Posts Tagged ‘architect’

I’m No Frank

Frank Lloyd Wright

and his falling water. Masses

of concrete cantilevered,

and extending outwards

like hands reaching- symbiosis.

But I’m no Frank

and dreams might be

my little fingers clasping

hard and pushing pencils

for somebody else’s utopia.


The hewn boulders of rock

resisting the foundation

on which this grand design sits,

I bear the weight of expectations.

Balancing upon the scales

on which the measure of cement

is mixed in sand and water.

The lapping over of slates into a bond.

The forward thrust of hammer to nails.

The tightening of ties around stirrups.

The alternate laying of the roof decking.


And the network of drain pipes,

cables and ducting, and waterlines

resembling the veins and sinews

of the building’s skeleton. I build

a symbol- the framework of the mind.

The genius envisions an edifice

in his intellectual acrobatics,

justifying to the world the modern-

reality that build themselves on paper.


Summoning the masons to lay

its plaster to newly cured blocks.

The painter to swab the walls

in fresh coats. The decorator

sets the chairs, the beds,

the mirrors and the tables.

The vases and layers of curtains.

The lifeless sculpture pieces

and paintings hanged to the walls.

Fixing rolls of wallpaper  and carpets

over polished granite floors.


The carpenter assembling

cabinet boxes, ledges and shelves.

The windows fitted to the sills.

And the doors hanged on frames.

The location of the chandelier.

Installing wooden slabs on stairs.

The green patinated balustrades.

The landscaper to plant shrubs, and ferns

and vines and trees and patch of grass.

The water fountains and the waterfall

arranged mimicking a natural set-up.


But I ‘m no Frank.

The hours stretched for miles and miles.

The drafting table becoming wet with fog

until  the first  hours of the morning.

I can hear the mad conversations

of the vellum and the graphite saying,

“deadline nears, it’s almost here”.

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I build

with lines and curves

in syntaxes, in symbols.

Blank space waiting

to emerge in form. Subdued,

muted in tone verses. Tempered

by time, organic

in proportion,



Scale upon scale.

Measure for measure.

Out of paper,

subliminal life

surfaces. A voice,

a message in letters,

of pure and simple





looking in. Experience

subtle reverberations,

palimpsest graphite

echoes of human



The length,

the width and the depth

of an architect,

I build.

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Room gravitates with clacking sounds from T-square and triangles repelling each other at drafter’s boards. Blood races with time. Sweat drips left watermarks on vellum as inkblots nervously travels the maze of light pencil strokes. There were smudges of graphite dusting above the immaculateness of the paper that the fruity-smelled eraser had not breezed through. Then, forms of squares and circles began to metamorphose into a perspective with depth and of casting shadows meticulously calculated and shaded. I was peeking over my seatmate’s work and my hands are trembling in fear without knowing where to start.

My drafter’s board draped in salmon-colored grid paper  and vellum lay motionless for some minutes. Pencils started to rattle like little earthquakes at its sides. Then my fingers reach out the Pentel Pen and in desperation, I scribbled these words, “no fear, God is good all the time” on its wooden face. I fixed my eyes to the letters, and it appeared as if they began to switch places, jumping like shrimps out of water.

Dimmed visions ensued. I was blackened out. It was half past one in the afternoon, when somebody cursed the other and summoned him to speed up. I was driven like a nail to my senses cutting short a wasted lull. Then like a lightning, I was in a trance. Having invoked the muse, juggling pens upon pens and pencils upon pencils worth of architectural beauty, there was no chance of changing pace. Everybody is on the rush.

Then the noise grew like mighty cacophony of sounds from the drafter’s weaponry. From the other side of the desk, a poor lad accidentally poured water on the sheets, and in  final attempts of rescue, relentlessly waved a piece of cardboard to create pools of air to dry out the accidental and unfortunate wetness. My focus is waning but in great resolve, I need to be a victor over my own strength and exceed what my expectations can afford me.

Every stroke became a heavy etching on the vellum, emphasizing authority. Sketch lines became crooked, consciously hugging traces of sure, finite  lines. I panted and I am beginning to lose my breath. Two hours still, and time is up.  Sheets upon sheets I am flipping through plans and elevations. Of hit and misses. Of trials and errors. Worried to the hilt, if I could catch the time on its tail.

