University of Santo Tomas Main Building

University of Santo Tomas Main Building – Location: Sampaloc, Manila / Built 1923-1927 / Architect: Roque Ruaño, OP

The main building of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) was the first building erected in its España campus. The University was originally located in Intramuros, near the Santo Domingo Church. In 1911, when the University celebrated its third centenary, the cornerstone for a new building was laid in a 22-hectare lot in Sulucan, Sampaloc, in a new section that had been the hacienda of the Poor Clares. Fr Roque Ruaño, OP was assigned to prepare the plans for the building in the new campus in 1911. Fr Ruaño was one of the first graduates of the UST College of Engineering, having received his licentiate in civil engineering in 1912. In 1917 the revised drawings in neoclassical style were done, then from 1920-1923 they were further modified. Construction began in 1923 and was completed in 1927. Two hundred workers from Pampanga were hired for the project. The building cost one and a half million pesos.

For UST, Ruaño designed a majestic building that would house 3,000 students as well as the Dominican faculty and administrators. The four-story building is 86 m wide and 74 m deep, with a 33,500-square-meter floor area. It has a nine-story tower, 47.61 m high, featuring the cross that symbolizes the Catholic faith; the Coat of Arms of the Dominican Order; and the huge Rosary, the emblem of the patroness, the Lady of the Holy Rosary. The building has had two courtyards, which flanked the central section that houses the paranymphus, originally an auditorium, but now used for the UST Museum of Arts and Sciences (the oldest museum in the Philippines, established in 1871, transferred in 1936 from Intramuros). On the roof deck are small buildings designed for laboratories. Their roofs are shallow pools, containing water about 30 cm deep to serve as insulation.

Where the former Estero Sulucan once flowed, the site for the building was muddy and swampy, so Fr Ruaño had to design a structure with special features that would enable it to withstand earthquakes. Thus the building was made by putting together 40 separate sections, each complete with its own foundation, columns, beams, walls, and floors. Gaps of 1-5 cm between walls and beams were filled with a soft, compressible material like tar. This gave the building a certain elasticity that enabled it to survive tremors. During construction, floor slabs were prefabricated on the ground and were hoisted to the upper floors. Construction was organized to minimize the use of form lumber. Concrete was prepared, mixed, and formed in such a way that its surface could be left exposed without any finishing.

Ruaño’s architectural style is a fusion of art deco, and the application of eastern-inspired details—particularly the precast concrete forms (resembling wooden kumimono bracket used in traditional Japanese structures)—embellish the whole envelope. For passive cooling, the building was punctured with large double-hung windows alternately treated with pilaster covers. The building is adorned with as many as 492 capitals and 433 base mouldings. The A-clock from France was added six months after the structure’s inauguration.

From 1952 to 1953, 15 statues each 3.05 m high were installed on pedestals on the roof deck. These were the products of the Italian sculptor Francesco Monti, who taught in the University’s School of Fine Arts. In the center of the facade are Faith, Hope, and Charity. On the facade’s right corner are Aristotle, St Albert the Great, and Plato. On the facade’s left corner are Vincent of Beauvais, St Augustine, and St Raymond of Peñafort; while on the left side elevation facing P. Noval St are Calderon de la Barca, Sophocles, and Shakespeare. On the right side elevation facing A. H. Lacson St are Lope de Vega, Aristophanes, and Moliere. These great philosophers, playwrights, medieval scientists, and canonists, embodied the aspirations of the venerable institution, although they constitute only half of the originally intended 30 figures meant to represent a wider range of intellectual endeavors. Without the other figures, not all branches of discipline were represented.

The lobbies are adorned with significant murals depicting events in the University’s history, created by leading artists Carlos “Botong” FranciscoGalo Ocampo, Antonio Garcia Llamas, Dante Fabie, and Danilo Santiago, all professors of the UST School (later College) of Fine Arts. The porte cochere was added in 1955 by Fernando Ocampo, architect of the UST Central Seminary and Gym.

A catalyst in the development of the UST campus and the Sampaloc district in Manila, the main building became the focal point of the España boulevard vista and the district’s skyline. In front of it, the 4-hectare Benavides Park serves as the lung of the vicinity. This landmark has come to represent the seat of Dominican and Catholic education in the Philippines and in Asia, as well as a Dominican institution of higher learning producing a long tradition of heroes, presidents and leaders inspired by the teachings and philosophy of St Thomas Aquinas. It witnessed the historical changes of the nation and the transitions in the University’s administration. It withstood the ravages of World War II and provided shelter to foreign internees in 1942 to 1945. It witnessed the milestone turnover of the university’s educational governance from Spanish to Filipino in 1971. It serves as a venue for significant social events and visits of important local and international personalities. Its cultural significance was validated when it was declared a National Cultural Treasure in January 2011.

SOURCE: Manila News-Intellegencer (1991)

University of Santo Tomas Picture Gallery

Originally posted 2010-11-23 01:57:14.