Davao architecture and structures through the years.

Davao structures through the years have changed the face of the city, whether we like it or not. While we have not seen proof of Spanish era structures, the American colonial period has sparked a construction boom with the help of the Gabaldon buildings. Most government structures were single or two storeys, there were privately owned structures that were past three or four storeys like the Iñigo and Awad buildings in the downtown core (when I say downtown, that is either San Pedro and Claveria). Plus the influence of Japanese carpenters who brought in their construction techniques.


Ebayfind: RPPC OSMENA PARK DAVAO PHILIPPINES, maybe 1920s or earlier.
Awad building in the background, then the tallest in Mindanao (?). San Pedro convento is on the left.

Postwar building constructions were just limited to seven storeys, building methods and technologies have improved considerably. The 60s has experienced the switch from wooden to concrete structures. The great San Pedro fire could have been a factor for the switch.

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ebayfind: 1962 Philippines (Gen) 1950- 1969 Davao Insular Hotel Press Photo

The construction of Davao Insular Hotel excited Dabawenyos in the 60s, modernist architecture has gained a foothold. The PhilAm Life building was one elegant building, with landscape and parking. Insular Hotel and PhilAm Life buildings started a trend of breathable architecture in Davao. While previous buildings like the government buildings were designed with either classical Greek lines or the Gabaldon colonial architecture with an emphasis on big windows to allow tropical breeze to come in, the recent additions were very modernist which were influenced by global trends in architecture using steel and glass.



The construction of the expanded San Pedro Cathedral in the 70s was a total redesign from the original classical one that done by Ramon Basa, Davao’s first licensed architect. This time the new design was by Manuel Chiew, also a Dabawenyo architect.


Credit to the actual owner of the photo, my apologies.

When I was studying architecture and worked as an architectural apprentice for Architect Omar Luis Payumo, I have experienced what kind of technologies were being used. Most buildings being constructed in the 80s were just limited to two to three storeys. The 70s and 80s, anything higher than two or three storeys was few and far in between. But I loved the designs of those buildings, like those designed by Architect Manuel Chiew.

Davao was not exempted from the Brutalist architecture that was popular in Manila thanks to National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin. While on a lesser scale, Davao was catching up to architectural trends evident in Manila. Most construction in the 80s was concentrated in residential subdivisions with commercial buildings were concentrated in the downtown core.


My shot, taken during the 90s construction of Marco Polo.

The construction of Marco Polo Hotel, the Metrobank along R. Magsaysay Avenue and the Pryce buildings in the 90s started off a new trend. Davao has finally experienced new technologies being used. The promise of the 90s made Dabawenyos excited of a number of big-ticket projects in the pipeline. The addition of malls was clearly evident that things were finally changing, and the dispersal of new projects out of the downtown core was a big welcome.


Aerial of bajada, 1997. landco still under construction. Uploaded by: peter353

The Asian Currency Crisis in 1997 did quite a setback for quite a number of construction projects in Davao, dampened the excitement. There were a number of highrises, an export processing zone, and CBDs that was canceled. But in a way, it made us conscious to conserve and preserve what we have. One member of the Davao of the Past community commented that the 90s were the golden age of Davao architecture, with which I agree.


Thanks to Robert Bula, this was taken at the Oboza Heritage House. Credit to the actual owner of the photo.

When we have come to look at the past to make use of what we have, and reuse something for a new purpose, that is indeed magical. The Oboza Heritage House is one example. It has been reused as a French restaurant called Claude’s Le Cafe de Ville and the result is outstanding.

Past the millennium, we have seen a surge of big ticketed projects but I am not talking about that. Construction boom and busts can have a lot of factors to dictate the cycles. Davao maybe past that, but hopefully, our heritage buildings will not suffer but will be preserved, conserved and reused.

Davao architecture is evolving, with it also is keeping up with the pace of trends. There will always be voices, there is and there is no Davao architecture. Davao architects are clearly at the forefront of changing Davao’s skyline, even then and even now. Davao civil and structural engineers are making it happen, always supportive or even leading the way.

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