Plantation Bay’s Reception Building: A showcase of art, architecture, and engineering

The Reception Building of Plantation Bay is an original Filipino work of art and architecture. Its various elements recall significant parts of Philippine history & culture and convey a mixture of serious & playful messages that surprise and delight its visitors.

The main floor is elevated above an ancient sea bed,  therefore resembling a house raft floating on a tranquil sea. The flooring material incorporates blocks of granite salvaged from ballasts used by ancient sailing ships from China.

The roof framing in verdigris steel was designed by Plantation Bay founder Manny Gonzalez, with load calculations performed by structural engineer Ramon Villarias. It recalls European train stations during the Golden Age when trains were the principal mode of tourist transportation.

Instead of massive plates of steel however, Plantation Bay’s lobby roof structure employs delicately curving, almost organic truss shapes, achieving a light, airy filigree effect. This makes it appear that the roof itself is capable of flight, now changing the travel metaphor from trains to contemporary jet travel.

At both ends of the magnificent lobby are elevated choir lofts, an allusion to the role of the Catholic Church in Philippine history. At the heart of the lobby, the central atrium welcomes ample daylight while constituting a passive thermal cooling feature. By expelling heated air high up, the steeple also “breathes in“ fresh air at floor level, providing a pleasant temperature on most days without wasteful air conditioning.

Also at both ends are large format paintings by National Artist Rômulo Galicano, who hails from Carcar, Cebu. As a long-time friend of Gonzalez, Galicano agreed to the commission, considering the entire resort as a suitable meta-frame for his magnificent paintings, which are of the Batanes seas located North of Luzon, and of Plantation Bay’s own Nile Hall, the first building to be completed back in 1997. Another Galicano painting graces Palermo restaurant and has its own charming “secret” story behind it.

Yet the most magnificent elements of this fanciful and visually arresting lobby are the gigantic twin chandeliers, jointly designed by Gonzalez and the late Imok Roa, the latter sketching in the fine details.

Despite the extensive damage caused by typhoon Odette last 2021, the chandeliers of Plantation Bay have an aerodynamic shape that permitted them to survive, being completely unharmed, and the rest of the lobby was similarly almost damage-free.

The Reception Building is not only an artistic and architectural tour-de-force, but an engineering marvel and model of typhoon-resistant design.