top of page

Walking Away from the Corporate Ladder: How Madrigal+Lopez Chose their Own Timing

It cannot be understated how today’s millennial generation is at an economical disadvantage in various ways. With modern challenges complicating people’s normal social and career paths, it can be difficult to stay in line and commit to traditional life paths.

This is why there have been droves of entrepreneurs paving their own paths toward success.

While most business owners would typically find their own way after a few trials and errors, this wasn’t the case for the founders of Madrigal + Lopez Architecture.

At the ripe age of 25, among the youngest of today’s professionals in the scene, the co-founders of this firm realized that this was a decision can be a lot easier by having each other’s backs.

The Vista Magallanes aims to attract vacationers by its eco-friendly and tropical design concept, with two Villas containing a number of Casitas, complete with a dip pool on a piece of land that spreads over 1.20 hectares.

On Taking a Leap of Faith

Studio Madrigal + Lopez architecture was a leap of faith, driven by its two namesake founders. Born from the height of the pandemic in 2021, Madrigal + Lopez Architecture is a multi-disciplinary company founded by a group of young and highly creative professionals headed by Ar. Danilo Madrigal III and Ar. Joelene Lopez.

While the two worked in different bases, Ar. Joelene in the Philippines and Ar. Danilo in Dubai, they both connected in.

During the first few months of the pandemic, Ar. Joelene and Ar. Danilo realized that they didn’t have a lot of control in being an employee. While many businesses saw the pandemic as a push to halt or scale down operations, Ar. Joelene found it as an opportunity to do more as an individual

“Once we started with the work from home setup, we say that it’s possible to build a company much easier today. The pandemic was really an eye-opener and we saw the opportunities of working online.”

- Ar. Joelene

Being stuck indoors had its perks for the Ar. Joelene and Ar. Danilo. Instead of the grueling hours of commuting from one place to another, they both found more time to study instead of working full-time. This helped them realize that they shouldn’t be complacent with their knowledge and explore possibilities for their own fulfillment.

Leaving one’s comfort zones is never easy, as Ar. Danilo has to sacrifice opportunities abroad as he decided to take the leap with Ar. Joelene. But the chance of working closer to home with his family and his partner was a chance worth taking. One small project led to another, which helped the two find the confidence to start their own firm. But it wouldn’t be as easy to leave the comfort of their jobs if they weren’t partners in more than one sense.

In designing the Breeze Oriental Spa and Massage Flagship Store, M + L Architects integrated the Southeast Asian traditional and modern design elements

On Being Partners in More Than One Sense

Having been long-time friends for years, Ar. Danilo and Ar. Joelene already had a strong relationship as friends. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the Technological Institute of the Philippines in 2017.

Both of them went their separate yet aligned career paths, coincidentally working with Dubai-based architectural firms. After six years of knowing each other, it was only after they graduated that the beginnings of a more intimate relationship developed.

They ultimately found that this foundation of being friends and partners made it easier for them to work together.

“Unlike when you start with a co-worker or a stranger, we didn’t have to add time to get to know each other. We already knew each other so we can focus sooner on being business partners.”- Ar. Danilo

It’s a reality that balancing work-life relationships can be difficult, even more so when starting your own business. However, the two principal architects have seen the value of sharing experiences both good and bad.

Ar. Joelene states that

“Despite it being a high-stress activity, it’s also an opportunity to grow as a partner and a professional. It’s not just the stress of running a company, but you also share the wins.”

On Finding Balance Between Personal and Professional

With regard to their working dynamic, Ar. Danilo and Ar. Joelene show that the key to getting things done is to be objective and honest with each other.

“Admittedly there are ideas that we don’t know. It’s not just with our colleagues but also with our partners. If we have different takes on a design, we have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to agree on that.” - Ar. Joelene

“It’s time-consuming to have an ego contest. That’s why our pros and cons need to be objective.” Ar. Danilo adds that, “If we can’t defend our design choices to ourselves, it’s difficult to present its value to your client.”

While no partnership is seamless and conflict-free, the two’s approach have made them learn along the way that it’s vital to know each other’s points.

“At the end of the day, we reach an agreement. Each person’s opinion needs to be shared and heard, not to be defensive on our choices right away.” Ar. Joelene adds, “Separating the business and relationship side, we need to be careful and not bring one issue across the other. That’s one of the things we’re working on.” But it’s not always an anxiety-inducing balancing act. Of course, there’s fun and learning involved in doing what you love with someone you trust.

