The Gonzalez Hall is the seat of library administration in the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman campus. It was completed in 1950 just when the first buildings in UP Diliman were being built as part of the post-war reconstruction efforts in the country. Since its initial construction, Gonzalez Hall has not experienced any major renovation until recently, when it was decided that the interior design needed an update to meet modern standards.

Gonzalez Hall concept as shown in the 1949 Philippinensian, credit to architect Paulo Alcazaren

In April 2019, renovation work on Gonzalez Hall began in earnest, with an estimated budget of about 400 million Philippine pesos. This renovation was part of the Duterte’s administration’s Build! Build! Build! infrastructure project. The plan involved a comprehensive overhaul of the building’s interior, while preserving the façade, which was designed by the National Artist for Architecture, Juan Nakpil.

However, the renovation faced delays due to the lockdowns imposed in Metro Manila during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial target date of completion in October 2020 came and went. As of now, Phase I is at 91% completed while Phase II has just hit the 30% milestone. It will be a while before the construction is completed.  Nevertheless, visitors can still tour the building if they have the appropriate safety gear due to the ongoing construction work.

30 January 2024 visit to the Gonzalez Hall for a spot check on the renovation

According to the updated floor plan, there will be a much higher utilisation of the available spaces in the library. This includes more reading areas as well as rooms for discussion and multimedia viewing. The building will also have centralised air conditioning, due to climate change, and a lowered ceiling that will help to save electricity cost. More space will be allocated for users as the previously restricted fourth floor will now be used as learning spaces.  The team would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Building Renovation Management Committee in keeping them updated as well as constantly following up with the Office of the Campus Architect on the steady progress of the renovation.

The highlight of the renovation so far is the stained-glass windows created and installed by the late children’s illustrator Ruben de Jesus (b. 1961 – d. 2023) with the Philippines’ first and only organisation of children illustrators Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan (Ang INK). They provided the following description for the radiant art bequeathed to the Gonzalez Hall:

Tamang Kaalaman, Mabuting Patutunguhan
(lit. Right Knowledge, Good Destination)

The stained-glass images that bloomed from the artist’s illustrations
Present the value of reading in simple scenes that can affect the reader in a positive way

With digital technology’s effect on reading and learning,
It is good to look back at simple Filipino way of life and how proper knowledge
Can be acquired through basic means

It is also good to be reminded how storytelling
Can foster human bonding, and how reading can develop communication skills at an early age

Reading is especially important in acquiring knowledge that presents
Realities in our environment
That have been blurred for the longest time

When a book is read, reality is read and life is better faced.

Stained glass windows newly installed at the Gonzalez Hall

While the Gonzalez Hall renovation may not be fully completed by this year, there are plans to at least reinstate basic services in the premises such as general reference and IT resources as soon as possible. It is important to meet the students of UP Diliman, called the Iskolar ng Bayan, where they are, which means having a physical presence right in the middle of the Academic Oval where students of all walks of life converge.

Overall, the renovation of Gonzalez Hall will have a positive impact in securing library resources for future generations of scholars. We once again thank the UP System administration and the Philippine national government for the funding and the construction efforts. Here’s to a new chapter of the Gonzalez Hall and may it steadily provide a hundred more years of library service to UP.

Contributed by Strategic Communication, Research and Marketing Section, University of the Philippines