Being part of the movement isn’t just about establishing your own career. This is why Vbo Architects + Engineers (VBOAE) double as a teaching firm that helps future professionals find their footing in the industry.
Ar. Mary Neil Velasco-Bocalid prioritizes this mentorship bond and allows herself to share her experiences from projects that demand different creative solutions.
VBo Architects + Engineers was founded by partners Ar. Mary Neil Velasco-Bocalid and Engr. Junim Bocalid. Ar. Mary hailed from the University of the Philippines Diliman – College of Architecture as a Cum Laude graduate while Engr. Junim graduated from the University of the Philippines Los Banos - College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology. They individually built up their skills and know-how in the industry before finally geting the confidence to build their own firm.
VBOAE was established in 2013 and has handled various projects, mostly centered on resorts and private residences. The firm believes that design innovation is formed by the collaborative ideas of different professionals and the client. Prioritizing sensitivity is their strength and driving force in the development of their concepts and solutions.
To exemplify their tagline of ‘VBo listens, thinks, speaks and designs’, two of their most challenging works include the Miniloc Island Resort and Bacolod MassKara Coliseum project.
Miniloc Island Resort
A premium Eco-Discovery island resort in El Nido, Miniloc stands at 3,610 sq. m, composed of a Jety Port, Clubhouse, on-stilts Water Villas, Garden Villas, Cliff Villas, and an additional swimming pool area. As a renovation project, VBOAE made a stellar mark in its portfolio by working with such a tight deadline.
It was their task to unify the modern Filipino look, all while balancing time, resources, and limitations on this major renovation project. As one of the more high-end resorts in El Nido, the responsibility of fixing the cohesiveness of the resort’s different structures was a great challenge.
They received the project by July and we’re tasked to finish the design to meet the resort’s soft opening by December of that same year in 2018. The tight deadline made them wary of their internal processes’ efficiency since they had to make decisions that would uplif the resort's image.
Ar. Mary notes that:
“Especially with renovations, you encounter many surprises. With this project, we had to consider structurally what’s there. Does it ‘speak Miniloc’ or do we have to move or remove this structure?”
Bacolod MassKara Coliseum
In terms of scale, the 15,700 sq. m, 3-level project in Bacolod is among the more challenging assignments VBOAE had to overcome due to its stylistic and logistical prerequisites. Since it was a project in coordination with Local Government Units, they had to get used to the push and pull for approval of designs.
In managing the different requests of such a large-scale, cultural structure, Ar. Mary notes that
“As a designer, we have to consolidate what looks best for the project. It’s important to meet halfway because we want to make a cohesive design.”
Handled primarily by their Associate Architect, Ar. Mike Francis Garcia, the resulting design embodied columns prominently featuring vertical lines. Going beyond literal imagery, they opted to embody the iconic MassKara’s elements, from its subtle shapes to its vibrant colors. This led to the project pushing through with a more refined and polished look.
Looking back on their milestones, Ar. Mary is happy to accomplish them with the size of their team, allowing them to handle multiple facets of their projects effectively.
To mark its upcoming 10th anniversary as a firm this year, VBOAE plan to focus on their strength and diversify. Through years of working with various clients in select niches, they were able to find and refine the right formula for handling different projects. “Especially right afer the pandemic, we learned a lot of things that we never thought we’d face.” Ar. Mary adds that “we had to develop creative solutions in terms of design logistics and manpower.”
As a teaching firm, VBOAE is proud to impart the lessons they’ve learned along the way to future architects in the industry. “As a managing partner of a design firm, it’s my responsibility to produce holistic architects. Even if they work for another company or set up their own firm, I know that I left a mark on them that will impact the industry positively.” Says Ar. Mary.
Though she recognizes that she’s in a male-dominated industry, she makes it a point to be known through her personality and work ethic.
“There are many times when I’m the only woman in the room, but I don’t feel intimidated. I always see it as a challenge to put my best foot forward, on my ability as a professional and attitude towards work.”
- Ar. Mary Neil Velasco-Bocalid
VBo Architects + Engineers