By Hershey D. Homol
AS A YOUNGSTER, she taught herself calligraphy with a little help from book instructions. She learned the art almost intuitively.
Later on, she tried her hand in watercolor and did wonders with it in landscape painting.
Perhaps calligraphy, colors and landscapes later on melded in her sensibility so that in college, she took up a course to enable her to design artistic landscapes: she took up Architecture at the old UST College of Architecture and Fine Arts.
Now a graceful 47-year-old, Chinese-Filipino-American Rosanna Ngo Dolan is a top-notch architect in the United States. In March 2006, she was appointed by then Texas Governor Jeb Bush, the younger brother of US President George W. Bush, to the Florida Board of Architecture and Interior Design.
Tracing artistic paths
Dolan graduated from UST’s five-year Architecture course in 1982. Although she originally thought of taking up graduate studies in business administration as suggested by a professor, Dean Augusto Concio, she eventually pursued a Master’s in architecture in advanced building technology at the State University of New York in Buffalo.
“Honestly, I thought I would increase my chances of getting to a US university following the same line of education that I had completed for my undergraduate studies,” Dolan told the Varsitarian. “But I am glad I chose architecture for graduate school because it gives me a better edge in dealing with the practice of architecture here in the United States.”
Back in the Philippines, Dolan designed mixed residential and commercial establishments, townhouses, and custom residences including custom designed furniture pieces. In Taiwan, she worked on high-rise buildings designed for mixed occupancy. She also helped design residential flats and retail shops. In New York, her projects were mostly space planning of corporate headquarters.
Now based in Florida, she specializes in high-rise waterfront condominiums, townhouses, subdivisions, free-standing commercial buildings, shopping malls and custom waterfront residences.
All in all, Dolan has about 15 years of combined work experience in architecture.
Appointments made by the governor to the different boards in the state of Florida are open to the public. After having sought 29 political endorsements, Bush chose Dolan, whose appointment was confirmed by the Florida Senate two months later.
The board operates along the guidelines of the Florida statutes on the practice of architecture and interior design, Dolan said. Board members exercise voting rights on cases and issues brought before the board.
“Some of the issues that frequently come before the board are cases on violations for practice of architecture and interior design without proper Florida licensures,” Dolan said. “The board can also propose changes in the Florida statutes that affect the practice of these two professions.”
Dolan said that UST was the only school she considered when she decided toward the end of high school to take up architecture.
She reckoned that during her years in the University, she was never one of the top students in her batch.
Despite that, Dolan said she has always been comfortable and happy with her drafting and delineation skills. She added that she also did very well in her watercolor and rendering classes.
“But I have come a long way since spending my first year sitting out in the grass under the unforgiving hot sun, trying to sketch all the landmarks on the campus grounds for freehand classes,” Dolan said.
Dolan also recalled that as a student, she always enjoyed the funny mistakes architecture students like she and her friends made, like often staying up late in the last two weeks to midterm and final exams cramming to finish design plates.
“We never seemed to learn from our past mistakes for we were guilty of cramming all the way to our thesis year,” Dolan said.
Dolan said her determination to pursue architecture did not come until an unplanned moment of discussion between a classmate in her senior year in high school and their teacher.
“My classmate Arthur commented to our teacher that I should consider taking up architecture in college because I could draw very well and I have the perseverance to endure the technical aspects of the program,” Dolan said.
Dolan did not think she was smart enough to satisfy the math part of the architecture program. Although she had good grades in high school, they weren’t enough to make her land the honors list.
“Looking back, I have Arthur to thank for my accomplishments because his vote of confidence was what I needed then to boost my self-confidence during those fearful days before college,” Dolan said. “In fact, I did not even apply at any other school, which could have been a fatal mistake if I did not pass the entrance exam to the University.”
And fatal it would have been for Dolan, for if she did not get to study in UST, get her diploma, and pursue graduate studies in New York, she would not have met her husband of 17 years, Michael Dolan.
“Michael is not an architect but he is a big advocator of my artistic pursuits,” Dolan said. “He pushes me to realize my potential.”
Although Dolan last visited the Philippines in 2000, she said that there’s simply no place like home. She said that she still manages to keep in touch with many of her friends, relatives and classmates since she left in 1985. Dolan said that with her many travels, she has realized that the Philippines is the place she would keep coming back to. “What holds us dear to the place we call home are the people and places that fill our heart and soul with fond memories,” she said.
“I wish I had traveled more around our country during my years there,” Dolan said. “The Philippines has so much to offer because we are a nation with an indigenous culture that has survived an array of cross-cultural assimilation from the Spaniards, Chinese, Japanese and the Americans.”
To Rossana Ngo-Dolan, success and fulfillment can be achieved in places beyond the country’s coastlines. But one’s success and accomplishments, even if they have been achieved elsewhere, can only find final meaning and fruition in good ol’ home.