A world-class innovation center in Beijing, a skyscraper in Azerbaijan and a luxury condominium in Makati. What do these buildings have in common? They were all designed and designed by the Filipino architectural firm Aidea. This week, we hear from Aidea’s President and CEO, Architect Abelardo âJojoâ Tolentino Jr. talk about the creation of a global architectural firm in the Philippines and the importance of innovation and continuous collaboration to stay constantly at the forefront.
What many don’t know about Tolentino is his early penchant for technology. âMy first choice in college was really computer engineering, but at the time it wasn’t available locally. He chose architecture as a close “second choice”, but always kept the pulse of the latest innovations in the industry. This love and appreciation for technology is why Aidea relies so heavily on the combination of design and architectural technology in its projects around the world.
But how did Aidea make its way beyond the Philippine coast? It was born out of the economic conditions of the late 90s. Tolentino began his career in Hong Kong, then was hired by the British architectural firm RMJM to lead its operations in the Philippines.
âI returned to the Philippines during the Asian financial crisis,â Tolentino said. “As you can imagine times were slow, so we had to rebuild the business with projects we could get overseas, but in the process we also created our own local market.”
In 2003, Tolentino and its partners acquired RMJM and renamed it Aidea. The company was established with three key goals: to be a Filipino company doing quality overseas projects, to be a leading local company and one of the largest companies in the country and region, and possibly more importantly, to be a company that takes advantage of technology to provide the best quality of service to its customers and to build truly innovative buildings.
This inclination towards technology has been a key catalyst for Aidea to successfully execute some of its most famous projects in the world. This includes the Beijing Technical Center of Procter & Gamble (P&G), a multi-hectare research center that partners with Chinese universities to provide the best in research.
âThis is where P&G develops its new products,â explained Tolentino. âWe took charge of this project from start to finish and engaged laboratory design experts under our leadership. It was the culmination of a long-standing partnership between Aidea and P&G that saw the company design more than 40 projects for the consumer goods maker across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Other flagship projects include the Socar Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan, which was a joint venture with Korean company Heerim, as well as the 40-story Museum Park Tower II in Chicago, a collaboration with US company Papageorge Haymes. In these projects, Aidea drew on its experience in Virtual Construction Design (VDC) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) to apply it to high-rise construction.
âVDC and BIM were already mature in our business when we undertook these projects, but not yet in these markets,â said Tolentino. Aidea was therefore hired to apply the technology and enhance the expertise of its global partners.
From its humble beginnings during the Asian financial crisis to the global company it is today, Aidea strives to be an example for Filipino architects and designers. Tolentino firmly believes in the quality of local talent. âWe have empathy. Our design has a lot of understanding towards the customer and his needs. We see it as a service. We also have a sense of technology. I think we have all the ingredients for success. We just have to believe in ourselves.
Aidea’s success and global reach makes Tolentino all the more confident that other Filipino companies can do the same. âIf we play in a bigger arena we might not win everything, but it encourages others to do the same. We want a future without borders and I think the Philippines has what it takes to do it, âconcluded Tolentino enthusiastically.
This vision of offering architecture and design as a technology service is a shining example of what a Filipino business can do. For Aidea, global recognition of Philippine design and architecture is not impossible, it is just new software.
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