SEAARC Symposium Abstract 7: “Late 18th to 19th Century Accesorias in Manila: Urban dwelling and shophouse in the midst of socio-economic changes”

By Prof. Lorelei D.C. de Viana, Far Eastern University, Manila

This paper will be about the accesoria or the Philippine urban apartment dwelling or shophouse of the late 18th to 19th century Spanish colonial Manila.  Manila’s urban growth from the late 18th century continued into the 19th century producing results that affected the social, economic and cultural life and conditions of its people.  The British invasion and occupation of Manila (1762-1764) had a big effect on Manila’s development when economic reforms had to be initiated and physical measures had to be designed to secure the city.  Manila’s opening to world trade, the rise of the mestizo class, health inroads, foreign economic penetration, labor migration and influx, the cash crop economy and advancements in transportation and communication made this an interesting period in the history of the city. Chinese coolie migration, which was augmented by late 19th century Japanese labor influx, answered the demands of businesses caught in the spirit of free enterprise, foreign commercial investments, the cash crop economy and the latest innovations in technology.

It was during this interesting period in Philippine colonial history that the accesoria or urban apartment dwelling and shophouse emerged fully as a distinct architectural type.  While answering the shelter demands of urban Manila during the period, the accesoria also attended to the enterprising schemes of the privileged and the landed elite who used their property to generate revenue.  Properties were subdivided into several dwelling units whose ground floors were used as shops, talleres (work areas) or depósitos (storage areas) that were used by or rented out to the working class, businessmen and merchants.

The accesoria’s different forms evolved in consideration of socio-economic reasons and the dictates of government directives for buildings.  Generally because of its nature as a budget dwelling, the accesoria’s physical features were simple and devoid of the overly ornate.  The dictates of colonial building directives also found their way in accesoria design.

As budget home and shop, the accesoria came to be the house of the working class with its design of contiguous units fitted with the basic and necessary spaces for socializing, sleeping, and cooking with communal amenities for water sourcing and toilet.  In its most elaborate and compound form, the accesoria was a rowhouse set among other similar units within the allowable expanse of the property where they stood, offering a choice between two-storey units and budget viviendas (living areas) or studios in loft type style.

A result of the urbanization of the city of Manila, known also as Intramuros or the Walled City, and its immediate outlying suburbs of Binondo, Tondo, Santa Cruz and Quiapo, the accesoria grew to become part of the physical urbanscape of Manila.  Mingling with the private houses of stone in the city streets, the accesoria draws a vista of the city as it has grown, expanded and evolved amidst the tide of economic and social vicissitudes in the Philippine colony under Spain.


Lorelei D.C. de Viana is an architect and researcher.  She has degrees in Bachelor of Science in Architecture, Master of Arts in Art History and Doctor of Philosophy in Philippine Studies, all from the University of the Philippines Diliman.  She also trained in stone conservation under the auspices of ICCROM and the IUAV in Italy.

She has worked for the Philippine government agency, the National Historical Institute now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, as conservation architect and researcher.   She is currently Professor and Dean of the Institute of Architecture and Fine Arts of the Far Eastern University in Manila.  She is currently engaged also in professional consultancy work in heritage conservation, museum and exhibit curating, and green architecture. .  Dr. De Viana has lectured and presented papers in different forums and conferences on architecture and heritage conservation.

She is a member of the United Architects of the Philippines, Council of Deans and Heads of Architecture Schools in the Philippines, Manila Studies Association, Philippine National Historical Society and Philippine Studies Association and the Phililppine Green Building Council. She was former executive member of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts Committee on Architecture and Allied Arts and the Commission on Higher Education Quality Assessment Team of Architecture, Interior Design and Fine Arts.

Her doctoral dissertation Accesoria: A historical study of late 18th to 19th century urban apartment housing in Manila and its arrabales was awarded Best Dissertation by the University of the Philippines Diliman (Philippine Studies under the Tri-College Program) on April 22, 2012.

This entry was posted in SEAARC symposium '15 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *