APL Architects’ Approach to Collaboration
Of the many industries in the world, the construction and development niche is one of the few that boasts a unique and recurring collaboration among several trades and disciplines. Principal architects, mechanical engineers, constructors, and even the right suppliers must work hand-in-hand to create a vision into reality. In many ways, every construction and project development is a result of managing expectations and setting harmony in all aspects.
Building a Compelling Portfolio Across the World
Architect Philip Lu completed his Architecture degree in Manila, Philippines as he graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 1990. He took his strengths in developing leading-edge designs as he expanded his knowledge and craftsmanship by taking his early apprenticeship in Brazil and California, USA. After passing the board exams, he knew he had to take his talents abroad once more. “I wanted to do something on an international level. Right after taking my board, I had my eye on Singapore or Hongkong” says Ar. Philip.
When deciding between the two, he took a decisive step that would be instrumental in shaping his career and his work ethic. “The architecture scene and the work ethics of the Singaporeans impressed me more. As a young architect, I longed to join a well established firm. With that, I was fortunate and
blessed to be accepted in one of Singapore’s top architectural firms during the 90s.” says Ar. Philip.
In 1992, he found his place in DP Architects Pte. Ltd., one of the biggest firms at the time which handled notable projects like the Marina Square Complex and the Esplanade (Singapore Arts Theater). From there, he was given the privilege to work with the 3 senior directors of DP Singapore. One of his most notable projects was the Marina Square Leisureplex’s extensions comprising a commercial complex with six cinemas by Golden Village. This would just be the first of many projects, where he would bring his talents to different parts of Asia from Kuala Lumpur, Myanmar, and China.
Climbing Up the Ranks in DP Architects
“It was a very humbling experience because I was learning from three masters. A true eye opener for me to learn the fundamentals of my practice.” Ar. Philip adds, “Being Filipino and able to engage directly with foreign clients (Marina Center Holdings) was a unique experience that developed my confidence and self-esteem. I look back now and realize the trust that was given to me. I owe them a lot. I will be forever grateful to my mentors in DPA.
By 1999, he went back to Manila to join DPM Consultants Inc.(Phils.) and was hailed as the “1st Associate Architect” of the firm. That came with huge shoes to fill. “I eventually came back to Manila in 1999, still with DP, because we had a branch here at the time,” he recalls. The following year, he became one of five directors of DPM that handled the design for the NAIA Terminal 3 (pilot project) for TAKENAKA corporation.” Throughout his stay with DPM Consultants, he was also tasked to work on several local projects that would establish his name in the local scene.
Being instrumental in landing the first commercial complex project for the firm, Mango Square Commercial Complex in Cebu was one of the first collaborations he spearheaded with DPA Sing. However, like any foreign company, after NAIA 3 was completed, the DPM team went back to Singapore.
Ar. Philip Lu opted to stay in the Philippines and set his roots in his home nation. Mango Square’s client, Ludo-Luym Development Corporation (LLDC), found this as an opportunity to create and renew a lasting bond with Ar. Philip Lu. Over time, he would be motivated to establish his own firm. However, as many success stories would have it, the road to starting as an independent player in the industry is far from easy.
“Being Filipino and able to engage directly with foreign clients (Marina Center Holdings) was a unique experience that developed my confidence and self-esteem. I look back now and realize the trust that was given to me. I owe them a lot. I will be forever grateful to my mentors in DPA."
Finding APL Architects’ Footing in the Philippines
Aside from specializing in townhouses, residential projects, commercial buildings, hotel and resorts projects, APL’s goal is to create a structure that will contribute positively to our surrounding environment. This is most notable in how they handled one of their biggest challenges in developing Aqua Boracay.
With an area of approximately 16,000 sqm of tropical haven, Aqua Boracay is a massive resort comprising seven magnificent white structures situated on the bay of Bulabog Beach, the eastern side of the island. Its elliptical shapes and seashell-themed buildings make them quite unlike any resort you’ve ever seen before. Housing over 140 guest rooms overlooking the beach’s calming breeze, the project was finalized and designed by APL architects headed by Ar. Philip, together with international and local collaborators.
This impressive feat of a resort houses not just a massive guest capacity, but also a wide range of recreational structures, like gyms, spas, rectilinear swimming pools, and the admin offices. This ambitious project came with various logistical challenges, which really pushed APL’s creativity and problem-solving to its best.
“When we took on this project, we encouraged “self -sustainability” to our clients with regards to facing various issues like not having the proper storm drain facilities from the LGU, to erratic power supply amongst others. ” Ar. Philip adds, “Together with JSR & EMCEES Engineers, our reliable MEPS consultants, new power houses and advanced water treatments were introduced to regulate the power flow and water treatment processes. This enabled the treated water to be reused while the excess is safe for discharge. The resort in a way becomes self-regulating and sufficient.”
The resort's multi-functional rectilinear swimming pool boasts several features, most prominently its child-friendly areas while catering as well to all age brackets.
While it may seem like a creative solution, it was an effort that required the collaboration of different engineers, i.e. Structural consultants (STRUKTURA ), landscape consultants (CRE Design), and other specialists to be brought into a reality.
This innovative solution would also be useful in providing irrigation for the property’s vegetation during summer when water is scarce, and also eliminating any possible erosion for the unwanted water discharge during the rainy season. It allowed the resort to stand the test of time, not just in its design, but also in APL’s quest to achieve energy efficiency and sustainability.
On how APL Architects managed to overcome this and many other difficulties, Ar. Philip found relief in seeing how the end product turned out. “We were really happy with the results with Aqua Boracay, especially since it was a very unique challenge to face.” he adds, “We aimed to give them solutions, so the architectural finish will still be sound and aesthetically beautiful.”
Homing In on Luxury Homes
“The initial years in setting up my own firm was really a struggle.” Ar. Philip adds, “But after that, a series of residential projects came in, and the rest was history. That’s where we really found stability, from a humble firm that started to grow.”
In 2004, Ar. Philip would start seeing the fruits of his labor as he decided to diversify his field and venture into the world of project management. This would be key in expanding APL’s strengths and focusing on their specialization in developing high-end residential projects.
“High-end residential projects require a lot of coordination with the owner and painstaking details as our work is very personalized. While world-class resort projects are more generalized as the focus switches to the general public's interest and requirements. The success of a well-planned resort evolves around good teamwork, as several specialized allied consultants such as landscape architects, spa consultants, acoustical, etc. may be involved. This stretches to brand consultants and hotel-hospitality experts. Each has a role in the design and planning process.” says Ar. Philip.
While the two project niches may differ in execution and output, Ar. Philip’s skill in project management comes in handy to make sure these projects are successful and properly streamlined. This has all to do with fostering trust among his collaborators.
Working with Reliable Business Partners
Although it’s more common to refer to the key players, like dependable general contractors, reliable project/ construction managers to finish a project, it goes without saying that their talents won’t be of much use without the proper support. This is where the value of finding reliable suppliers play an essential role in projects, especially in high-end residential homes.
“Finding good suppliers are a key element to any project's success. For instance, we rely heavily on the after-sales service.” says Ar. Philip. He sees the value of fostering great relationships with suppliers as a long-term engagement, going beyond just a per-project basis. “Good product means nothing without
good service. To mention a few, suppliers like Moebler (Cambria countertops), Supercool (AC specialist), Kenneth and Mock (UPVC doors and windows), had withstood the test of time in their partnership with us at APL. They don’t abandon you after the completion of the project”
One of their key projects, the renovation of the Scarlata Estates of Ayala Alabang, boasts a massive set of features like a game room, indoor gym, garden party area, and several guest and ensuite bedrooms in a whopping lot area of approximately 2,000 sqm. “It took us two and a half years to build and finish it. But the end product is very satisfying. Aside from our reliable suppliers, I also credit it to my co consultants (I.D., Landscape architects) who were very patient with us.” Says Ar. Philip. It’s one of the many impressive feats APL was able to accomplish by working with good contractors that Ar. Philip describes them as “reliable, able, and know their stuff.”
