Roland Polendey on following your dreams & pushing yourself

Architect Roland Polendey

Roland Polendey, on being an Architect

The structure at the corner of Arnaiz Ave. and San Lorenzo Drive in Makati Ave. is a looker. Although just rising four stories high compared to the luxury hotel behemoths near it, it’s simple curving facade can hold its own. At night when it’s lit up, you can’t help but admire its seeming simplicity and uniqueness amidst the boxy buildings that make up much of the edifices in most of Makati City and perhaps in urban areas in the Philippines.

“That’s Polendey’s.” An architect more than 15 years ago might have quipped when seeing the curving facade then. But this building, Hotel Céleste has just been around since 2007. The architect, of course, is no stranger to this style. When peers designed boxes more than a decade and a half ago, he was already introducing curving designs and bold colors in his residential projects.

Early years of Architect Roland Polendey

Architect Roland Polendey (photo from the magazine’s page)

Architect Roland Polendey has always wanted to be an architect. He remembers fondly that when he was still in grade school, he was already doodling houses and construction tools and crediting his father for his industriousness and a cousin for his aesthetic sensibilities. “That was my goal. That was my ambition that one day I will be an architect. Fortunately, it happened,” he enthuses. 

Graduating at the Far Eastern University in 1976, he passed the licensure exams in the Top 10 and first worked with Turalba and Associates for 10 years, getting involved in several projects ranging from commercial, resorts and residential but with a multifunctional role like estimator, designer, draftsman and construction supervisor. It was the uncertainty of the time in 1986, with the coup and People Power that a friend enticed him to work in Papua New Guinea. There he worked with Dempsey Architects as an Architectural Designer. After two years and a half, and feeling that he has bigger dreams to achieve than working in that country, he came back to the Philippines and took a job with Fil-Estate Properties, Inc.

For the next 15 years, he has worked with various commercial and residential projects and has risen from the ranks, eventually becoming Vice President for Engineering and Planning in that company. At that time, Fil-Estate was one of the biggest real estate firms, doing high end residential projects like Hillsborough and Southwoods. These were so popular that, as what the Architect reminisce, “bangin pa lang, nabebenta na.” We were the trendsetter at that time with Mediterranean style subdivisions in the country with huge clubhouses and grand entrance gates. Many high end subdivisions built with units selling like hotcakes. I was the chief architect and it was a good experience as I was really able to practice my craft. To design these, we were sent abroad, to France, Spain and research about the style.”

New opportunities

Founding Polendey and Associates in 1993 opened up new opportunities. With it, various kind of projects: residential, hotels and resorts, commercial and institutional works were completed. But Architect Polendey wanted to be different. Freed from the design constraints of Fil-Estate, which was heavy on Mediterranean style, he was able to experiment by introducing something different during that time.

“I started designing with curves. The balcony, the window, these have curving elements. I think I should put something different to it. At that time, probably 15 or more years ago, it was all about straight lines and edges. I wanted to soften it with curves. I also experimented with bold colors like oranges and other bright hues. Nobody wanted to take risks but I don’t want boring stuff. Who will question me? You just have to do it.” The results of his experiments were worthwhile as clients loved it and others copied it. 

Hotel Celeste in Makati was one of his memorable projects. Working closely with the owner, a jeweler, who wanted a high end residential structure. But to tie it with their Boracay property, made it into a high end hotel with a homey feel. Curiously, the design was actually based on the architecture of the Anfiteatro Flavio, the Colosseum in Rome. As what Architect Polendey narrates, should stand out, a unique structure in the area. The result, a four story structure with a beautiful curved facade that is European in style. The interior is opulent, from the lobby to the individually designed rooms with bold palettes. 

