I. The Post-War Period: Reconstruction and the Establishment of Interior Design in the Philippines (1946-1963)
After the devastation of World War II, urgent reconstruction of destroyed or damaged buildings and their interiors were jumpstarted, primarily through American government aid to the newly-established Philippine government, and private investment from locals and foreigners based in the country. Interior Design as a discipline was still firmly under the field of Architecture, with architects designing the interiors of their own building projects. Among the more prominent practitioners of the early post-war years was Ernest Korneld, an Austrian- Jewish architect and longtime Manila resident who designed the reconstructed Jewish synagogue in Manila, Temple Emil, in a restrained modernist style in 1947 (Ephraim 2003, 187-188). Prominent Filipinos who were assiduous art collectors also practiced interior design, primarily by influencing others to follow the designed interiors of their homes, as was the case of Arturo de Santos and Luis Ma. Araneta (Villanueva and Perez 1993, 95). Since Interior Design was not yet a regulated profession at the time, anybody who provided furniture and lighting, collected and hung art on walls, or did the curtains, upholstery, and carpets were considered “interior decorators,” even if they didn’t have the proper education or training. This would escalate throughout the late-1940s to 1950s, as the pace of reconstruction increased, and demands for interiors, primarily of the new middle-class housing (primarily the split-level “bungalow”, as well as the apartment-rowhouse), as well as the upper-class “ranch house” soared. Foreigners like Phyllis Harvey and Audrey Guersey, who were primarily involved in furniture manufacturing, had a flourishing business in interior design throughout the Fifties and Sixties.
The advent of a professional Filipino interior design practice would emerge by the early- mid 1950s, primarily as a result of several Architecture graduates of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), then under the directorship of National Artist for Visual Arts Victorio Edades, pursuing either more advanced Interior Design studies in the United States; or advocated a more professional outlook of interior design as integrated to structural design in their architectural practice. These included Wilfredo “Wili” Fernandez, Leticia “Leti” Sablan Limpo, Belen Sablan Morey, Edith Oliveros, and Mercedes “Ched” Berenguer Topacio. UST would also be the first Philippine school to introduce Interior Design as a Fine Arts major starting in 1954, its first teachers being Ched Berenguer Topacio, Leticia Sablan Limpo, Belen Sablan Morey and Sonia Santiago Olivares. Architecture graduates in other Manila schools also turned to interior design at this time, including Lorenzo “Lor” Calma, who finished architecture at Mapua Institute of Technology in 1954.
The Interior Design profession became more specialized through the return of Filipino architect-teachers who were trained in interior design abroad; and the emergence of locally- trained Filipino architects who exclusively designed their own interior projects, and sourced material via local suppliers. These included Belen Sablan Morey, Leticia Sablan Limpo, Ched Berenguer Topacio, Sonia Santiago Olivares, and Myrna Cruz, who all returned from graduate studies at the New York School of Interior Design between 1953-1955; and Edith Oliveros, who took a masters degree in Interior Design at Drexel Institute at Philadelphia. Ched Berenguer Topacio, Edith Oliveros, Sonia Santiago Olivares, Lor Calma, Edgar Ramirez, Antonio Viriña, Myrna Cruz and Antonio Zamora, among others, would also be involved in setting up regular showroom displays at the Aguinaldo’s Department Store in Echague, Manila starting in the mid- 1950s, which was the most popular venue for introducing interior design styles and furnishings to local clients. These efforts were the result of the expansion of the post-war building boom from reconstruction in central Manila and Pasay to the spread of new suburban projects, especially in upscale residential “villages” in Makati (Forbes Park, San Lorenzo Village, Dasmariñas and Bel-Air Village), San Juan (Green Hills), and Quezon City (Santo Domingo, White Plains, and La Vista) by the mid-late-1950s (Travel Time 2001a). However, with the rapid expansion of the middle-class housing and office construction industry by the early 1960s, the need for professional regulation was felt to elevate Interior Design to a respectable and nobler field in the Allied Arts.
