Although I had previously written a fairly detailed post about the Jones Bridge and its predecessor, the Bridge of Spain, I have recently come across certain information that warrants a separate posting. I feel it is rather significant and fell upon it by chance through one of my readers.
Many months ago, I received a comment from Brent Beattie, a reader from Vancouver, B.C. who, upon reading the Jones Bridge article said, “Great photos of Jones Bridge. In a weird way that bridge is part of my unrealized fantasy. When I moved to Vancouver in 1969, I became friends with a fascinating, worldly, bohemian German family that lived in Lynn Valley, a forested mountainous area of Vancouver. My friend’s mother, Astrid, talked at length about her husband, who was a classically trained sculptor, and travelled the world doing important commissions. Of the many photographs, many were of what I now know is Jones bridge. He did the dolphin sculptures for sure, and probably worked on the pier sculptures as well (he lived in Manila for perhaps 6 years). I was told he also did sculptures for the pediment of a grand building in Manila built around the same time (parliament, or courthouse?). His name was Otto Fischer-Credo and he had an interesting life (ended in the 1970′s). “
Well, as you can imagine, this short comment fired up my historic senses ! I knew that the Filipino architect, Juan Arellano, designed the bridge but now I find that there was someone else who had designed the beautiful sculptures. I needed to investigate further.
I emailed Mr. Beattie for more information. He replied that he thought one of Mr. Credo’s sons was living in Italy but alas, he had no contact information. Once again, luck played its hand. I received an email from another reader, Rain Paas, who kindly provided me contact information for the Fischer-Credo family. Excitedly, I felt I was getting close and things were beginning to fall into place. I contacted the Credo family, hoping they would have any photos or drawings of their father’s work. They responded and were very gracious and generous to provide the very rare photos I’ve posted below, following a brief history of the construction of the Jones Bridge.
In 1916, Juan M. Arellano, a member of the Bureau of Public Works, was commissioned to design a new bridge to replace the Bridge of Spain damaged by typhoon and floods in 1914. Note: Juan M. Arellano was also responsible for designing the Manila Post Office, the Legislature Building, and the Metropolitan Theater (see his story on my post of the Manila Post Office).
Temporary repairs were made to the old bridge which continued to be used for nearly 5 years, but it was clear a replacement was needed. Construction was started on a neoclassical reinforced concrete arch bridge from Plaza Lawton next to the Post Office, and span across the Pasig River over to Calle Rosario, just west of the original site of the Bridge of Spain.
Construction of the bridge was supervised by the Bureau of Public Works, thrown open to vehicle traffic on August 22, 1921, and commissioned in December of 1921. During this time, another artist was commissioned to design and build the statues that would embellish both ends of the span as well as in the middle support. This project fell to that artist, Otto Fischer-Credo.
Otto Fischer-Credo was born in Berlin in 1890 and died in Vancouver in 1959. He studied at the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin from 1908-1915 and the Royal Academy of Art in Paris from 1919-1921. Fischer-Credo lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Cuba and the United States before settling in Vancouver, B.C. in 1957. His first solo show was in Manila in 1926.
Apparently Otto and his wife, Astrid, had lived in Berlin in the 1920s but traveled the world, living in Mexico, befriended by the artist, Diego Rivera, as well as doing commissions in the Philippines and Cuba.
During WWII, he was conscripted into the German military to work as a war artist glorifying the Third Reich. Both Hitler and Himmler sat for him in which he produced their sculptural portraits that were placed in government buildings which were destroyed during the battle to liberate Berlin.
This was taken inside Otto Fischer-Credo’s studio showing a sculpture in progress along with his assistants.
Here is a beautiful shot of the Jones Bridge almost completed. The sculptures along the side of the bridge are being secured. (Click to enlarge)
As I perused the family’s photos, I was quite surprised to discover that Otto was not only responsible for the decorative sculptures along the side of the bridge but the four large sculptures at each of the four corners of the span, including the famous, La Madre Filipina. Research credits these sculptures solely to Filipino artist, Ramon Martinez so I will caution that my facts need to be corroborated. However these photos, clearly shows the work in progress at Fischer-Credo’s studio. I can’t be certain but that may be Juan Arellano in the background. The photo below shows what may have been one version of La Madre. I noticed little changes such as the bird in the girl’s hand is gone from the final version.
Three of these statues survived the war. La Madre Filipina was later moved to the Luneta (Rizal Park) close to the Rizal Monument. The other two now stand in front of the Court of Appeals.
The collaboration between Juan Arellano and Otto Fischer-Credo continued with the design of the Legislative Building (now Pambansang Museo). The building was originally designed by Ralph Harrington Doane and Antonio Toledo in 1918, and was intended to be the future home of the National Library of the Philippines, according to Burnham’s Plan of Manila. Meanwhile, a Capitol building for the Philippine Legislature (established on October 16, 1916) was to rise on Wallace Field, just south of the library (the location is now María Y. Orosa Street in Rizal Park). Instead, the Philippine Legislature decided to move into the Library building in 1926, and changes to the building’s layout were done by architect Arellano. The Second Regular Session of the 7th Philippine Legislature was formally opened at the building on July 11, 1926. It was concurrently the headquarters of the National Library from 1928 to 1944.
The sculpture of Mercury still inside Credo’s studio. The little girl is not identified.
Unfortunately, this magnificent building suffered extensive damage during the Battle of Manila. The building was restored and some of the Credo’s sculptures saved, however, the “newer” restoration seems to have lost the elaborate embellishments and grandeur it once had.
I hope you have found this bit of architectural history interesting. I found it fascinating to say the least. Thanks to Mr. Beattie, Mr. Paas, and of course the Fischer-Credo family for their invaluable assistance.