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Architect Mark Madrid finds joy in building houses

    “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.

    Architect Mark Madrid
    Architect Mark Madrid

    There are no architects in the family. His mother was a housewife and his father an accountant. He resolved to become an architect someday when he was in high school. “My mom has a knack for designing and renovating. Sh had a background in Fine Arts and wanted to take Interior Design but didn’t push through when she got married. She started fixing up our house and when my grandmother renovated her house 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. Projects were hard to come by when the Asian financial crisis hit. He realized his knowledge was 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 Madrid 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, and 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 preferred 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, and then 3D. He tries to come up with 2 or 3 versions of the basic design. 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 Madrid 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. But he says 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’s difficult sometimes.”

    Talking about one of his projects: “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 house reminded me more of Japanese contemporary houses. The basic form remained but it was more a matter of tweaking the roof fascia and making it thinner. The windows were enlarged and changed from arched to rectangular. A sandstone wall was added for accent and texture.”

    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, 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.”

    Baguio old house

    Architect Mark Madrid restored an old Baguio house located at a quiet neighborhood near Wright in 1994. The structure is probably from the 1930s or 40s. The 2000 square meter lot has a 650 square meter, three story structure built on a slope. The building was in a sad state when 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 below the building with its wooden posts decayed. It was easier to demolish than to renovate but Mark Madrid 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. Only the kitchen has a subtle slope that is noticeable. As the original three story fireplace, one for each level is useless due to clogged vents, a smaller living room with a fireplace was added. 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. These are hallmarks of what Architect Mark Madrid can provide whether it’s designing or renovating for a client.

    Originally published April-June issue of D+C magazine. Check out my Architecture Photography portfolio.