Stephanie Dychiu CONTEMPORARY ART PHILIPPINES - The Art of Building

By Stephanie Dychiu

Can art solve the problems of city planning and social order? We find clues in the work of Jorge Ramos, venerable builder of Metro Manila state architecture.

There is art that exists purely for beauty, and art that fuses beauty with utility. If art never met architecture, we would still be living in caves. For this reason, Ayn Rand called architecture the “highest of all the arts”, and dedicated her novel The Fountainhead to the noble builder’s profession.

Howard Roark’s obsession to build a skyscraper that would symbolize the greatness of man is reminiscent of the last state-sponsored building boom witnessed by Metro Manila in the Seventies and Early Eighties, when Imelda Marcos dreamed of the “City of Man” and tried to dredge it out of the waters of Manila Bay. If, as Frank Lloyd Wright said, architecture gives form to the social order we wish to live in, then the government’s building projects from that period were the Bagong Lipunan (New Society) made flesh.

Quite a number of those monuments to progress sprung from the mind of architect Jorge Ramos, whose buildings have become so much a part of the landscape that people seldom question how they got there. It’s hard to fathom Metro Manila without the Heart, Lung, and Kidney Centers on East Avenue, the GSIS Complex at the Pasay City reclamation area, the Quiapo Mosque, and the expanded MalacaƱang Palace and Philippine General Hospital as we know them today.

Each landmark tells a story of how the art of building was used to shape the course of history and society.

(End of excerpt. For full story, read the July 2009 issue of Contemporary Art Philippines magazine.)