On Making Concrete Steps Toward a Dream

Many business owners would argue that starting an enterprise would require years of trial and error, finding what fits and what doesn’t. While there’s more freedom to being your own boss, there’s also no safety net to hold you in place in case you fail.

Ar. Joelene and Ar. Danilo decided to take it one step at a time, taking small but concrete steps to realizing their dream.

Both Ar. Danilo and Ar. Joelene were the first architects in their families. They also had little to no exposure of handling a business themselves. However, this didn’t stop them from taking a big leap toward making their own name in the scene.

Everything stopped when the pandemic started, which gave them a chance to find plenty of opportunities in the digital setup. This allowed them to meet the right people with the same mindset to build their firm.

“When we got small projects, we realized that it was our own designs turned into reality, that satisfaction made us feel fulfilled. I mean it’s every architect’s design to see what they made be built. To say that something you’re seeing is from your own hands, the satisfaction of helping someone to build their dreams together with you, trusting and giving the opportunity to know you better, as their architect and as their friend. That’s what made us inspired to start.” - Ar. Joelene

In any decision to find one’s own path, the two architects also had to face some sort of pushback from themselves and their peers. With the future being uncertain, especially during the pandemic, it seemed like a great risk to start a company.

However, they stood by their decision and took a chance at something that would make them happy and fulfilled as professionals. “It’s important to start now while you’re still young, Ar. Joelene adds, “ the more opportunities you have to explore and learn, the better.

The Sylvan Cabin is an accommodation and vacation house for a family of five living abroad

On Reinvigorating Philippine Architecture

Every firm has its own brand to deliver, and Madrigal + Lopez architecture’s duo of co-principal architects want to reinvigorate this through Tropical Architecture. For them, besides the aesthetic, architecture is to maximize and give comfort to clients on a daily basis


When planning their firm’s branding, the two contemplated the current state of Philippine architecture. To combat the natural sunny weather, most buildings, whether commercial or residential are always fitted with air condition systems.

Considering also these designs’ impact on the environment and the threat of global warming. Ar Danilo and Ar. Joelene wondered which design variables could alleviate these issues.

“Most of the houses today want aircon-fitted homes that lead to high energy bills. The only green solution they can think of is adding solar panels, but there are other solutions.” Ar. Danilo adds,

“Why not apply tropical architecture as an aesthetic aspect but also on how to maximize airflow. How to maximize natural lighting. Which is a design concept Filipinos have been using even before.”

Ar. Joelene reiterates that “There are many things to consider. For example, in Dubai, they have roof decks because they need more protection against sandstorms. However, the weather in the

Philippines can go from strong rains to hot afternoons. That’s why it’s vital to tailor fit the needs of the house to the environment.”

This is a trend they have seen in other Southeast Asian countries as well. “In other tropical countries like Malaysia and Vietnam, their buildings are based on their weather” Ar. Joelene adds, “You wouldn’t be intimidated when you see how they’re built. Instead, you’ll want to learn from their architecture to apply their principles to your own projects. It’s all in the spirit of collaboration, not a competition. Which is also what we want to practice in our company.”

Ar. Danilo adds, “We wondered why tropical architecture isn’t blooming in the Philippines when it’s the most applicable to our climate. Even in a house that doesn’t have an aircon.”

This Bungalow with Loft Farmhouse in Tiaong, Cavite is a 3-Bedroom Farmhouse located within the rural community to take advantage of its unique character

On Building Client-Centric Environments: Project Highlights

The two believe that there is no template for a client’s needs, which is why they take a deep dive into asking a client about who they are and what they’re like before getting to the drawing board. “We practice in our firm, and we teach our colleagues that it’s not just competition but a collaboration.”

Ar. Danilo adds, We want the owner to be part of the team so we can help them know how every design and part of their home works. To know that it is well-planned and a good fit to

their daily lifestyle.”

Breeze Oriental Spa and Massage Flagship Store, integration of Southeast Asian traditional and modern design elements

When designing the Spa in the middle of the city, M + L Architects integrated the Southeast Asian traditional and modern design elements, complimenting the holistic approach of the massage experience that the Spa offers.

As one of the best in Metro Manila and East Asia, it stands at 400 sq. m, built with the concept of maximizing the use of space and a combination of concrete, black cladding, wood, and marble-like materials.

It gives off a luxurious and healing environment, a haven of tranquility and serenity - truly a living breathing art piece. It’s set to be completed by the third quarter of 2022.

Bungalow with Loft Farmhouse in Tiaong, Cavite

Besides working on optimized commercial projects, M + L Architects is no amateur when it comes to building cozy residential spaces.

