Ed Calma's Architectural Odyssey In Manila And Beyond

How he returned to fulfill his father’s legacy, shaping Manila’s skyline with visionary designs and a commitment to sustainability.

The Family Gene is strong 

Manila Society has some favorite architects and Ed Calma is one of them. A TOYM (Ten Outstanding Young Men) Awardee in the field of Architecture, Calma is a prominent figure with various homes he designed sitting on Metro Manila’s most expensive zip codes. 

Ed is the son of Architect Lor Calma, the Founder of the Interior Design Profession in the Philippines, who is also an architect, interior designer, furniture designer, jewelry designer, and sculptor. Ed says, “My father is the embodiment of a true Artist. Renaissance man, polymath.” His father, Lor Calma, and now Ed, are famous for their contribution to the architectural landscape in the Philippines.

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Photo by Ed Simon of KLIQ, INC.

Born and raised in Manila, Ed’s architectural journey has been characterized by innovation, a deep connection to his cultural roots, and a commitment to sustainable design. He adds, “Being in a design environment I wanted to pursue a design career so I took architecture in Pratt Institute in New York City for my undergraduate degree and pursued a masters degree on advanced design in Columbia University after working for several years in one of the biggest firms in the US.”  

Ed had big shoes to fill when he decided to come back home. “I came home to Manila in 1995 to take over my father’s firm so he can retire to enjoy his life as an artist.  I focused mainly on residential architecture introducing an open plan living where living, dining, and kitchen is an open space without partitions, merging interior and exterior spaces through large glass walls, eliminating ornamentation and simply focusing on the ephemeral quality of the spaces. I was able to win a few competitions for schools, museums, exhibition spaces, and commercial buildings. It gave me an opportunity to question these building typologies to make them relevant to our generation.” 

Form, Function, and Sustainability

Photo by Ed Simon of KLIQ, INC.

One of Calma’s notable projects is the Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City for which he won a LEED Gold Award in 2012. This iconic structure stands as a testament to his ability to harmonize contemporary design with environmental sustainability. The building’s sleek façade is complemented by eco-friendly features, including energy-efficient systems and green spaces. Ed’s commitment to creating structures that contribute positively to the environment has earned him acclaim within the global architectural community. 

A Philippine Institute of Architects Presidential Excellence Awardee, Ed fuses a combination of environmentally sound design for this landmark. He makes use of grass roofing which  provides insulation, a solar reflective exterior, rainwater flow drainage, and an Ed Calma signature, natural wind ventilation. These are notable environmental features that are rarely used which he incorporated in the building of this one-of-a-kind science museum. 

Photo by Ed Simon of KLIQ, INC.

He has been a vocal proponent of designs that cater to the needs of the community while respecting the natural surroundings. He reflects on the state of this city by saying, “I feel current approach to designing buildings and our city itself lack understanding that they become a burden to people more than to improve our lives. Just by looking at the 25-year-growth and development in the country our citizens still have issues of traveling efficiently and getting basic needs like water, electricity, and sewer facilities. Instead of modeling our cities to cities that work we committed the same mistakes as other cities in the west. There are only a few buildings that meet the standards of good design and sustainability.”

Perhaps most of us can share in this opinion with a tinge of regret that Manila could have been a more livable city. He adds, “I’m hopeful  things will change. It just takes time. All I can do is to continue to do good work and get into every opportunity to design larger scale. I want to be able to contribute to the architecture culture. It might take another generation to see change. My daughter Daniella has also become an architect currently working in New York City. She can continue the work.”

Globally Recognized Work

Ed’s influence extends beyond the Philippines, as his designs have been showcased internationally. Exhibitions in renowned architectural forums have brought attention to his ability to weave local narratives into a global context. This cross-cultural approach has not only established him as a visionary architect but also as a cultural ambassador, bridging gaps between different design philosophies.

Photo by Ed Simon of KLIQ, INC.

Known for his distinctive style that seamlessly blends modernity with local influences, Ed has reshaped the architectural narrative in the Philippines. His designs often incorporate elements showcasing a profound respect for the nature, balance, natural movements of the wind. From residential structures like Lifestyle Asia cover girl Small Laude’s Greenhills home to commercial spaces, each of his creations tells a unique story, reflecting his dedication to both form and function. Some of these would be winning a Gold Medal for the Philippine Pavillion EXPO at Aiichi, Japan and again at the  EXPO in Zaragoza, Spain where he bagged the Gold Medal for Design.

Ed Calma’s journey through his innovative open concept designs, commitment to sustainability, and respect for the natural world and sustainability shaped skylines and contributed to the social fabric of the places he touches. As the Calma family legacy continues to unfold, from Lor to Ed, and now to Daniella, the Calma influence will be felt in the architectural realm, inspiring the next generation to push boundaries and redefine the possibilities of design.

Banner photo by Ed Simon of KLIQ, INC.

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