The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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American Imperialism and the Philippines: National Development and Filipino Architects, 1898-1941

Principal Investigator


Total Fund Awarded


Funding Source

RGC General Research Fund

Abstract of Project

        The aim of this study is to investigate architectural and urban design practices as a facet of America’s colonial strategy, and to explore the role and impact of Filipino architects within the American colonial civil service.
        The signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1898 instigated America’s administration of the Philippines. In the following years policies were enacted to liberate the country from its allegedly uncivilized state of being. As part the ‘advancement’ process monumental City Beautiful-inspired urban plans were executed, Classically-formed civic centres were implemented, and public buildings constructed. Composed by both American and Filipino designers these projects came to shape local society’s grasp of the ‘modern Philippine city’, a concept that ultimately reached its peak with the planning of Quezon City after World War Two. Accordingly, a thorough investigation is now proposed to explain architectural and city design practices as a component of America’s colonial policy, and to explore the role and contribution of Filipino architects within America’s colonial civil service.
        The inquiry considers how the emergence of the first cohorts of Filipino architects promoted America’s reform of local society. It systematically examines the schooling of Filipino architects alongside the ‘Filipinization’ of colonial bureaucracy and the transfer of the Bureau of Public Works (BPW) into Filipino hands. Using well-established research methods to tie together colonial politics, the assimilation of Filipinos into the bureaucratic system, and the shaping of the built environment to the ‘uplifting’ of Philippine society, the project will study the evolution of the Philippines and the individuals who were configuring its built environments from a fresh and novel viewpoint.
        The results of the study will provide noteworthy insights into the governmental, artistic, and environmental dynamics that existed during America’s colonization of the Philippines. The study’s methodology is also of significance as it uses a novel historical paradigm that enables the association between societal reform, bureaucratic expansion, and the form and meaning of cities to be probed. The study thus will improve our comprehension of the forces shaping Philippine society between the late-1890s and Japan’s invasion of the Philippines in 1941, e.g. political matters such as the Philippine Autonomy Act (1916) and the Tydings-McDuffy Act (1934), decrees providing the framework for Philippine independence. Topics such as the education and employment of architects in other colonial societies, for instance, may also be reappraised by the methods employed in this study.

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