8.22.2007

to r.o.


This is a reply to Baldagyi Hatipoglu's latest Expecto-Rant.

Whew, that was a long one, Resty. Reposting my reply in your comments, here:

(Yes, Resty) Central Business Districts rarely have any soul. Check around any city -and the CBD would be the last place you will find authenticity.

It's in the Village, in Upper West Side, in Soho, in Tribeca that you will find people and a sense of place. Not in Lower Manhattan or Wall Street.

Same goes for London - the City and the Square Mile, even the new Canary Wharf are not where you will find the beat of the city. It will be in Covent Garden or Soho and the West End or even Notting Hill.

In Shanghai, the soul beats in the Bund and the old city -not in Pudong.

CBDs can't be the soul of a city -because CBDs are designed for soul less commerce. It is the sale and mamon that reigns and the spaces are designed accordingly. The green spaces or artwork you'll find will just be baubles and ornamentation to help the commerce make another sale or to help business put on a fancy face.

And yes, workers in CBDs -no matter how tall the offices, how proud the skyscrapers, how squeaky clean the sidewalks -will never feel a sense of pride in the CBD. That is where they work, and unless you work for an innovative, cutting edge, creative workplace (if you do, you probably don't work in the CBD), you're just another cog in the machine.

No. If we are to find our megacity's soul, we will have to find it in the authentic places. In the older restaurants and houses in Malate. In the bars along Espana. In the eateries in the University District. In the offbeat stalls in Quiapo.

(Doesn't Quiapo, with it's layers of grime, feel way more genuine than the shiny streets of the Makati or Ortigas CBDs?)

And CBDs, by their very nature, are not exactly the places to celebrate the individuality of our culture. In the age of global commerce, CBDs are meant to make the visiting businessman as comfortable as possible.

As to the gated communities. Your sense of exclusion is intended. That's why they are gated. And gated communities exist in nearly all cities. The rich would rather not rub elbows with the poor.

It is the task of good urban planning to make democratic cities -where there is inclusion rather than exclusion; where diversity and culture and quirkiness are celebrated.

If you feel like a second class citizen in the CBD, or if you feel like a second class citizen in the city -then you have two choices:

  1. As you said, (why not) relocate and just be a second class citizen in another city in another country in another culture. Or,

  2. You can work to make your city the kind of city where there are NO second class citizens. A city where everyone shares in the amenities. A city that gives you pride of place.

We all have a fundamental choice to make: to be citizens or to be strangers. To accept our alienation or engage the work of community. I hope you choose the latter.

10 comments:

exskindiver said...

wow b,
this was a great response--
now i am off to see what triggered it.

juliet said...

this is not really related to the blog entry (which was enlightening, btw). MMDA's elevated U-turn slots will push through and as a matter of fact, there will be a groundbreaking on monday in edsa- kalayaan. i'd like to hear your thoughts about this =)

koikaze said...

Wow!!! (doubled) ... (exskindiver got here first)

More than a lesson for cities, a lesson for life.

Thank you.

Fred

Baldagyi Hatipoglu said...

hahah! very good points, urbano.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

Chesca, Fred,

thanks. I think this blog is one of the ways I'm trying to move from alienation (and estrangement) to engagement.

BH/RO,

I think I am responding to my own internal struggles as much as I am responding to your very well written post.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

juliet,

thanks for dropping by.

As to elevated u-turn slots, I'll have to couch my reply with a caveat and with context.

first the caveat: I haven't seen the design of the particular u-turn slot on EDSA/Kalayaan.

now the context:

In general, what I hold the u-turn slots with suspicion because they are a mono-dimensional response to the problem of congestion.

The driving logic behind BF's "big rotunda" (that's what they call the u-turn slots program) is to make vehicular traffic flow faster. That's fine if you think the only reason we have streets is to move cars from one place to another. I don't agree with that view.

Perhaps it makes sense on EDSA -which was originally designed as a boulevard but they are trying to turn into a limited access urban throughway. But I don't think we should be doing it on all our major streets.

At the core of this approach to traffic is an auto-elitism - a belief that cars are more important than people.

I'm with Penalosa and believe we should build cities for people, not just for cars. And consequently we should build streets, not roads.

peterangliongto said...

Actually our own cbd's are not as bad as a few years ago, when the restrictions from the original deed were still followed (in makati). From my understanding many types of retail outlets were not allowed to operate in the Legazpi,Salcedo Villages and even in Ortigas. With test cases proving viable (on a commercial and quasi legal basis), the makati villages now have a semblance of a real neighborhood than before. Of course it's not as flavorful as binondo sta cruz area (which ironically was the original cbd) but at least it's a better sense of community than empty streets of closed buildings of just a few years back.

Sidney said...

Let's see what they do in Fort Bonifacio. They seem to achieve a nice mix of entertainment, malls, schools, hospitals, embassies, residential buildings, etc.
Large roads & pedestrian footpaths.

It is high end but without doubt fine looking and attractive. I hope they can sustain it.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

Peter,

I agree, the changes in the deed restrictions were indeed helpful. I know Ayala lifted those restrictions on purpose - to encourage more streetlife, also to cater to the growing BPO crowd.

This is illustrative of the changes in our theories and understanding of urban planning - the Makati CBD was conceptualized when euclidean planning was in vogue. A clear separation of functions were the prescription.

Now we understand that mixed-use works much better, even in CBDs.

Which brings me to my reply to Sidney...

Urbano dela Cruz said...

Sydney,

It does sound like Fort Boni, in consonance with the changes in urban planning theory (see my reply to Peter), will be more pedestrian friendly -and will have a better mix of uses.

That said, CBDs, especially those managed by a single developer, have one defining constraint that prevents them from growing "a soul," and that they cannot allow patina of age to settle.

The passage of time, embodied and marked by aging buildings, which so gives depth to the "authentic" placee in cities is anathema to business and commercial districts. Because they must compete in the market, they are driven to keep everything clean and spotless, moreso, to renew and rebuild to make sure the places stay in fashion.

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