Everyone is looking forward to the New Year and the prospects of getting back to normal, including face-to-face classes at all levels in schools nationwide.
One of the institutions preparing for this is the Ateneo in breezy Loyola Heights.
Although my alma mater is the maroon and green Diliman campus nearby, I also consider myself Blue. My eldest son completed his primary and secondary education there, and my youngest is currently a freshman in college. I also taught at the university in 2002-2003, handling an elective class in heritage appreciation at the Department of Sociology.
My involvement in the campus has also been as a design professional. My firm prepared the campus master plan as well as landscape architecture for two building sites there in the last few years. All this allowed me to get very well acquainted with the sprawling 83-hectare campus.
The campus offered me many landmarks for a series of architectural illustrations. I had taken to my old passion of sketching since the lockdown last year, basing these on pictures from the internet or images that I had of the campus and its buildings that I had in my files. I presented these to the Ateneo for a calendar project and they happily acceded.
The calendar (and accompanying planner) features over a dozen sketches of key Ateneo landmarks from the 1950s to new structures built in the last decade. Captions for these buildings were written by my good friend, Ateneo professor Butch Zialcita. It was one of his subjects that I taught for a year while he was on sabbatical.
The 1950s structures included in the calendar start with the Bule Eagle Gym. This was the most visible Ateneo landmark in its first few decades. I remember visiting the structure in the early 1960s. This was for an exposition and later I frequented the gym for concerts, as it was a popular venue.
On the opposite end of the campus is the more recent Moro Gym, where the schools champion basketball and volleyball squads practice. The gym was designed by architect BNN Bautista.
The calendar also highlights the campus’ several chapels: both the Grade School and High School chapels, as well as the contemporary Gesu, designed by architect (and Ateneo alum) Bong Recio. I featured the strikingly modern structure in BluPrint magazine 18 years ago, right after its inauguration.
Recio’s other contribution to the campus — the new Rizal library — is also part of the calendar. The original Rizal Library from the 1960s is likewise featured. I spent many an afternoon there in the early 2000s, researching at the American Historical Collection, which it houses.
A decade later I worked with Bong Recio and provided the design of the landscape and reflecting pools of the new library, for which Bong was the building’s principal architect.
A number of the Loyola Schools’ key buildings grace the calendar. These include Xavier Hall, the administration building designed by architect Gines Rivera. Rivera also did the original campus master plan in the early 1950s. One of the best things he did was to bury the utility lines in the main curving driveway, giving the campus a clean and green look (forest green, not archer green).
I submitted other key structures for inclusion in the calendar (or planner), including Schmitt Hall, Kostka Hall (where I taught my classes), HV dela Costa Hall (opposite Rizal Library), Faura Hall, the MV Pangilinan HR Center, and the circular Manila Observatory building by Gines Rivera. I’ve not seen the final calendar and planner, so I do hope all of these were included.
Finally, also featured is Arete, the latest addition to the campus. Opened in 2017, Arete is the campus’ creative hub. It houses a museum, a theater and performance venue, as well as non-traditional spaces and laboratories for key programs in humanities and related fields.
The iconic structure was designed by William V. Coscolluela and Associates. My firm and I had the privilege of designing the sculpture garden and the landscape architecture of the grounds around the building.
Campuses are oases of knowledge production and higher education. This pursuit of excellence can best be enhanced in physical settings that inspire and nurture. We all wait for the day, hopefully soon, when endeavors on this higher plane can take place in the actual company of teachers, researchers and fellow students, all contributing to that one big fight for a better nation.