Never one to close doors to meeting new people to work with, Ar. Philip adds that “To date, we are constantly seeking good consultants, suppliers who can give the best service to our clients.”
“Good product means nothing if they will not support you after the completion of your project, to mention a few, suppliers like Moebler (Cambria countertops), Supercool (AC specialist), Kenneth and Mock (UPVC doors and windows), had stood the test of time in their partnership with us at APL.”
“The initial years in setting up my own firm was really a struggle.” Ar. Philip adds, “But after that, a series of residential projects came in, and more projects came in. That’s where we really found stability, from a humble firm that started to grow.”
“Finding good suppliers are a key element to any project's success. For instance, we rely heavily on the after-sales.”
Looking at the Future of High-End Residential Projects
The situation of the post-pandemic construction and development industry is at a unique turning point.
With his view on the matter, Ar. Philip sees a promising growth in the hospitality industry. Hinting at a
possible market future architects should look forward to, Ar. Philip says that “It’s very promising! We are quite optimistic, especially with the hospitality industry. The influx of small to medium-scale resorts are also on the rise. The demand of families to have a private space away from the city limits is growing exponentially.” If there's demand, there should be supply.
“People now are willing to give up the perks and convenience of modern accommodations of an upscale/posh home(s) to the outskirt villages of the city. The change has been quite dramatic during the pandemic season.” Ar. Philip adds, “People learned to appreciate nature more. Since people now can work from home, the mentality is to develop "my own beach house, my vacation dream home", be it at Punta Fuego or Pico de Loro or even as far as El Nido or the island of Boracay. Currently, APL Architects is focusing on two projects in Antipolo with vastly different approaches in architecture. One is built with a modern- contemporary resort feel theme in mind while the other is a much modern-minimalist nearly brutalist form.
“High-end residential projects require a lot of coordination with the owner and painstaking details as our work is very personalized."
Finding Harmony in All Things
Managing expectations is more than just overseeing the possible implications of one’s output. Since construction and development projects are always a collaborative effort, one person’s action will have a resulting reaction. In a behavioral sense, prospective homeowners now have realigned their priorities in building their homes. “During the pandemic, I noticed that people wanted to leave Manila. Aside from Ayala Alabang, they want to go to the outskirts. People now put more value on their surroundings. The seas, trees, the view. Things we have taken for granted. It all matters now.” Says. Ar. Philip.
Besides creating harmony in his projects and their surroundings, Ar. Philip also prioritizes the harmony found in every project. Between collaborators, whether it’s the client speaking to a contractor, or a mechanical engineer working with an interior designer.
“I like to be the peacemaker between people. I believe that in the construction scene, there has to be a harmonious relationship between the client and the contractor.” Ar. Philip adds, “All parties should be responsible so the project will be successful. I listen to all sides. It’s important to be the mediator of peace and not the instigator of conflict. This is why I exercise fair play and maintain non-biased decisions. Although our primary concern is to protect the best interest of our clients, it is also important to be honest and upfront in stating shortcomings from either party involved in a diplomatic manner.” Through respect, clarity, and professionalism, Ar. Philip weaves the different sensibilities of his collaborators into a seamless and satisfying output for all his projects.
APL’s strength is grounded on these principles of striking a balance between boundaries, which is how they enforce their brand’s quality output without overshadowing their clients’ vision. Ar. Philip reinforces this by saying that “with us, our strength is in listening to the clients. We are not concerned about immortalizing our firm. However, we at APL desire to immortalize the project, in favor of our client.”
“Commit your plans to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” - Proverbs 16:3