Integrated, open developments are the key to a sustainable future for the Philippines, noted architect Felino Palafox told attendees at The Manila Times Philippine Model Cities Forum.
In his presentation, Palafox explained that, “One of our advocacies at Palafox Associates is to develop Philippine cities for the next 100 years.”
What those cities could look like were illustrated by what he called “postcards from the future,” scenes of some areas around Metro Manila and other cities in the Philippines in their current state and how they might appear after being developed properly.
“Makati, Ortigas, and Bonifacio Global City are very nice postcards,” Palafox said. “But that is not the way to do it (development). All these business districts are surrounded by low-density, gated communities, and gated military camps, and gated cemeteries.”
This creates a number of problems, according to Palafox. First, it contributes to the intense traffic congestion of the city because “Employees are priced out of the housing stock in the areas where they work,” Palafox said, obliging them to commute from more distant areas. In addition, the walling-off of large areas makes moving about more difficult. “In Manhattan, for example, every 70 meters, about 200 feet, there is a street,” he explained. “Here, you have to go around about 2 kilometers (from a transport hub along Edsa) to reach your place of work.”
Ironicially, gated communities, which are designed in that manner for better security, actually make security worse. “Criminals aren’t afraid of walls,” Palafox said. “They can climb a wall, and what happens inside – no witnesses. You can have a shabu lab behind a wall – no witnesses. Take down the walls, put more eyes on the street, the crime situation improves.”
Using examples of cities widely considered models of sustainability around the world – cities like Singapore, Copenhagen, and Dubai – as well as examples of his firm’s concepts for places in the Philippines, Palafox outlined the basic features of sustainable cities for the next century.
First, communities should be integrated to make the most of limited land area. Palafox’s basic concept is a “stacked” design, in which upper levels of buildings are living spaces, middle levels are workspaces, and ground levels are commercial spaces for shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Second, development should favor walking, biking, and public transportation. Elevated walkways and bikeways not only make it easier for people to move around – particularly if their homes, workplaces, and shopping and entertainment are located nearby – but also keep people from being isolated by floods, and reduce road traffic.
Third, open spaces and greenery – what Palafox described as “the lungs of the city” – should form an integral part of not just overall development, but individual buildings as well.
Fourth, a certain proportion of new developments should be reserved for middle- and lower-income residents, to allow people to live near their workplaces. Palafox pointed out that is actually mandated in some places elsewhere, particularly in the model cities he described at the beginning of his presentation.
And finally, although integration concentrates development, ideally near major transportation nodes, Palafox said earlier in his talk, making them open – putting “more eyes on the street” – makes them safer.
“Providing transportation alternatives, making efficient use of land resources, conserving the landscape – good design really matters in providing choices and protecting the environment,” Palafox said.