This Bungalow in Tiaong, Cavite is a 3-Bedroom Farmhouse located within the rural community to take advantage of its unique character. The exterior design of the house is an idea envisioned together with he client, with the hope to combine the house's dark and moody exterior theme in contrast with the light and airy interior.

Standing with a lot area of 778 sq.m and floor area of 140 sqm, the house is a mixture of Scandinavian and Industrial design style, or what they call SCANDI-INDUSTRIAL STYLE. The exterior leans more on the Industrial side and uses metal, wood, and concrete, giving off a moody vibe effect.

In contrast, the Scandinavian elements showcase its use of natural, clean lines, neutral tones, and a pastel pink color theme. Moreover, its house planning maximizes the benefit of natural light and ventilation, bringing beauty and efficiency into the space.

Aluminum Perforated Panels as kitchen-door access from the outside to achieve maximum natural light, natural ventilation, and aesthetic factor to the space that spice up the house's overall design.

The Sylvan Cabin is an accommodation and vacation house for a family of five living abroad

The Sylvan Cabin is an accommodation and vacation house for a family of five living abroad. It’s a testament to maintaining harmony with nature to highlight its structure. M + L Architecture approached it by minimizing the impact on the landscape and celebrating the natural site's character by preserving the surrounding trees’ original location.

Standing with a lot area of 700 sq.m. and a floor area of 150 sq. m, The Cabin's spaces are intimate and use strategically placed windows to frame specific site conditions. Located in Indang Cavite, the trees screen the Cabin for privacy, but sunlight penetrates the foliage of the trees.

This activates the space with flickering dappled sunlight and cast shadows. The material selection of the Cabin is restrained and muted, while the exterior concrete finish, the wood wall cladding and ceiling, and steel materials.

These passive design principles are applied to make the house energy efficient, maximizing the advantage of the tropical environment.

Overall, the Cabin strikes a dynamic gesture in dialogue with the landscape, embracing intimate spaces where the family can gather and enjoy the landscape beyond.

The Vista Magallanes and its eco-friendly and tropical design concept

The Vista Magallanes aims to attract vacationers by its eco-friendly and tropical design concept, with two Villas containing a number of Casitas, complete with a dip pool on a piece of land that spreads over 1.20 hectares.

The main villas will contain the Reception Area, Accommodating Rooms, and Multipurpose Hall, both with their own private lap pool.

The casitas were inspired by a paper plane evident by its unique roof structure. The neutral selection of materials helps to create an airy and comfortable internal space, and the positioning of windows and openings that maximize the natural light and ventilation inside.

The glass walls help to see the breathtaking natural scenery of the place. The Vista Magallanes aims to be a lush tropical getaway with exciting amenities and embellished with the Balinese Tropical atmosphere.

With these projects, Ar. Danilo and Ar. Joelene mixed the semblance of modern architecture with the functionality of Tropical Architecture.

“We also want to provide a client-centric environment in our projects. The client and the architect's exchange of ideas and understanding is vital, the strong foundation of every project." Ar. Joelene adds, “Thankfully, once they become aware of the benefits of these choices, they realize that it’s necessary to ask the right questions and listen to what addresses their needs.”

On Choosing Your Own Timing

While their firm is still in its early years, they’ve already been acknowledged for their efforts in the industry.

Just recently, Ar. Joelene was nominated as an Outstanding New Member of the UAP chapter at the previous year’s national conference. This was achieved, in part, thanks to their efforts in consolidating with other architectural groups (UAP Makati CBD Chapter, Usapang Bahay Architect's Edition, Arki Tribe, and The Freelance Movement Tribe) that help, enrich, and empower the Architecture profession and the Freelancing Community through Volunteerism and Initiative that aims to educate and improve the lives of every Filipino people.

Ar. Joelene states that “Even if we are not too experienced in the industry, we appreciate that the organization appreciates our contributions to the profession.”

Although it didn’t lead to a win, it was a recognition that they’ve already gone far and beyond where many would have lied low and too it slow. There really is no strict timing when plotting your life path, whether it’s making your own way as your own business owner or finding love where it has been in front of you all this time.

Ar. Joelene and Ar. Danilo’s experiences in life are a testament to this fact by being committed to the saying that “Sometimes you don’t have to wait; you just have to take action.

To discover more about Madrigal + Lopez Architecture, check them out below:

For more inspiration, here are some Emerging Filipino Architects today:



Gerald Manuel


Madrigal + Lopez Architecture

bottom of page