II. The Emergence of the PIID (1964-1969)
In a series of meetings held throughout the middle part of 1964 (first at Jade Vine in Malate, Manila; and then a major meeting at Summit Restaurant in Malate in August 17), the idea of establishing a professional organization of interior designers was agreed upon by a group that included Lor Calma, Ched Berenguer Topacio, Wili Fernandez, Mel Gana, Rosario Luz, Edgar Ramirez, and Antonio Zamora. The final selection of the first batch of officers of the prospective organization occurred in the house of Lor Calma in New Manila. Registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on September 9, the group agreed on the name: Philippine Institute of Interior Design (PIID), Inc., whose Articles of Incorporation was certified by the SEC on September 30, with License Number 25860. Elected to two-year terms, the initial roster of PIID officers in 1964-1965 were Antonio Zamora (President); Wili Fernandez (Vice- 20 President); Lor Calma (Secretary); and Ched Berenguer Topacio (Treasurer). Subsequent PIID Presidents in the Sixties were Ched Berenguer Topacio (1965-1967); Wili Fernandez (1967- 22 1968); and Lor Calma (1969-1971). PIID was initially conceived along the organizational lines of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the American Institute of Interior Designers (AIID), in which membership is classified hierarchically into Professional (for 2 Filipino senior practitioners), Affiliate (for foreign practitioners), and Associate (for Filipino 3 junior practitioners). In 1965, the roster of Professional Members included Lor Calma, Joaquin 4 Imperial, Rosario Luz, Pacita Qua, and Edgar Ramirez. The roster of Affiliate Members included Audrey Guersey, Phyllis Harvey, Ernest Korneld, and Ronnie Laing. Finally, the roster of Associate Members included Nena Avecilla, Edith Oliveros, Sonia Santiago Olivares, and Nena Villanueva. The premiere activity of the PIID during this early period of its organizational life (ending in 1969) was the annual Design and Decoration Show, first held at the seventh floor of the Architectural Centre in Makati in December 1964, when exhibition showrooms designed by Antonio Zamora, Ched Berenguer-Topacio, Wili Fernandez, Betty Regala, Pacita Qua, Joaquin Imperial, Mel Gana, Lor Calma, Rosario Luz, Ronnie Laing, Pandot Ocampo, and Edgar Ramirez was seen by ten thousand visitors, an unprecedented crowd at the time (Woman 13 and Home 27 December 1964 & 19 December 1965). The design trends varied widely, from the use of historical or Eclectic styles favored by Imperial, Ramirez, and Qua; to the sleek Modernism of Zamora, Berenguer-Topacio, Laing, Calma, Regala, and Ocampo; and the emerging Neo-Vernacular style of Fernandez and Gana.
The 2nd 17 Design and Decoration Show in December 1965, held at Northern Motors Showroom at Buendia, had as its theme “Contemporary Uses of Historical Themes.” Out of 19 sixteen exhibitors, fifteen were PIID members: Edgar Ramirez, Ernest Korneld, Sonia Santiago Olivares, Joaquin Imperial, Nena Ocampo Villanueva, Mel Gana, Nena Avecilla, Audrey Guersey, Ched Berenguer Topacio, Edith Oliveros, Pacita Qua, Phyllis Harvey, Wili Fernandez, Lor Calma, and Ronnie Laing (Woman and Home 19 December 1965). An innovation in the 1965 show was the execution of furniture designs done by three student winners of the 1st 23 PIID Interior Design Competition, which were won by Jose Ma. “Johnny” Hubilla (1st place); Gerardo “Gerry” Contreras (2nd place); and Beckie Delfino (3rd place). It would also be in 1965 that the Interior Designers Association of the Philippines (IDAP), was organized whose membership composed of graduates of Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) major in Interior Design course through the support of Belen Morey and Ma. Theresa Gatuslao. The IDAP’s pioneering activity was a National Wallcovering Contest (Woman and Home 24 December 1965,). The expansion of Interior Design as an academic major in the tertiary level would also be observed in this period, as Edith Oliveros and Lor Calma establishes the Philippine School of Interior Design (PSID) in 1967. Furthermore, Leti Limpo’s and Belen Morey’s curriculum model adapted from the New York School of Interior Design was established for the Interior Design course at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in the late 1950s with a bachelor’s degree major in Interior Design. The 3rd Design and Decoration Show was held in January 1967, and featured the works of PIID members Nena Ocampo Villanueva, Rosario Luz, Joaquin Imperial, Edgar Ramirez, Audrey Guersey, Ernest Korneld, Antonio Zamora, Sonia Santiago Olivares, Mel Gana, Edith Oliveros, Phyllis Harvey, Edong Lazatin, and Wili Fernandez. Their works showed an increasing specialization towards specific styles, such as Neo-Vernacularism for Fernandez; the Modernized Greco-Roman Style of Imperial; the ornate Baroque Style of Ramirez; and the Ilustrado Style of Luz. By the December 1968 Design & Decoration Show at the Northern Motors Showroom titled “Problem Room,” however, an increasing emphasis towards sleek modernism, individuality, urbanism, and Eclecticism became the norm. With designs from nineteen PIID members (which included Ched Berenguer Topacio, Ernest Korneld, Johnny Hubilla, Rosario Luz, Sonia Santiago Olivares, Edgar Ramirez, Phyllis Harvey, Nena Avecilla, Audrey Guersey, Lor Calma, Nena Ocampo Villanueva, Edith Oliveros, Boots Soler, Evelyn 6 1Vales Garcia, Pacita Qua, Wili Fernandez, Joaquin Imperial, Pandot Ocampo and Gerry Contreras), the 1968 show would mark a high point of design showcases by the collective membership of the PIID that would not recur for another twenty years, as social strife and economic uncertainties started to undermine the confident vision of the immediate future, starting with the First Quarter Storm of 1970.