Fort Santiago Will Soon Have Another Attraction

Fort Santiago’s Baluarte de Santa Barbara, the fortress once used as headquarters for the US Army in 1904, will soon become a venue for training Filipino youth to be architects, designers, and engineers, the Intramuros Administration (IA).

Intramuros Administrator lawyer Guiller Asido said the fortress will soon be known as the iMake History Fortress LEGO Education Design Learning Center which will be an interactive center for students and at the same time will feature LEGO learning materials to present the rich history of Intramuros and the Philippines.

"This project will be an additional destination of learning in Fort Santiago which we will be open to every person regardless of age," Asido said in a press conference in the future learning center.

"This would make Fort Santiago and Intramuros, not just a cultural and historical structure but already an inclusive area for creativity, learning, and experience," he added.

Asido said that the learning center will house a lecture area, a scale models wall, a dark room, LEGO displays, and a moving LEGO exhibit among others.

Once completed, he said that he expects the learning center to be another “destination” in Fort Santiago and lure more tourists. Entrance to the learning center will not have additional costs.

"We are expecting more than double the number of people who are going to visit Fort Santiago. We are targeting more than one million in a year," Asido said.

"It’s already part of the entrance fee (in Fort Santiago)," he added. Entrance fees in Fort Santiago are priced at PHP50 for children and students and PHP75 for adults.

The learning center was conceptualized by the IA in partnership with FELTA Multi-Media Inc., the exclusive partner of LEGO Education in the Philippines.

It will begin restoration -- including adding lights and air-conditioning units -- in September and is expected to be finished by October. Asido said that restoration of the fortress will cost less than a million pesos.

Scale model competition

As the restoration of the fortress awaits completion, undergraduate students offering programs in architecture, industrial design and engineering from various universities and colleges have been invited to participate in a nation-wide scale model competition using white LEGO bricks.

A total of 12 groups (with three to five members each) from different participating schools will be tasked to use white LEGO bricks to construct 12 Intramuros landmarks in the scale model. Landmarks for scale modeling will be given to each participating group via a lot.

Eminent external architectural experts and architects will be invited as members of the jury for judging the final output of each student group.

The group that wins first place will receive a cash prize worth PHP50,000; PHP30,000 for the second place winner; PHP20,000 for third; and consolation prizes.

Representative of the fifth district of Manila Cristal Bagatsing, meanwhile, committed to providing an additional PHP15,000 prize money for winners.

Competition duration is set from July 21 (deadline of registration) to September 30 (deadline for submission).

FELTA Multi-Media Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Mylene Abiva said that there will be no limit to the number of LEGO bricks used. However, dimensions of each scale model entry should be 1:100 meters with each being at least 70 percent made of LEGO bricks.

"This is an exercise in creativity and we don’t want to make (regulations) stringent," Abiva said. However, she said that there will be limitations to the size of the scale model

Extra challenge

Participating students expressed excitement in embarking on a new challenge of building landmarks using LEGO bricks.

Francis Cortez, an architecture student representing the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, said that he found the challenge “fun and easy” because the landmark assigned to them -- the Palacios del Gobernador -- is still existing.

"I think it would be easier for us since we got a landmark that's still existing," Cortez said. Other groups were given landmarks that no longer exist and would have to rely on research and photographs.

John Ruiz, an architecture representing National University, said that it would be a challenge since his team will be using LEGO blocks for the first time.

"It’s challenging and we have to consider details of the structure but I believe we can do it. We’ll work as a team," he said.

All praises

Ambassador of the Kingdom of Denmark to the Philippines Jan Top Christensen lauded the IA and FELTA-Multi Media Inc. for their latest development.

Christensen was invited since LEGO, the popular plastic toy bricks, is manufactured in Billund, Denmark.

He revealed that the idea of restoring the fortress into a learning center was floated during a coffee conversation.

The Denmark Ambassador also welcomed 70 years of diplomatic Philippine-Denmark relations which he said has “deepened” through the years.

Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary for Administration and Special Concerns Rolando Cañizal, meanwhile, expressed hope that the learning center and the contest would provide a “greater appreciation” for the Philippines’ heritage.

“We hope that this project will not only give training to young people but will also become a venue to inculcate a deeper understanding of our heritage,” Cañizal said.

“Through this iMake completion, the DOT hopes that more Filipinos, especially the young generation would allude to giving importance to our cultural asset ass significant tourism resources of this country,” he added.

Abiva said that the iMake History Fortress Architecture Scale Model Competition is the first in the world of its kind. (ANP with reports from Ma. Angela Coloma-OJT/PNA)

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