A first look at the resplendent Tree of Life structure supporting the new dome canopy stretching across Antonio Toledo's original courtyard.


The National Museum of Natural History Inauguration

A first look at the magnificent restoration of the National Museum of Natural History

  • Written by Lawrence Carlos

  • Photographed by Ed Simon of Studio 100

1 Oct 2017 — The much-anticipated public opening of the National Museum of Natural History took one big step closer as the building was unveiled to dignitaries, stakeholders, and donors during its inauguration last night.

National Museum of Natural History Tree of Life
The new ‘Tree of Life’ structure rising up to the glass and aluminium dome covering the courtyard

Guests were able to view a considerable portion of the completed exhibit rooms, giving those present a tantalizing teaser of what is to come when the museum’s collections are properly curated across the 12 galleries. While many of the upper-level spaces are yet to be finished in time for the grand opening later this year, lead architect Dominic Galicia expressed his satisfaction at the progress made thus far: “It’s a big project. It took a long time to accomplish. There’s still some work to be done but in terms of what’s been done to be faithful to the original idea, I’m very happy.”

The National Museum of Natural History is the last building to be completed in the triumvirate of institutions first designated by the National Museum Act, passed in 1998 by former president Fidel V. Ramos, who was present at the inauguration. Since then, the project has been overseen by three administrations over two decades.  The enormity of the project’s scope and the triumph over numerous complications throughout this period cannot be underestimated.

 

Entrance hall National Museum of Natural History
The Main Entrance Hall sponsored by Hyundai
National Museum of Natural History
The doorway to the museum’s new courtyard space

To open the evening’s proceedings, the National Museum Director, Jeremy Barns invited the museum’s Board of Trustees Chairman Ramon R. del Rosario, Jr. to give formal thanks to the benefactors and project team members instrumental in realizing the most important cultural project in 21st century Philippines. The Chairman attributed the overall success of the project to a strong collaboration between National Government and the private sector, “The National Museum of Natural History now stands as a remarkable example of what can be achieved through persistence and the spirit of cooperation, patriotism, and generosity.”

READ MORE: The National Museum of Natural History: How it began

National Museum of Natural History
The scenic elevator gives panoramic views around the entire courtyard taking visitors up to the fifth floor exhibit spaces

Sixteen private entities forming the Philippine National Museum Foundation, including corporations, foundations, and families donated P600 million to the construction of the ‘Tree of Life,’ which includes the new aluminium and glass dome covering the original 1930s Antonio Toledo-designed courtyard. Continued funding for the museum’s future program has already been secured.

 

“A project of national significance that will benefit numerous Filipinos and help develop a greater appreciation and respect for the gifts of nature with which our country is so richly endowed.”—Board of Trustees Chairman, Ramon R. del Rosario

 

National Museum of Natural History Ayala Room
Details of the Ayala Hall. The museum’s interior design was led by Tina Periquet.

National Museum of Natural History Ayala Room

Renowned glass sculptor, Ramon Orlina, had his first large-scale glass sculpture, ‘ARCANUM XIX, Paradise Regained’ (1976), unveiled as one of the centrepieces of the courtyard, providing a kaleidoscopic backdrop to this new light-filled public space—a piece whose refractive characteristics will create a dazzling focal point from the dappled light passing through the dome.

All 12 galleries will house the National Museum’s extensive flora and fauna collection of the Philippines by the end of the year

The guest of honor, Secretary of Education, Dr. Leonor Magtolis Briones, delivered a speech which highlighted the Museum’s duty as an educational institution to all students across the whole country and not just to those in the metropolitan region: “My only wish, and I suppose it would be a difficult wish to fulfill, is that all of our 27 million young learners will somehow have an opportunity to visit this set of magnificent edifices.” The challenge ahead lies in the National Museum reaching out to all schoolchildren beyond Manila so they may experience the physical artifacts and specimens first hand.

National Museum of Natural History
The striking ‘Tree of Life’ structure forming the symbolic and spatial fulcrum of the museum

 

“This is the perfect field trip for our learners to get to know our country, for the balikbayans to be reacquainted with the country which they left, and for visitors to get to know us better beyond the dramatic stories in the news.”—Secretary of Education, Dr. Leonor Magtolis Briones

 

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As the moon hovered over the new dome of the National Museum of Natural History, the light from within the building signaled a reawakening and reaffirmation of the institution’s position as the permanent home of Filipino knowledge within the Philippine archipelago.

