Filipino architect designs Malaysia’s iconic structures

Emmanuel Canlas (left) at the KLCC Petroas Towers
Emmanuel Canlas (left) at the KLCC Petroas Towers [via Facebook]

Filipino architect Emmanuel “Manny” Canlas has brought pride to the Philippines for being the designer behind many iconic structures in Malaysia.

One project Architect Canlas considers most memorable is the famous Petronas Twin Towers, once adjudged the tallest building in the world from 1998 to 2004. The towers are still considered the tallest twin towers today.

Canlas’ designing work had the Filipino architect involved with the creation of the Menara Felda and Naza Tower at Platinum Park which he considers his proudest works.

He has also designed for the Queens Bay Complex, the largest shopping center in Pinang, Malaysia.

The Petronas Twin Towers is one of the recognizable structures in Malaysia and considered as a “modern architectural icon” of the country. In 1990, Canlas was appointed to be in-charge of the tower’s design plans of Cesar Pelli, a well-known architect who has designed some of the tallest buildings in the world. The towers stand at 88 storeys and 452 meters above street level. Its entrance halls were inspired by traditional handicrafts and fabric weavings. Its wall panels and screens were influenced by Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast’s hardwood carvings while its floors draw inspiration from complex design of pandan weaving.

Menara Felda, a 50-storey office tower, boasts a wide area for its facilities such as a financial hub, its own food court and a medical center.

Naza Tower, a 50-storey commercial building, highlights its “twisted” feature which was recognized as Asia Pacific’s Best Commercial High-Rise Development at the 2012-13 International Property Awards. Naza Tower is an eco-friendly structure which has an energy-saving voltage, variable-frequency motors and inbuilt rainwater harvesting system.

As a child, Canlas aspired to become an artist. But when he went to University of Santo Thomas (UST) to apply for the Fine Arts program, he ended up in a wrong queue for architecture. He says he went to the shortest line, but studying architecture at the UST was meant to be.

Canlas went to Malaysia to work with national artist for architecture Leandro V. Locsin on the Istana Nurul Iman for the Sultan of Brunei. While there he met a Malaysian-Chinese who later on became his wife. He has lived in Malaysia since then.

Canlas is now a professor at Taylor’s University Lakeside Campus in Kuala Lumpur. He also maintains his design practice. He credits his achievements to his passion which took him to the right place at the right time.

“I’ve always been vocal and straight to the point. When you have that confidence and you’re true to yourself, it will bring you anywhere,” Canlas said in a media interview when asked how he differs from other architects.

“(My dream is for the Philippines) to be progressive…I just want us (to regain) the respect (of other nations). I think it’s only a matter of time,” Canlas said about the possibility of creating equally-iconic towers for the Philippines. 

Canlas’ designs span over three decades on iconic towers, resort hotels, and condominiums in the heart of Southeast Asia.

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