Seismic Baroque: Coral Stone Churches in the Philippines of the Spanish Colonial Period (1565–1898) and Their Place in Global Architectural History

Franz Engel, M.A.

The project Seismic Baroque investigates the role of coral stone churches in the Philippines from the Spanish colonial period (1565–1898) and their fate until today. The usage of local coral stone has been often noticed by scholars but was never subject to a comparative study. So far, most of the studies were focusing on the role the religious orders played both as commissioners and architects in the building history of the Spanish colonial period (Galende 1996; Javellana 1991; Jose 1991; Galang 2013; Luengo 2018). However, the proposed focus on the materiality of coral stone promises to generate new perspectives on the impact regional developments had in the Philippines aside from the political and cultural centre of Manila where no coral stone churches were built. In fact, coral stone churches but also domestic buildings like municipal halls, forts, bridges, and towers can be found only in certain parts of Luzon, a few along the coasts of Mindanao, whereas in Visayas especially coral stone churches are the norm.
The expected outcome of Seismic Baroque is to provide a detailed picture of the trans-regional transfer of technique, the ecological interactions of local coral materiality with globally spreading architectural forms, and the role of coral stone churches in constructing a "Fil-Hispanic” national identity. In a broader context, Seismic Baroque may also contribute to overcome the Euro-centrist view of Baroque architecture by showing that architectural history in the Philippines was an effect of the global spread of architectural form actively transformed to a unique language of architecture through the impact of coral materiality.

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