.