For someone who loves challenges and breaking the norm, Architect Roland Polendey finds working on projects situated in rolling terrains satisfying. “Fairways and Bluewater (before it was bought by Megaworld) in Boracay challenged our creativity. You have to do a 360 degree plan, as we architects call it, minding the resort, the greens, seaside, forest…” Currently, he is busy with a resort project in El Nido which also is challenging as they are not allowed to touch the natural environment but build around it. He’s excited even, as it involves different kinds of terrain, from the seaside, beach, to slopes which entails a different kind of approach than what he is used to doing in most of his projects which are mainly located in urban areas.

While busy with projects around the Philippines and abroad, Architect Roland finds time to unwind. Working 12 hours per day, he finds playing golf therapeutic although not as much as he wants due to work. But he avers that he takes working breaks like taking a walk or ride a bike near his office. Or dropping in to his wife’s meetings or have coffee within the area to keep those ideas and inspiration flowing. As he says, “I work while I play and I play while I work.” 

Arch. Roland Polendey has an extensive, almost 40 year experience in the industry. He is the Principal Architect and General Manager of  Polendey and Associates with more than 25 years. The firm offers comprehensive architectural, engineering and interior design, master planning, construction management and supervision.

Originally published in D+C magazine, 4th quarter of 2015

Arkhi Builders: A startup making its way to success

Arkhi Builders

The Design and Construction industry is quite competitive especially if you’re in the nation’s capital region. This didn’t stop three friends, all in their late 20s and coming from different firms. In 2013, they started a company that offers to build every Juan his dream house. Arkhi Builders is a one stop shop that “offers a worry free experience in planning, designing and building.”

“We were part of different companies with different expertise. Robie has a background in Finance, Justinn has experience in Construction. Each of us have our own set of clients and we collaborated to come up with Arkhi Builders,” says Paul Benedict Alba, now Finance. Robie Reyes is the current CEO and Justinn Aldwin Baloran is now VP for Operations. The company is now based in their new home in Taguig City.

Arkhi Builders

During the boom in condominiums, they were doing Architecture design and interior renovations for several clients’s units. It was through this that they got to work with big developers the likes of SMDC, Ayala Land and DMCI. “We were doing this for a year when a residential project was offered to us. Considering that we have a good network of suppliers, we grabbed the opportunity. Today, we are now doing both residential and commercial projects. Arkhi Builders now takes care of the whole process so that clients don’t have to worry about different aspects of planning, design and construction,” Paul adds. 

Savvy Digital Marketing

When Arkhi Builders started, it relied more on their existing set of clients, word-of-mouth and referrals. But aspiring to grow and beat other competitors, they considered doing Internet marketing to get more clients and projects. “We are a small company and don’t have the budget for billboards and print ads but considering today’s technology and how people search for information, we invested online,” Paul says. Thus they have a website, a blog and social media presence in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But in terms of online marketing strategy, it’s more of Google and Facebook. It is mostly through this that they get inquiries and eventually clients besides the traditional referral network.

How Arkhi Builders handles clients

New clients don’t actually know what to do, said Paul. Arkhi Builders first come in as consultants. Taking a personalized approach on the needs of the clients and knowing the budget and timeframe. Then they slowly introduce their services and costs. Perhaps one of the reasons that the company is successful right now is how it handles its clients. “There are no bad clients. It’s actually managing their expectations and being realistic with the projects. We patiently explain to them the project considering the design, budget and time.” Although the company is not known for a particular design aesthetic, it follows the desires of its clients, their work are generally modern in design. 

Arkhi Builders has already a long list of clients and projects: it has built a resort/museum for a client in Bataan, there is an ongoing project north and south of Manila, a construction being done in Cebu, a Palawan property coming and many more. But despite these successes, Arkhi Builders still remains humble. Paul says, “we’re still a small company and the greatest challenge is managing it to what we want to become. There are still lots of challenges coming our way but we are always learning.” Not bad for a company that will turn four years old this February 2017.  

Originally published in D+C Magazine, 2016

Robert John Sac: A son carving out his own destiny

Robert John Sac
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.