beyond borloloy

Photo of new streetlamps in Pasay City, by Carlos Celdran

So the MMDA is looking for "architects, landscape artists and nonprofessionals" to "turn Metro Manila’s drab landscape from grey to green" (google cached article here -as I failed to catch the release on INQ7) as part of it's P100M facelift of the Metro. ("Non-professionals? Does he mean gardeners? or doodle-artists?)
“They must give their ideas soon … they should submit their proposals hopefully by the first week of December. The Metro is a concrete jungle and we need this to soften up the look of Metro Manila,” said Nacianceno in a phone interview.

The proposal, he added, should be practical, affordable and sustainable.

“Of course we are looking at functionality. The plan should not be too expensive maintenance-wise but still colorful in terms of the kinds of plants they intend to use,” he said."

Good intentions i guess, but the whole plan smacks of ornamentation. My former boss, in response to a florida councilman's questions about the intent of their waterfront plan, once said "we are planning a city, not just decorating it." (And she should know as she, with her late husband, led the groundbreaking urban plans for, among others, Boston's Faneuil Hall, Chicago's Navy Pier, San Francisco's Ghiradelli Square, Baltimore's Harborplace, and New York's South Street Seaport.)

It would be better if they spent a million or two coming up with an actual urban plan for the Metropolis that looked at mobility and livability issues -along with city image. Try for instance something like Austin TX's Great Streets Masterplan where the design guidelines were anchored on the following principles:

  • Sense of History
  • Unique Character
  • Authenticity
  • Safety
  • Diversity
  • Humane Character
  • Density
  • Economic Vitality
  • Civic Art

If the landscape or streetscape plans are not grounded in deeper principles, the deciding factors would be the MMDA's design aesthetics. (More pink?)

(with thanks to Sidney)


Sidney said...

You are right but I think we should aknowledge the fact that things are changing in Metro Manila and that it is going in the right direction.
Maybe it seems only cosmetics but at least things are moving.
Ok, those street lights in Pasay are not that great looking but at least the neighbourhood is much more attractive than it was before!
Some time ago I couldn't even walk in peace there...
We should at least give them some credit.
With "non-professionals" I guess they mean people interested in those issues. Democracy at work? This shows they are ready to listen to the people of Manila. Again, not a bad sign!


I do not share Sidney's excitement over "their willingness to listen to Manola residents". After all, they didn't listen when we were trying to stop them from tearing the Sky Room down. Until now, Winner Foundation continues to battle it out with the city mayor the issue of whether to protect or reuse the Arroceros park.

I, however, agree with both the entry and Sidney that things are indeed changing - for the better, I surely hope so. Whoever was designing all these lighting fixtures must be commended for adding color to our normally drab evenings, but we may overlook the fact that over and above new lights and pathways, we still ignore structures and buildings around us which continue to rot by the day.

torn said...

I could not believe that any city could come up with tackier lights than the sputniks and blue neon Atienza came up with for Manila but I was wrong. The new lights of Pasay look as though they have come out of a child's toy kit -- let's see how many are still standing after the next typhoon.

Metro Manila mayors' obsession with lights has nothing to do with public safety (after all, these basically ornamental lamps throw almost no "light" at all) and everything to with the fact that prices of street lights can easily be inflated in the budget, leading to healthy cream offs for the mayors (with procurement coursed through firms owned by family members).

I agree with genius -- the outrageous destruction of Arroceros Forest Park (a resource any city apart from Manila would love to own) says everything about the commitment of these mayors to Manila's environment.

Sidney -- I disagree I'm afraid. These people deserve no credit at all, except at their banks where their personal accounts are bulging.

gonzo said...

Have to agree with torn on this one. The streetlights project is about as superficial as it gets. frankly, there seems to be a bit of penis envy going around as well('hmm, i see what lito's done on roxas eh?, well pasay will not be left behind!!'). And money to be made as well, probably.

