• The city of tomorrow


    Metro Manila is one of the largest cities in the world. As our city continues to grow, we will be encountering new challenges that none of us has faced before. While it is true that we continue to tackle problems, such as housing and transportation that we have been facing over the last few decades our greatest challenge will be how to discover new solutions to our evolving and growing urban problems.

    What must our future look like? Do we dream of a shining city on the hill, a bustling metropolis of commerce and trade or an idyllic town of pleasant smiles? These are questions that we will all need to figure out. The city of tomorrow cannot be built as we would a machine with precise instructions and cold disregard for social values, nor can it be fixed with grand projects or draconian policies. The city must evolve and adapt to the ebb and flow of human communities. Yet we cannot neglect our cities and let them fragment and fall into chaotic tangles of disconnected communities. People crave order in their lives. We look for structure and cycles, and need directions and defined paths. We function best and are most at ease when we have a clarity and understanding of our surroundings.

    The city of tomorrow is not a machine. It is more like an organism that lives and breathes as we do within it. This column pays homage to the book written by Le Corbusier, the great writer and pioneer of modern architecture. Le Corbusier was concerned with finding new solutions to the ills of the crowded cities of the Industrial Revolution. In his book, he made radical new proposals for how our cities should be built. His focus on the streets, housing, and open spaces continue to define how we can best determine the health and wellbeing of urban societies.

    This column celebrates the spirit of the book in its attempt to propose bold new ideas and how they can change our cities. Future columns will focus on the sharing of new ideas that prompt critical assessments of our cities and institutions. It will also serve to highlight the various proposals that will have a profound effect on our daily lives.

    One of the great tragedies of modern society is our lack of awareness on the importance of architecture. While we may pay great attention to various amenities that make modern life possible, we neglect the architecture that makes up the texture and vibrance of a city. Architecture matters because everything we see about us is architecture. This built environment that we have constructed to house our teeming populations is architecture.

    We have been blinded by our acceptance of architecture’s preexistence and ubiquity into a detachment for the spaces we live, work and play in. We forget that architecture is such a strong intrusion into our daily lives from which we cannot escape. This enforced engagement we all have with architecture is why it matters to each and every one of us.

    Most of us are told that architecture is subjective and reflects the tastes of its users or architect. I find that understanding architecture allows us to better appreciate or deplore it. Here’s a trick, there is quite a straightforward way to differentiate good architecture from bad. Good architecture has a strong narrative purpose and follows a strong rational for its form, function, and feel. The next time you have time to stop by a building, try to figure it out. You just might find yourself surprisingly interested in the buildings that surround you.

    Our recent efforts on advocating social architecture have been all about this. Social architecture proposes to create localized institutions that are inclusive and barrier-free and make them engage with the people. What does this mean? There are three main aspects of social architecture. They are engagement, inclusiveness, and locality.

    First, imagine the entire history of your entire relationship with places. Every place we go to, we “go” to. Now imagine if we can make these places come to us instead. What sorts of new possibilities are opened up by making architecture engage with us instead of the other way around? How much more impact would our institutions have if we didn’t have to go out of our way to visit them?

    Next, why do we wall off our public institutions and exclude the people who need them the most? We must stop erecting barriers and start creating portals that connect us with our institutions and with each other. Every fence or door, every security check and registration counter discriminates against people who do not have the proper documentation or even attire. If institutions aim to be inclusive, then it must serve the people who need them the most.

    Lastly, why must we spend hundreds of millions in building monolithic institutions that are detached and inaccessible to our communities? Let’s build a network of localized institutions that can better connect with our neighborhoods.

    So if you find yourself in the vicinity of Bonifacio High Street or Intramuros this week, go visit The Book Stop Project or the Museo del Prado. Check out how these places manage to create closer bonds with the people who visit them and let us know what you think.

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    William Ti Jr. is the principal architect and founder of WTA Architecture and Design Studio. He graduated from the National University of Singapore with a Master’s in Urban Design in 2012 and acquired his Bachelor’s in Architecture from the University of Santo Tomas in 2002. Together with a couple of friends he first formed an architecture firm in 2005 and finally founded WTA Architecture and Design Studio in 2007. William is also the publisher of Shelter Magazine, the founder of The Book Stop Project, and the program director of Anthology Festival, through which he promotes a more humanist and socially relevant practice of architecture. In the 15 years of his professional career, he has worked on hundreds of projects ranging from retail shops and housing projects, to large scale malls and condominiums, as well as hotels and master-planned developments. Currently, with a team of over 100 architects, designers, and engineers, he has been working extensively on projects such as the Hive in BGC, the Golden Dragon Court in Bay City, the Outlets in Lipa, the Imperial Palace Hotel in Palawan.

    As the principal architect of WTA, he has been able to lead the firm in winning various awards such as the Architizer A+ Awards and the German Design Award, and gaining global recognition in various festivals and competitions. He is a strong advocate of social architecture that defines barrier-free and localized institutional networks that engage the community.

    As a firm believer in sustainable planning and the advantages of urban living, he tries to imagine a better-curated more design-focused society where beautiful things and pleasant environments are ubiquitous, even in the densest city centers. A frustrated comic book artist, he avidly collects superhero toys and religiously reads comic books and fantasy novels. On the rare day off from architecture, he wanders around as a student of life, observing our evolving urban conditions. As he keeps on sketching and illustrating, he secretly hopes to be a writer someday and wanders the world in search of new ideas.

    He starts writing his column today. His column will comes out every other Wednesday.



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