If one were to call in architectural firms that have molded Dumaguete City’s urban landscape, Carlos & Antique Architects would be in the top three. Co-founded in 2001 by architect Menell Carlos, the firm is responsible for such iconic city landmarks as the St. John Bosco chapel, the RUSI main building and DCCCO buildings—each capturing the soul of the times it was erected.

At 21, after receiving her degree in architecture from the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, and a three-year stint collaborating with Hawaii-based landscape architecture firms Belt Collins and Pacific Asia Design Group, she formed her own design studio.

“My foremost job with landscaping unfastened my eyes to the world of vegetation and trees. I took home these ideas with me. I was inspired to see the world of open spaces through these lenses,” she recalled.

For a small firm to still be unswervingly creating awe-inspiring work for 20 years is a triumph, something Menell ascribes to the firm’s candidness to change and adaptation.

“In the last decade, the espousal of green practices has gone mainstream,” said Menell, “but, during this pandemic, the open space is more relevant than ever.”

“Working with vegetation and trees is much more fluid than buildings which are rigid and structured,” continued the architect. “I wonder what could have been if we had designed our cities and buildings with greeneries in the first instance.”

The trend for inviting international talent to design landscaping in the Philippines began in the 1990s, but the firm has focused on small projects that needed open spaces.

“Buildings are only half the work,” she said. “The other half is landscaping of the open space around the building.”