Architect Jose Carlo Mateo: A Life of Creating the Perfect Built-Environment

Publication: Pillar Magazine

Issue Date: Volume 7, February – May 2014

Section: The Professionals


For Jose Carlo Mateo, the love he has for his job started when he was in the University when he was juggling presentations, classes and partying with friends all at the same time. He became a registered professional architect two years after his graduation in 2004 from the University of Sto. Tomas. He landed his first job at Group3 Design Studio where he apprenticed under its founding partner, the late Mr. Julio Niosco working on projects for multinational clients like Convergys and Citibank for corporate interior architecture. After his stint at Group3, he landed a job as a Production Manager at the MANA Architecture + Interior Design.


Carlo feels most proud of this project he did years ago, which also happens to be his first venture. The project was an office building along E. Rodriguez Avenue. What made this project special to him is the sense of fulfilment he felt and the fact that people still notice this particular project in his portfolio until now.


A second generation architect, Carlo describes his father as his permanent mentor. “I still had a lot of direction from my mentor, but this was the first time he made me feel like an architect at the jobsite”, Carlo said. “Observing my father’s practice, I learned very early on about the fulfilment of having a permanent testament to the product of your imagination,” answered Carlo when asked for the reasons in choosing architecture as a career.


Carlo said that his clients are also some of the people who usually inspire him. Whenever he meets them for a project, he tries to “squeeze a vision out of the meeting of the minds.” However, if he really had to drop a name in the industry that influences him, it will be Lord Norman Foster of London.



He has a Diploma on Applied Project Management from the Ateneo Graduate School, which has a joint program with the project Management Institute, one of the world’s leading professional association for project managers.


Carlo’s leadership is recognized for spearheading the transition of principal architects’ practice from the Orlando M. Mateo (OMM) + Associates to become MANA Architecture + Interior Design that it is today. He did his apprenticeship with Orlando M. Mateo (OMM) + Associates as a Technical Staff/ Jr. Architect and is currently a member of the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) Quezon City chapter. Carlo is an experienced architect with local and foreign projects in his portfolio including ventures in Singapore, China, India, and Indonesia.


The Mateos is a family of six, four of which architects: the patriarch Orlando Mateo, the eldest son Marco Antonio, the younger daughter Bianca Isabel, and the youngest son Jose Carlo.  Carlo said that the smart one, the only one who did not follow the footsteps of their father, is his other older sister, Lara Teresa who chose to be a teacher.


It is also with his family that he had the most adventure in a project. He designed a very modest weekend house for his then girlfriend, now wife Amy. The adventure went as he wrestled with himself as the designer who wanted a quality forward thinking design, and as the 23-year-old owner who barely had resources to spend; the adventure continued as he proposed to Amy to marry him right at the day of the blessing of their weekend house. The adventure goes on as they continue to enjoy the modest but contemporary architecture that is their weekend escape. Carlo and Amy are now married for five years. Both of them studied architecture in UST. Carlo fondly recounts how Amy and he had been together since day one of college, in sickness and in health, with design plates for school or with none. To this day, they work together in their firm. “I remember at the end of the day, Amy and I would talk a lot about how each of our days went. Good times!”


It is also Carlo’s fervour to support a charitable institution especially the Hospicio de San Jose where the nuns raised

his own mother. “When we feel very strongly about the social relevance of a project, the impact we can make to the

community give us enough fulfilment more than money can buy.”


Together with MANA, Carlo had done a number of projects for the Catholic Church and had been donating a chunk of

their services for health-care projects.


What can you say about the architectural trends in the


In the Philippines, cost is the biggest challenge. There are so many great designers, but when cost becomes a hurdle, it gets the better of them, which results in downgrading of the design. So the key is coming up with a design that adds value, a design that validates its costs, expensive as it may be.


What about the trends worldwide?

Trends, I believe, should be responsive to the local context, geographical, environmental and social context. Those

[architects] who are successful in responding to these contexts while satisfying the client’s needs and desires are those who prosper in the international architectural community.



Carlo is currently the Managing Partner at MANA Architecture + Interior Design. MANA’s vision as a company is to become one of the Top 10 Design Firms in the country by 2020 in terms of delivering positive impact to built environment and enriching the lives of those who live in it.

As of Carlo’s plans for the future, he is in the process of creating “a strategic professional alliance”. He plans to work with engineers and interior designers from Iloilo and other areas in the Visayas region and in Mindanao. Carlo believes that there are many talents outside Metro Manila, and together they can expand the horizon of their work.

As of the man’s idea of dream projects, Carlo wants to build a school designed to foster alternative, more fun and

more effective ways of learning and teaching. He added that a housing project is also on his list, one that focuses not

only in creating pigeon holes for people to retire to at the end of each day, but one that studies the complexities of

communal living. He wants to create a built environment that encourages everyone to be considerate of others.

Mr. Carlo’s words when he talks about architecture sounds like they were lifted directly from the metaphorical bible of

architecture and design. He talks with such love and passion for the art he had chosen that even the most uncreative

person would want to dive in and join the design movement. To him, there is more to architecture that surpasses the mere design and construction of a place: to him it is to build a life.


To quote Arch. Jose Carlo Mateo, “Architecture affects human life immensely. The environment we live in is manmade.

Where we live, eat, play, study, work, commute, and even where we find quality time with our friends, family and

loved ones, are all built environment – once conceived and conceptualized. The question is, how much careful thinking was involved in coming up with our built environment. So I ache for the time to come when people demand for the right architect to design their built environment.”


