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March 27, 2014

The Work of Your Hands is Your Immortality

I am an architect. I am very proud of this fact, so much so that it defines who I am. I had wanted to become an architect ever since I could remember. The day that I passed the board exams felt like the culmination of one journey and finally the beginning of another: my life as a licensed architect.


So, I would like to share with you a speech that my father, Ar. Teofilo Vasquez of T.I. Vasquez Architects and Planners, Inc, (TVAP), delivered for and in honor of the top 10 passers of this year’s architecture board exams last March 25 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. His message was simple and one that really should be remembered: In architecture, the work of your hands becomes your immortality. So, make it great and make it count.






To pass the board exams of architecture is a wonderful achievement of which you should be very proud and belonging to the coveted top 10 is even more of a feat to give yourself credit for. Congratulations for the good luck evidently you already had. As you take your oath today, your life as an architect officially begins. From this point forward, the responsibility to improve lives is now permanently attached onto your existence.


What you now bear in your hands through that license is a very powerful medium. Architecture is a very powerful medium. The color of the walls that you choose will affect somebody’s mood, the rhythm of your massing can affect somebody’s movement, the circulation you lay out will be embedded on somebody’s perception, and the reflective glass you shall specify can mess up the flight path of a migrating bird. With it you shall affect behavior, memory, and belief. With it you shall excite or upset an innocent observer. With it you write and re-write history, but above all that sense of purpose in this profession that is our calling, the most important reason for the inception of your craft is to provide shelter for the most valuable commodity in this planet: a human life. Because as someone once told me, “when a doctor makes a mistake, he takes the life of one person but when an architect makes a mistake, he takes the lives of thousands at one time.”


I say this to you now because the sooner you realize the supremacy of your craft, the sooner and the harder you will find ways to be better with it.


Architecture is not a profession for all. This is not for someone who wakes up one morning and says “I think I want to become an architect.” No, it takes more to persist in this challenge. You may have survived the sleepless nights of architecture school, but there’s more to it than that in the real jungle. Being the top of your class is not a guarantee to a successful life. Don’t you ever be complacent. Each and every one of you will realize the reality of our practice and each and everyone of you will have your own take on it as well. My reality may be different than yours, but it is up to you and only yourself to make that reality mean something.


Capitalize on training. Learning does not end in school, does not end after reviewing for board exams either. Research is an eternal commitment. You must never stop absorbing as much knowledge as you can get. You may not need to be the expert of everything, but to be good at this job you are expected to know a little bit of everything. Invest a lot of time gathering experience. Do not put a price tag on honing your skills. I’m sure you already know experience is the best teacher and believe it or not, it applies so perfectly in this career. Do not rush on a fat pay. Be smart to realize that salary and depth of experience do not always equate to each other. At this point your focus should be on only two things: observe and absorb.


Architecture is the mother of all arts. It is complex, complicated, and confusing. I myself, despite having more than 30 years of solid exposure, still learn new things as  I go. And it’s been amazing each time. Just when you feel as if you already know everything there is to know, there will always be at least one more significant idea that will surprise you. Welcome it with humility. Choose strategically to let your brain age wisely with an intense bank of information to reap when you reach the right time for executing your ideas.


Be in it for the right reason. Keep your purpose and direction on the lookout for a constant upgrade. Let every project you produce from your brilliant minds be a fulfilling experience. Remember that this is your immortality. You shall create sculptures of concrete for everyone to see: yourself, myself, and the children of your children. Do your best with every stroke of your hand, for the world you see now and the world of the future is depending on it.
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