The National Museum of Natural History’s grand opening is set for later this year. Stay tuned to the National Museum of the Philippines Facebook page for updates.  

National Museum of Natural History
The ‘Tree of Life’ motif appears in the ironmongery throughout the museum
National Museum of Natural History
The new topography at the base of the ‘Tree of Life’ creates a generous space for visitors to meet, socialize and take a break from the exhibits. (Photo by Lawrence Carlos)
National Museum of Natural History
The fifth floor walkway gives visitors views never seen before, down into the courtyard. A perimeter gap between the roof structure and the old building will aid in drawing air from inside the courtyard out.
National Museum of Natural History
Detail of the ‘Tree of Life’ glass and aluminium dome and supporting structure.
National Museum of Natural History
The exterior of the National Museum of Natural History at night with the new dome atop the original building.

 


Inauguration event photos

Dominic Galicia, Principal of Dominic Galicia Architects

Left to right: Aladdin Ucol, Head of Building Services, Arup; Edmond Asis, Head of Structural Group, Arup; Raul Manlapig, Managing Director of Arup Philippines; and Dominic Galicia, Principal of Dominic Galicia Architects

National Museum Director, Jeremy Barns introduces the guest speakers

'ARCANUM XIX, Paradise Gained' (1976) by glass sculptor, Ramon Orlina (right) is unveiled by former President Fidel V. Ramos (left), Chairman Ramon R. del Rosario, Jr. and Secretary of Education, Dr. Leonor Magtolis Briones (left back).

Ramon Orlina in front of the 'ARCANUM XIX, Paradise Gained' (1976) glass mural.

Chairman Ramon R. del Rosario thanks the members of Senate, Congress, Board of Trustees, private donors, architects and contractors who cooperated on the project.

Secretary of Education, Dr. Leonor Magtolis Briones gives a speech about the educational role of the National Museum of Natural History

The ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Megaworld Group Entrance. Left to right: Secretary of Education, Dr. Leonor Magtolis Briones; President of Megaworld Foundation, Francisco C. Canuto (back); former President Fidel V. Ramos; Chairman, Ramon R. Rosario, Jr.; National Museum Director, Jeremy Barns

 


National Museum of Natural History 
Owner: National Museum of the Philippines (Jeremy Barns, Director)

Architect: Dominic Galicia Architects (Dominic Galicia, Robert de Mesa, Stephen George Sy, Don Isaac Ramos, Jose Evelio Bernabe, Franz Miko Verzon, Karl Stephen Go, Gene Alfajaro, Joshua Sanico, Pia Maranan, Juan Carlos Alcaraz)

Interior Designer: Periquet Galicia, Inc. (Tina Periquet, Kristel Blancas, Katrina Galiste, Bryan Galang, Jaeger Teh and Anjela Cereno)

Museum Consultant: Cultural Solutions

Project Manager: DCCD Engineering Corporation

Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Sanitary, and Fire Protection Engineer: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Limited (Philippine Branch)

Curtain Wall and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Engineer: Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Limited

Tree of Life Engineer: PNS Advanced Steel Technology, Inc.

GREEEN Rating System Accreditation: Philippine Green Building Initiative

General Contractor: JBros Construction and J. D. Legaspi Construction (Joint Venture); Nationstar Development Corporation (Alejandro H. Tengco, CEO)

Tree of Life Contractor: Transasia Construction Development Corporation

Tree of Life Elevator Contractor: MP Elevators (Sevilla, Spain)

 

Board of Trustees

Chairman: Ramon R. del Rosario, Jr.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Education Member, Ex-Officio: Sen. Pia S. Cayetano

Director, National Museum Member, Ex-Officio: Jeremy Barns

Chairman, National Commission for Culture and the Arts Member, Ex-Officio: Felipe de Leon, Jr.

Chairman, House Committee on Education Member, Ex-Officio: Cong. Kimi S. Cojuangco

Member, Private Sector: Marinella K. Fabella

Member, Distinguished Historian: Fr. Rene Pio B. Javellana

Member, Private Sector: Maria Isabel Ongpin

Member, Private Sector: Felice P. Sta. Maria

Member, National Scientist: Dr. Benito S. Vergara

Member, Private Sector: Arch. Augusto Villalon

Member, Private Sector: Fernando Zobel de Ayala