I do know the pasay mayor, or at least his kids (went to school with them), and they seem to be pretty decent. Not the typical politician's kids/spoiled brat with bodyguard types, so it's hard to explain the horror of the new streetlights.

urbano's suggestion should be put forward to the mmda people: an actual urban plan! it sounds like such an obvious idea that i'm certain the mmda has thought about it. i wonder what the obstacles are. Bayani fernando is not a moron-- surely it has occurred to him.

actually, P100M is a pittance when you think of the massiveness of the undertaking. The way i see it to beautify (or to rehabilitate) even a tiny a portion of manila, say divisoria, will take about P1B.

As for atienza, it is fairly clear that what he has done with arroceros park (& the jai alai bldg, et al) and his anti-birth control platform (in a city of impoverished and hungry millions) marks him as a non-visionary politico with some megalomania issues.

It seems to me that Atienza's opposition to the Winner foundation's suggestions on Arroceros is merely of the 'someone has DARED to oppose me!' variety (unless of course there is some secret money-making deal in arroceros that we don't know about).

I guess what most thinking (and even non-thinking) filipinos are really waiting for is true visionary leadership.

unfortunately, on this issue, not only is there no light, but it is gloomily pitch black at the end of the tunnel.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

sidney, genius, torn, gonzo,

sorry for leaving the storefront for so long.

some thoughts in return:

Sydney - I agree with you that at least the attention is a good sign -even if the change is cosmetic.

Genius, Gonzo and Torn - I have no love lost for the hizzoner for the Jai Alai teardown and the current Arroceros Park face-off. But I will give credit where credit is due - Baywalk was his project, so too the pedestrian mall of Escolta.

Does he "listen" - probably not. (I am also closely watching the Binondo Schools issue.) But there is truth to the cliche: "you don't fight city hall." (see my comments to Torn's blog entry on the issue)

We do need visionary leaders-- but visionary citizens are even more important. We can't wait for our Mayors (cobbled by electoral/turf interests) to come up with a vision for our metropolis, we have to do it. (c.f.- the work of Project for Public Spaces or 1000 Friends of Oregon)

I think that the attention given by the MMDA and the Mayors to the way our cities look (even if it is in the interest of putting our best foot forward for investors) is a harbinger of an increasing awareness of the quality/livability of our cities.

We have to learn to leverage/find a way to turn the attention into a virtuous cycle (despite the attendant corruption) so we begin to see significant and substantial change in our cities.

gonzo said...

how about organising a "Coalition for a Livable Metro Manila" then? bring together a visionary group of architects, designers, arts people, concerned citizens, 'enlightened' businesspeople, or whoever. But then what would be the function of this coalition? how does it move forward with urban planning proposals? I'd be happy to join such a group.

Sidney said...

I agree that a lot of your politicians are not doing a good job (to say it diplomaticaly). But it also strikes me (as an outsider) that whatever is done in this country it is criticized.

The SM Mall of Asia is not good because it is a huge ugly box. I agree, but you find them everywhere in the world. Those ugly malls were not invented by Sy senior. He just imported the idea.
In the meantime it is good for the economy (and of course for Sy's bank account)and there are additional positive (not only negative!) changes for the neighbourhood.
(See what happened in Ortigas with MegaMall)

Ok, those Pasay lights are not beautiful. But beside those lamps (which I consider a detail), can't we find something positive to tell?
Is this neighbourhood better than before?
Are we moving in the right direction?

Do you remember (one year ago) the Plaza Calderon in front of the Binondo Church? There was a little park (?)full of squatters where the statue of Pipin is located. It was a scary place. Now they cleaned the whole Plaza Calderon. It is far from perfect and with the same money it could have been done in a better way. But it is MUCH MUCH better than before. Do I hear a voice of praise somewhere?
(I don't think this was done to please foreign investors.)

What about Rizal avenue between Plaza Fair and Recto? Is this not better looking now?

What about some stretches along the Pasig river? Even the water seems a bit cleaner...

I came in Manila for the first time (as a short time visitor) in 1989 and I live here since mid 2003. And I saw many positive changes in this city and I really have the impression efforts are done to make this city a better place.

It is far from perfect. There is still so much to do but don't forget it is not a small city of 100.000 souls. You have more people in Manila than in the whole of Belgium (population of Belgium +-10 million)

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