One of the first things you notice when you enter Escolta is the 90-year-old First United Building. Built in 1928, it was designed by Andrés Luna de San Pedro, the son of renowned painter Juan Luna.
Formerly known as the Pérez-Samanillo Building, it was named after its prior owner, Luis Perez Samanillo. It was rechristened to First United Building after being purchased by the First United Building Corporation in 1968.
Several tenants of the building throughout the years include Berg’s Department Store, United Coconut Planters Bank, and recently, the community of Manila creatives.
It also houses a number of offices, including that of architect Arts Serrano. The original Berg’s Department Store in the building marked the entrance to the old commercial district, and today the first floor of the building is home to the vendors of HUB: Make Lab.
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Keeping the makers spirit alive! From the yesteryears of #saturdayxfuturemarket until the birth of @hubmakelab it never stopped! Taken from 2015 by @jellydca. Come again tomorrow, we are full house! Plus #ZodiacCafe at the @thedenmanila! It’s a great day to visit downtown this weekend 💜 #holaescolta #makeitmanila #escolta #makers #weekendmarket #eventsmnl
As part of the ongoing efforts to revive Escolta as a creative and commercial district, the First United Building has transformed into a commercial hub, housing a number of workspaces and establishments for and by creatives.
HUB: Make Lab describes itself as “a gathering ground for passionate, quality producers who take pride in what they do and who do it with the utmost care.”
The first floor serves as an incubation space for artists and entrepreneurs to give their business a test-run for three months. The HUB is a project by 98B COLLABoratory, an artist-run initiative that encourages creativity within a shared space.
The project has earned its reputation as a starting point for young entrepreneurs and owners of smaller businesses.
At the mezzanine level of the building is the First United Community Museum. This space revisits the 1930s, with its mementos of Bergs Department Store, one of the first tenants of the building. The museum is also a project to honor the memory of Sy Lian Teng, who acquired the building from American owner Ernest Berg in 1951.
Objects and memories from his life are preserved in this one-room museum. On the topmost floor of the First United Building is Escolta’s First Coworking Community.
This co-working office space was created especially for freelancers and startup companies who need a temporary spot. The space used to be a law firm with a maze of partitions.
Now it is an open space that gives a full view of the building’s neighboring architectural gems. Two doors beside the First Coworking is 1/0 Design Collective.
The fifth-floor penthouse used to be Philippine Comedy King Dolphy’s office space. Architect Arts Serrano transformed the space to an architecture firm.