Opened in late 2017, the Areté is the newest building the in the Ateneo de Manila University campus, along Katipunan Avenue, in Quezon City. The Areté is the stated to be the creative hub of the Ateneo, which is now the home of the Ateneo Art Gallery and the Department of Fine Arts.
Designed by Arch. William Coscolluela and Associates, the whole complex was named after the Greek word ἀρετή; which meant “excellence” and “virtue” that alluded to both the masterpieces of art found in the Ateneo Art Gallery and the works and values of the Ateneo students. The building complex is designed with two wings, the Arts Wing and the Innovation Wing, which showcase many artforms and creative learning. The bridgeway that connects both structures is symbolical of the highest achievement that links creativity and innovation, which can be likened to the arête (French) that is the peak of a narrow mountain that separates two valleys.
Arch. William Vargas Coscolluela (born 1933) is a graduate of the Mapua Institute of Technology, with a Mapua president’s gold medal, in 1957. A registered architect in the Philippines and the state of California, Coscolluela is a member of both the Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA) and the American Institute of Architects. Noted for his design for commercial buildings, such as malls, all over the country, Coscolluela has designed buildings locally and in Palau, New Guinea, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and the United States.
The westside Arts Wing is designed to resemble a nest, and it is the new Home of the Ateneo Art Gallery at the ground floor, which had been previously housed at the Rizal Library. Also housed in the Arts Wing are the Art Library, a 250-seater black box theater, and a 900-seat theater that can be used for theatrical and musical performances, film screenings, and lecture auditorium. Future developments in the Arts Wing are printmaking institute and an art restoration facility. Many of the galleries, halls and lobbies of the Areté are named after the notable alumni and their families who have donated personal funds to help in the construction of the building; among these are architect and heritage conservationist Luis Maria Zaragoza Araneta (1916-1984), multi-awarded singer José Mari Lim Chan (born 1945), and National Artist for Theater and Design Salvador Floro Bernal (1945-2011), banker and government financial adviser Cesar C. Zalamea and his wife Suthira B. Zalamea, husband and wife top executives of the Jollibee Foods Corporation Ernesto and Susana Tanmantiong, businessman and investment analyst Wilson L. Sy, apparel entrepreneur Ben Chan, businessman Eduardo J. Aboitiz , and the Innovation Wing is named after the banker Dr. George Siao Kian Ty (born 1932). Additional galleries at the third floor are named after individuals who have donated a significant collection of artworks to the Ateneo Art Gallery; Elizabeth Yu Gokongwei who is the wife of businessman John L. Gokongwei, Jr., Dr. Alicia Paez Lorenzo who is the wife and mother of notable Ateneo alumni Moro and Luis Lorenzo, and noted historian Ambeth R. Ocampo (born 1961).
The Ateneo Art Gallery is a collection of over a thousand paintings, sculpture, prints, photographs and installations that was originally housed at the Rizal Library, which was built in 1967. However the gallery collection started much earlier, when artist, educator and businessman Fernando Zóbel de Ayala y Montojo (1924–1984) donated his collection of over 200 artworks to the Ateneo in 1961, for students to study and appreciate. Since then, artists and Ateneo alumni would continue to donate their artworks, and expand the collection. As the collection continued to grow, the Rizal Library was becoming too small to contain the artworks, and now the collection is on permanent display at the ground floor of the Areté Arts Wing, entitled “Love It, and Leave It.”
Aside for the impressive collection of modern and contemporary art, the Ateneo Art Gallery is home to paintings by several noted Southeast Asian artists, and an impressive collection of prints by European masters including the Dutch Barouqe painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669), French realist Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808-1879), French post-impressionists Édouard Fournier Manet (1832-1883) and Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec Monfa (1864-1901), German expressionist Kathe Schmidt Kollwitz (1867-1945), Spanish cubist Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881-1973), and German expressionist Max Beckman (1884-1950).
The eastside Areté Innovation Wing is the home for the Ateneo de Manila School of Humanities’s Department of Fine Arts and the new programs of Ateneo School of Business. The Department of Fine Arts was establish in 1997, and was annexed to the newly formed Ateneo de Manila School of Humanities in 2000. The Department of Fine Arts offers courses in Arts Management, Creative Writing, Information Design, and Theater Arts; as well as a post-graduate course in Design Innovation, in partnership with Queen Mary University of London. Ateneo School of Business is offering its course on Restaurant Entrepreneurship under the Ateneo-Cordon Bleu Institute partnership, which is a French culinary and hospitality school that was founded in 1895.
Before viewing the many facilities and galleries within the Areté, visitors are first greeted by the staircases in both the Arts and Innovation Wings; which are marked with many die-cut metal plates, placed on the steps at random. Entitled “Unblocked”, the is an art installation created by Juan Alcazaren as a permanent part of the Areté. Each plate is a different word, which allude to the artist different activities and thoughts in the creative process of an artist.
Juan Alcazaren (born 1960) is a mixed-media artist, who hails from the City of Pasig. Coming from a creative family, Alcazaren first graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of the Philippines (U.P.), before the draw of art making lead him to enroll at the UP College of Fine Arts (CFA). Alcazaren works range from traditional sculpture, to artistic furniture and fixtures, and on to massive art installations; which he has exhibited locally and internationally. Alcazaren has gained much critical acclaim, including the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Thirteen Artist Award in 2000. Alcazaren has also branched into stop-motion animation, and he was joined by this siblings to establish the Alcazaren Brothers Animation to do Stop-Motion Animation for short films, music videos and TV commercials.
While moving around the different galleries, visitors notice many wooden benches throughout the ground floor. Created by noted designer Staley Ruiz, each bench is done in a light pine wood finish with wooden plates creating geometric patterns at the side. Each bench stands as both furniture and an artistic tribute to the creative process by Ruiz. The whole set of benches are aptly entitled “Bench”, as the series was commissioned by the donor Ben Chan, whose primary business is the apparel and lifestyle brand called “Bench.”
Stanley Ruiz is a multi-disciplines designer and sculptor, who operates from both Manila and New York City. First taking a degree in engineering, Ruiz found the course too stifling and later enrolled at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA) as an Industrial Design major. Right after graduation, Ruiz worked for a design firm in Bali, Indonesia, then transfer to New York City after three years. During his free time from work in NYC, Ruiz would create his furniture, fixtures and sculptures; which would be later exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design and at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. From there, Ruiz would garner critical success, with the NYC Surface Magazine declaring him as one of the Avant Guardians of 2010. Ruiz would continue gain international recognition, such as the 2013 Bronze Award at the A’Design Awards in Italy, the 2014 Outstanding Asia Talents award at the Bangkok International Gift Fair, and as one of the six Rising Asian Talents at the Maison&Objet Asia in Singapore. Returning to the Philippines, Ruiz set up his own design firm Estudio Ruiz Design Consultancy, and also works as consultant for the Design Center of the Philippines, the creative director in-charge for Department of Trade and Industry’s Go Lokal! Magazine, and teaches at both the SoFA Design Institute and the UP CFA.
As of the period of writing this article, the Areté is still a work in progress. Many of the facilities are not yet complete, including the exterior gardens and pond. Despite the continued construction, the Ateneo Art Gallery is already open, and the next series of articles will explore the different work in its permanent collection.