Robert John Sac: A son carving out his own destiny

Robert John Sac

For many, working under the shadow of a popular father can both be a boon and a bane. Boon as doors seem to open easily and there are better opportunities available, without much effort. Bane, as there’s always the tendency of being dissected and compared to the father. But for Architect Robert John Sac, it’s sheer hard work and carving his own path that has brought him to what he is now at a young age.

“So far, our clients came in without knowing my father. I’m very thankful that I have my set of clients and he has his”, Robert John attests. “I’m doing my part also to separate myself from my father. Fortunately, I don’t get compared to him probably because I might be doing something right. But I do aspire to achieve what my father has done in terms of success like getting consistent, bigger projects.”

The father is no other than Architect Robert Sac, of Robert S. Sac Architectural Design, recipient of the Excellence Award in 2009 by the Philippine Federation of Professional Associations. He was also National President of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP), 2002-2004. And was instrumental in leading for the passage of Republic Act 9266, the Architecture Law. 

Dreaming to be an Architect

For Robert John, he has always wanted to be an architect. Although his father discouraged him from taking up Architecture and wanted that he take up Medicine, he says he dislikes Biology and English,. Another option would have been to become a lawyer but he confesses that he doesn’t have the courage to speak infront of people. He always loved Math and drawing and taking up Engineering and Architecture was more possible. It was during their house construction, when he was still in high school and went there everyday to observe solidified his resolve to take up his current profession.

Robert John Sac
Architect Robert John and Pauline Sac are founding partners of their architecture and construction firm, 50/53A

Fresh from graduating, he intentionally steered clear of working for his father. He got employed with Rockwell Land Corporation as a Design Associate for a few months. There, he experienced how it is to work in a corporate environment. But wanting to gain more experience he got worked at his father’s firm. He passed the licensure exams in 2010.

Coming into the fold

“Compared to working in a big company where you are only given tasks to do just a part of the project, working for my father was a good training ground. I was given full hands-on in the design and construction process. I got to know how it really is in handling projects. Being the son wasn’t even an excuse to slack. I really had to work hard as my father. If he stayed up late at night working, there’s no reason for me to sleep early or wake up late. I am very much thankful for how my father put in the discipline and inculcated me the value of hard work.” Robert John admits that compared to most architects his age, this experience was a big advantage.

Even if he was employed, he also got projects of his own. First with his friends. As referrals and recommendations grew, has to take some days off per week to work on his own. He always felt secured as even without a project, he was still receiving his paycheck while working for his father. But with more projects and the desire to carve his own future grew louder, he decided to form his own company.

Founding their own company

Architect Robert John, together with his wife, Pauline, are founding partners of their architecture and construction firm, 50/53A*. Their work has ranged from a slew of houses, commercial buildings and hotels, restaurants and interiors work doing mostly modern/contemporary style but have also done mediterranean or Filipino design.

Being designers and at the same time contractors they focus more on longevity in their projects. With their experience, they have come to know what materials work better especially in a tropical environment and advise clients on better design solutions. Both husband and wife make sure that they have their own projects, each have their own clients. This to avoid conflict and to maximize projects done. In running the company, Pauline overlooks the Finance and Administration side. Staff are also assigned specific projects, not just parts and accountability and ownership is highly encouraged. But one thing that Robert John keeps sacred, and one that he has seen in his dad is that the architect should not dictate what he wants. It’s always about the needs of the client. 

Design process

The design process is methodical and always in consultation with the client to come up with a consistent design in and out. The client’s needs are paramount, incorporating their habits and character. One thing that they also consider is feng shui when doing the design. Not all clients ask for it but the architects value it more for its practicality which provides good design sense. Asked if he still consults his father from time to time: “When we first started with the new firm, yes. But now, as much as possible, we don’t. First, my dad’s so busy with his architecture firm and stainless steel business. He’s also a consultant with various groups. And second, before it comes to a point that I have to reach out to my father, we resolve problems on our own.”

Busy as they are with projects, both travel abroad from time to time. Not just to unwind but also to inspire and learn. Getting to know current design trends with keen interest in beautiful interiors. 

Being the son of a highly successful father can be daunting. But Architect Robert John Sac, instead of capitalizing on his father’s success turned it as an opportunity to carve a destiny of his own. Taking it one step at a time. 

*Based from the last two digits of Robert John and wife Pauline’s license numbers.

Article and photos originally published in the Q1 issue of D+C Magazine, 2016.