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University of Santo Tomas
Main Building
Pangunahing Gusali ng Unibersidad ng Santo Tomas

Façade of the Main Building of the University of Santo Tomas
Type Educational and office building
Architectural style Renaissance
Location Philippines España, Sampaloc, Manila
Owner University of Santo Tomas
Current tenants University administrators and students
Coordinates 14°36′37″N 120°59′21″E / 14.61028°N 120.98917°E / 14.61028; 120.98917
Started 1924
Completed 1927
Inaugurated 12 November 1927
Height 51.5 metres (169 ft)
Diameter 86 m x 74 m
Floor count four
Main contractor American Society for Testing and Materials and Portland Cement Association
Cost 1.5 million (Philippine peso)
Design team
Structural engineer Rev. Fr. Roque Ruaño, O.P.

The Main Building of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila, Philippines functions as the university's administrative center and home of the Faculty of Civil Law, Faculty of Pharmacy and the College of Science. The Main Building is also the home of the Museum of Arts and Sciences.



The building, designed by Fr. Roque Ruaño, O.P., is the first earthquake-resistant building in the Philippines.[1] Ruaño was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel, Tokyo.[2]


Design and structure

In 1920, Fr. Ruaño, O.P. was assigned to draw up plans for the UST Main Building to be constructed at the Sulucan property of the Dominican Order. During the years 1922 and 1923, the plans were finally completed. However, some fine tunings may have been made on the design criteria as a result of the new lessons learned from the Great Kantō earthquake of September 1, 1923 which flattened Tokyo and Yokohama.[3] Eventually, construction began in 1924.

The structure is a rectangular building having a dimension of 86 meters long and 74 meters wide with two interior courtyards or patios. The most significant feature is the fact that it is actually made up of 40 separate structures independent from one another with the only opportunity provided by pre-cast stab flooring.[3] But some locations of the separations are now difficult to determine exactly because of the numerous cosmetic changes the interior of the building which has undergone over the years. According to an article written by the former dean of Faculty of Engineering, Manuel Mañosa, this is how it is divided:

  • four corner units
  • two midsection units (rear and front entrance)
  • one tower (including two elevator cores)
  • one entrance canopy
  • a total of 26 units
    • seven units for P. Noval side
    • seven units for Gov. Forbes (now Arsenio H. Lacson) side
    • six units for Dapitan side
    • six units for España side
  • four middle section (or paraninfo)
  • two stair section adjacent to tower and elevator core
The 40 separate structures of the Main Building


Standing on the pedestals of the fourth floor of the building are statues symbolizing the spiritual and intellectual aspiration of the University. Designed by the Italian Francesco Monti, faculty member of the College of Architecture, they were installed between 1949 and 1953.[4]

  • Surrounding the clock, the so-called "Tria Haec" are three statues representing, from left to right:
    • Hope
    • Faith (on top of the clock)
    • Charity
Liberation of UST from the Japanese during World War II


Construction began on 1924 and first classes were held on July 2, 1927. The faculties of Philosophy and Letters, Liberal Arts (they would later merge under the Philosophy and Letters name, later to be renamed as the Faculty of Arts and Letters), Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Engineering and the College of Education were the first occupants who transferred to the new building. Since then, the Main Building has been the focal point of the campus. It is where all succeeding structures revolved.

At the height of World War II, after the invasion of the Philippines and occupation of Manila by the Japanese, they converted UST into an internment camp for non-Filipinos starting in January 4, 1942. Three floors of the building were occupied by the internees. Several internees were located in the Education Building (now housing the University of Santo Tomas Hospital) and other buildings.

On February 3, 1945, the university was liberated by the 1st Cavalry Division, tanks from the 44th Tank Battalion and Filipino guerrillas. On February 4, Japanese commander Toshio Hayashi gathered the remaining internees in the nearby Education Building and negotiated for them to rejoin Japanese forces in the south of the city in exchange for the internees. A plaque dedicated in 1954 commemorates the event.[5]

After the war, independence was granted by the United States to the Philippines. UST resumed operation and continued to hold classes there. The university and the building was visited by Pope Paul VI in 1970[1] and Pope John Paul II in 1995 as UST was host of World Youth Day 1995.



  1. ^ a b "Main Building". Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  2. ^ Alcazaren, Paulo (2009-04-25). "The importance of being Frank". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  3. ^ a b Tiburcio, R.A. (2007). Earthquake resistant: Structural features of the UST Main Building. Thomasian Engineer Journal, 47(2), 20-23.
  4. ^ "Statues atop Main Building". Retrieved 2009-12-04. 
  5. ^ "Santo Thomas University". Retrieved 2009-12-04. 


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