The bell rang. A flag to the finish line have been raised up.  Signals surrender.

The drafter’s board had witnessed a battleground, where black blood stained its wooden face and created slight ebbs and crest on it. Surprisingly alighted out of the tremendous pressure of the examination room. As if the weight of the world on its shoulder vanished after the bell rang.

That was five years ago. The drafter had become an architect.  And the battleground on that drafter’s board had ended on that once glorious day. Its glory that has waned among the many cobwebs of dust which strapped  its once perilous journey to the examination room.

And the day is coming, that these trembled hands will once again redeem its glory. With words “no fear, God is good all the time” written on its face, all will never be erased from one’s memory.  Surely, it will not fade through this architect’s humble life.

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Poly, an Indian working as a licensed architect in Mumbai in his topic " how degrading his salary" lamented his woes on receiving an annual salary amounting USD$ 3,300.  Roughly equivalent to Php 165,000.  A gross monthly income of Php 13,750. 

In the Philippines, the same scenario has similarly taken place since architectural practice is unfair and controlled by monopoly of star architects and the wealthy conglomerates and corporations.  The stream of available projects has been fiercely competed eversince the financial crash of 1997.  Major infrastructure, complexes  and high rise building projects were halted.  Real estate businesses, construction firms and architectural firms mellowed for such a long time.  Coupled with unstable political situations such as Erap ascendancy as president and the corruption scandals that rocked our integrity as a nation.  The economy is in a downside.

A regular, newly licensed architect can make the bottom offer of Php 10,000 per month to work for an architectural firm, as this is my observation since 2000.  And since CAD came into the picture, virtually all of architects must learn a number of CAD and 3d-modelling softwares such as AutoCAD, 3dMax, Microstation, AutoViz, ADT, Maya, Vectorworks and graphic enhancing softwares such as Photoshop, Corel and Macromedia Flash to stay competitive as ever.

In an honest observation, AutoCAD operators and 3d renderers make the killing for taking home a higher bracket of paychecks. They become more in demand since overseas companies dealing with design and construction scouts for them in volumes.  Now, being a CAD expert does not need you to be a graduate of architecture or engineering course, a technical 3-months training on AutoCAD will do.

I remember when I got my license to practice as a new architect, I have tried to apply for an architect job at one of the best architecture firms located in Pasay City.  I am regretful to note that I am competing with undergraduates and underlicensed  with the position.

I begin to doubt regulation and licensure for the architecture profession, if it serves its purpose well. It never occured to me that the  battleground is really rife with unfair competition and politics between school affiliations, "padrino system" and the like.

This continuing condition and the eroding standards of the architecture  profession plus the almost predictable nature of PRC of producing professionals like selling  hotcakes, will never stop the exodus of architects and technical professionals from leaving the country. 

This is because the pay scales is something to frown about with in the Philippines.  We got the lowest cost of living in the world based on a survey that complements low wages. And it only translates to low standards of living.

With architects prone to malpractices such as incessant signing of construction documents for building permits ranging from Php 500 to Php 1000 per package, which violates its code of ethics, is an open secret. And the many, fall prey to corrupt practices to clinch a project deal. It is rampantly being practised even by the very front runners of the architectural organization.

Growing discontent among majority of licensed of architecture have no recourse but to take the inevitable career switch to other profitable jobs and professions. Like nursing, caregiving course, tech-vocational, teaching and immigrating to Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand to work there as domestic helpers, construction workers, interior decorator, cashier, farmer or a factory worker.

So it was, my assumptions are right, there is no future for architecture in the Philippines.  With the pay scales almost insulting even if I do want to think of doing it for the love of the profession.  To the point that I am regretting of my seemingly unwise career decision to push through with it, no matter how bad and hard it is.

And the lure of getting a different kind of job that pays well is almost a tempting offer that is leaving me no room to refuse.  Then the choice might be uncontestable.  It is disheartening to think that I make a  living by struggling to fight the many injustices in our profession while seeing myself being laughed upon and scorned by my contemporaries.  Stuck in here defending my pride.  Stuck in here hoping for the hopeless. Stuck in here upholding the ethical standards which is of no use to abate poverty and discrimination.

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