IN my ongoing series on architects and designers for the country, we feature one of my favorite women in real estate—Arch. Cathy Saldaña is one of the most prominent female architects in the country, but more than being a top-notch architect, I single her out for her love of country and how she skews her work toward Mindanao, tourism and sustainability.
Dirty, dangerous and difficult
While there are a lot of women designing homes and restaurants, she has been doing challenging and more technical work out there in the islands, along coastlines, in major cities across the country, designing commercial, residential and corporate structures, hotels and master-planned resorts, retail mixed-use buildings, hospitals, houses, schools and high rises.
Woman in architecture
Standing tall among predominantly male architects in that circle, she has created a niche for herself, working with the recognizable clients and also with boutique developers. There are advocacies close to her heart: inclusive architecture thoughtfully designed for people and the preservation of natural environments amid the building frenzy. Hers is a familiar and strong voice in conventions and conferences both locally and internationally.
A thought leader for others
Apart from being a leader for other architects to learn from on various topics with the United Architects of the Philippines, Worldbex, Asia CEO Forum, real-estate organizations, ULI and women’s groups, she is also actively speaking to larger audiences abroad.
One of these topics close to her heart is Coastal Design: Architecture by the Water, where she has probed in-depth into projects and communities beside the seas and rivers in the Philippines. She will present a paper in Palermo, Italy, in a few weeks for projects in Iloilo and Sicogon.
“To embrace the earth and not subdue it, to design and build responsibly alongside land and marine life, to have a full grasp of technology with design expertise to preserve mangroves, coral reefs and pristine beaches, let us lead the way.” Leading hospitality brands in the country rely on her as they have done for several decades, whether the projects are in the cities or in the islands. Among her other innovative projects now are some automatic cold-storage facilities of a scale that have never before been seen in the country. Her attention to detail and passion for work is evident in all her endeavors. She has recently reorganized the teams between her companies, PDP Architects, Arco Group and SSDS (Saldaña Siegel Design Studios).
Cathy said, “Design is all about people—those you build for and the people who help build. Our life in this industry is all about building people too, and not just structures. It’s about mentoring the design apprentice and in the same light, guiding the workers, the craftsmen.” As a woman in her field, you will find in her car a collection of shoes—flats, safety shoes, sneakers and heels to match every need and site visit. She finds her work-life balance in staying fit, being with her husband, family and friends, and keeping the faith.