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Quiapo & Paris: The Basilica of San Sebastian, The Eiffel Tower & The Wonders of Steel

After having the the Church of San Sebastian destroyed by fire and earthquakes in 1859, 1863, and 1880, Estebán Martínez, the parish priest of the ruined church, decided to ask Spanish architect Genaro Palacios to build a fire and earthquake-resistant structure.

This meant the basilica could therefore not be made of wood or brick (the material they used in the 3 earlier iterations).  So Palacios recommended a daring and visionary material.  He suggested that the church should be made entirely of steel. Moreover, the steel structures would be prefabricated in Belgium. According to the historian Ambeth Ocampo, the knockdown steel parts were ordered from the Societe Anonyme des Enterprises de Travaux Publiques in Brussels and all in all, 52 tons of prefabricated steel sections were transported in eight separate shipments from Belgium to the Philippines with the first shipment arriving in 1888.

Around the same time (two years earlier), another steel structure that would become world famous had been built in Paris as the grand entranceway to the World Fair. This massive tower that millions would later ascend and descend (to this day) was designed by Gustave Eiffel. Historian Ambeth Ocampo while doing research in Paris, posited that possibly the San Sebastian Church in Quiapo was also designed by Eiffel because of his fascination with steel structures. Other historians concur with this supposition because no other architects at that time (late 1800’s) were undertaking such enormous projects using steel as the primary material.

Today, like its counterpart in Paris, the Basilica of San Sebastian still stands proud in the Plaza del Carmen at the eastern end of Claro M. Recto Street in Quiapo, Manila. Although after over 120 years, the salty sea breeze wafting in from the Manila Bay is corroding some of the exposed steel (but better than being burned down or destroyed by earthquake every few years as had happened before).

In 1973, the government proclaimed the church as a National Historical Landmark, and since 2006 is on the tentative list for inclusion as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites for its Architectural Design.

Categories: History

The Advantages of a Steel Roof over Wood

December 20, 2011 1 comment

(1) CHEAPER
Once upon a time (translation: before the 1970’s), wood was used extensively in the Philippines for top cords, trusses and purlins. With the population boom and our forest decline however, wood is now simply too expensive to use.

(2) EASIER
Contractors, architects and designers started encouraging the use of angle bars for trusses and c purlins where the roofing plates are then screwed in. It is not only cheaper, but much easier to put together. Some even go as far as using GI pipes welded together in very simple roofing systems.

(3) NO MORE TERMITES
As we all know, termites abound in the Philippines and you never know when wood in your structure is being eaten away until sometimes way too late. The use of steel spares homeowners from termite infestations aside from being cheaper, easier to construct and always readily available.

(4) MORE OXYGEN FOR US
The use of steel over wood means the protection of our forest cover- to cleanse our air, to provide oxygen, to keep animals safe, among a host of other things.

Categories: History, News

We’ve come a long way

The history of the modern steel industry began in the late 1850’s when Henry Bessemer developed a converter that made steel easier to produce, paving the way for its eventual use in construction as it was too expensive to make before.

Here, from wikipedia, is the patent drawing for Bessemer’s process:

Of course we have come a long way since then. Today, 21st Century Steel Mill, Inc. which is located in Taytay, Rizal has a rolling capacity of 10,000 Metric Tons per month.

We manufacture, among other sectional steel bars:
(1) Angle
(2) Channel
(3) Flat

Approved by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), we use the Philippine Standard (PS) Mark of “21” for angle bars and are certified to pass all safety standards.

Categories: History