The Inheritance of Arts and Construction

MANA Architecture + Interior Design


MANA Architecture+Interior Design managing partner Jose Carlo Mateo explains the story behind the firm’s name. The

label originally came from the Filipino word mana, meaning inheritance. “We are a family of architects. My father and our principal is our leader. My elder brother and elder sister are also architects, so are our spouses.  MANA may also mean blessing or power (when spelled manna). We all feel so blessed to practice architecture and do what we love,” he said.


The Architecture firm sprung from the beginnings of Orlando M. Mateo (OMM) + Associates, that was established by MANA’s current principal architect, Orlando M. Mateo. In 2007, Orlando M. Mateo (OMM) + Associates became MANA

Architecture+Interior Design.


The firm is looking to be fifteen men strong by the end of February this year. With the expansion they are planning locally before the year ends, they are expecting to reel in ten more talents for the company.


What services are the specialties of MANA

Architecture+Interior Design?

We have three main categories of services:

First, our Architectural and Engineering (A&E) design services that we cater to our local projects. We have a suite of specialty design services that include hospitality design, health-care planning & design, and master planning that complements our A&E design as the project may require.

The second category of our services is Detailed Design Development. We partner with other international design firms and collaborate with them by developing their conceptual ideas and turning them into tender ready detailed designs.

The third category is Project Management (PM). We assist our clients in planning the activities of the project from as early as pre-design stages. We assist in bid administration and in project implementation. One thing that clients appreciate from our PM services is that we keep them, the client, ready to perform their obligations to the project.


Who is your most celebrated associate?

The most celebrated key person in our team has to be our principal, Architect Orlando “Orly” Mateo. He has almost

five decades of experience and his designs have shaped the most significant structures in the country.


What are the awards your company received since

its establishment?

Our first winning design is for the architecture of the Bacolod Government Center.


Another award is for second place for the Ninoy Aquino Museum Design Competition where we overtook Palafox and we were second only to Guerrero-Nazareno . All three of us who made the finals, gave a good show.


Who are your biggest clients to date?

Our biggest client would have to be Foodsphere, Inc. (CDO), an industry leader in the food business. We did their corporate headquarters building as well as their corporate interiors.

We are also designing for the land developments of Aldevinco. Both CDO and Aldevinco have been repeat clients for a long while now. We are also currently doing the design for a beachfront boutique hotel in Boracay and a master planned park and commercial building in Iloilo – both for a client we can’t disclose due to the competition in

their industry.


What are the roles of various personalities and entities in

your company?

We are multi-disciplinary. We have architectural and engineering designers, project managers, estimators, renderers. Exceptional projects do not just happen. It is the result of exceptional forethought, insight and vision. And we arrive at it through the collective wisdom derived from our team of talented experienced and youthful individuals.


Would MANA collaborate with other companies?

For complex projects, we do collaborate with other experts. Recently, we worked with Singapore’s Architrave for a Banyan Tree in Huangshan, China. We are currently working with TID of Singapore for a Shangri-la hotel interiors in Sri Lanka. We are the Architect of Record (AOR) for the Paragon entertainment hub set in Ortigas’ Capitol Commons. For this project, we are collaborating with an American firm, RTKL.


What are the short and long term goals of your company?

For the short term, our goal within the year is to set up our Iloilo office by the end of 2014 to cater to the Visayas region. After that, we have measurable targets to develop managers from within our organization which is all in our three year plan. For the long term, we are focused in having designed as much built environment that are socially relevant and that impact the lives of the Filipino in a positive way.


What was the most bizarre project you did as a collective?

A house with a slide! This one is yet to be constructed as it’s still in the design stage. Some designers may think of

convincing the client that a slide may be a whim that can easily be grown out of. The next designer may give the client literally what they want and design a slide inside the house like that of what is used in children’s playgrounds. We take this to the next level by satisfying the client’s eccentric desire for a slide, but by doing so with a structure that lets you slide, but won’t look like a childish whim. It’s going to look like it’s an integral and deliberate part of the structure. The idea is to make it look timeless, challenging, but we are up for it!


As a company, what’s your mission?

Architects on a mission. To plan, design and develop socially relevant architectural projects with high impact to the

community, enriching lives of those it touch. To deliver fully integrated and customized building design solutions that

exceeds the expectations of our clients. To provide exciting opportunities that enables the design team to realize their

potentials and bring the clients in the forefront of their respective practice, governance, trade or industry.


And vision?

MANA shall become one of the Top Ten Design Firms in the country by 2020 in terms of delivering positive impact to built environment and enriching the lives of those who live in it.


At least how much should a client prepare

if they want to work with MANA Architecture+Interior Design?

“Design Adds Value”. Our clients prepare as much as the value they expect from our designs.


What kind of detail is unique to a design from MANA

Architecture+Interior Design?

We refrain from imposing a set of stylistic mannerism to our clients. We prefer to see our designs as client-centric. That is our signature design. Instead of seeing the same old unique detail that is used from one project to the next, our brand of architecture is guaranteed to be uniquely responsive to the clients’ needs and wishes, responsive to the project’s business plans if any, as well as responsive to the project geographic and climatic conditions.


How is MANA Architecture+Interior Design different from

other architecture and interior design firms?

We offer a collective wisdom in architecture that springs from the expertise and decades of experience from our principal, combined with the youthful approach by our managing partner and the rest of our young designers. This is what makes us unique.



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