Urbane and Humane: MACEA crafts an integrated suite of urban mobility and livability solutions that bring back the humanity amidst urbanity

MH Canlas January 24, 2020/in News, Products/Events

The Makati CBD district has always been a frequent haunt for me as an architecture enthusiast, Ayala Avenue being a literal timeline of Philippine architecture. From its humble beginnings in the 60s as a swampland turned fledgling financial district, to the world-class metropolis it currently is, the CBD has grown rapidly, and predictably, showed signs of fraying at the edges. Buildings came and went, traffic worsened, greenery depleted, with pedestrians and city-dwellers at the losing end of the livability spectrum.

In recent years, significant improvements manifested themselves around the CBD and its peripheries, something that frequent weekend-walkers like myself grew to appreciate as we partook in the city’s sights and scenes. The refreshed underpasses, convenient and expansive overpass network and the urban ‘patios’ that made navigating the now lushly-covered Makati streets a whole lot safer and greener, are the much-appreciated work of the Makati Central Estate Association or MACEA, the urban development authority charged with the care and maintenance of the 118-acre Makati Central Business District (MCBD).

City living rooms

One ingenious innovation that has resulted in safer pedestrian crossings and pockets of greenery is the Urban Patio project, done in collaboration with PGAA Design, headed by noted landscape architect Paulo Alcazaren. Recently awarded Gold at the 2019 Good Design Award (GDA) by the Design Center of the Philippines, the project involved the creation of pocket parks at select street corners within Salcedo and Legazpi Villages. The expansion of street corners closed the gap between junctions and did not impede the existing traffic flow. The addition of speed tables bridging the streets also slowed down passing motor vehicles in deference to crossing pedestrians.

“This kind of approach is a new kind of intervention in streetscape and urban design in Manila,” Alcazaren writes in his project submission to the GDA. Working with more restrictions than permissions proved to be advantageous as it inspired both parties to think outside the box and utilize already existing infrastructure with minimal construction at the least possible cost. The guarantee of safer crossings encourages pedestrians to walk instead of drive and the pocket park setup relaxes and enlivens the streets with welcome foliage.

The Urban Patio project was an innovative gamble at a new kind of street intervention that has resulted in positive returns to both pedestrians and drivers alike. It demonstrates MACEA’s willingness to experiment and innovate in the name of efficient mobility and livability, working with the best the design industry has to offer to bring such ideas to fruition. 

A family of solutions

The Urban Patio belongs to a suite of integrated solutions under MACEA’s comprehensive Pedestrianization Program, which aims to move pedestrians and vehicles alike quickly and efficiently around the CBD. Avoiding the pitfalls of one-ofs or well-intentioned but disjointed urban solutions, the program prioritizes the improvement and creation of public infrastructure to provide convenient and safe pedestrian mobility on three levels: street, underground and above ground. Walking has never been safer, breezier or more enjoyable around the Metro, as one is rewarded with well-paved sidewalks, a convenient network of underpasses and overpasses to get from point A to B, legible wayfinding systems, and lush parks that give the urban weary a space to breathe, relax and be active. “MACEA should always be relevant, innovative, progressive and future-focused. We should not stop evolving and improving for our stakeholders,” says MACEA general manager Jonathan David.

A few of MACEA’s banner projects under the program are as follows:

Pedestrian underpass renovation and new vestibules

One of the things I am thankful for walking around the CBD is the presence of underpasses that aid in my getting to various points without having to risk crossing roads on street level. The utility rate for such a convenience, which runs by the thousands, eventually wore down its tiled floors and walls and exhausted its escalators. MACEA has recently undertaken a massive overhaul of the underpass system with refreshed floors, ceiling and wall art, and gentler lighting. As part of the revamp, the underpasses can now be accessed via new glass-roofed vestibules that promise energy savings by allowing natural light to filter below. The Legazpi Underpass was the first to get the refresh treatment, with the Rufino, Salcedo and Makati Avenue underpasses not far behind. 

Overpass network extension and facelift 

Complementing the underpass network is the extended overpass system, which now stretches all the way from Dela Rosa to Salcedo Street, near the Makati Medical Center. Linking the neighborhood’s buildings on the second floor, the overpasses offer pedestrians yet another weather-proof means of getting from point A to B while offering calming canopy views of the street’s lush trees and shrubbery, and a vantage point by which to appreciate the city’s exciting architectural mix. 

“We are proud of the pedestrian walkway network that we have planned and implemented in the MCBD, which is now the most extensive and well-used in the entire country,” Architect Salvador ‘Buddy’ Tan, urban planner of MACEA adds.

Enhanced sidewalks and legible wayfinding

Part and parcel of what makes walking around the MCBD enjoyable is the quality of sidewalks available for pedestrian use. It is not too wide or narrow, and you rarely have to worry about it disappearing around a corner unlike in other cities within the Metro. A retiling effort that started in 2016 runs full force up to now and has yielded even smoother pavements. MACEA boasts of having repaved 25, 283 sqm of sidewalks within the MCBD from when the program started. Complementing this is the host of legible and eye-catching street signage MACEA has deployed around Ayala Avenue, from EDSA to Sen Gil J. Puyat Avenue, and Legazpi Village, a welcome sight for lost drivers and the adventurous urban explorer.

Revitalized city parks

Fully acknowledging the pivotal role nature plays in rejuvenating the tired minds and bodies of urban dwellers, MaCEA has kept the three CBD parks under its stead flourishing with life and activity. It has steadfastly cared for the old-growth trees and bountiful flora in its charge, even marrying art and nature, in the case of Legazpi Village’s Washington Sycip Park, which boasts whimsical installations by the celebrated sculptor, Impy Pilapil. Opposite this urban oasis is yet another pocket of green, the Legazpi Active Park, developed for the young and active, incorporating jogging paths, a playground and even a mini-amphitheater for community events. The Jaime Velasquez Park in neighboring Salcedo Village meanwhile boasts a color-changing fountain, a refreshing complement to its verdant surroundings. 

On my weekend trips, it is not uncommon to see the parks become the hub of city life as the surrounding offices lay dormant. The raucous laughter of children in the playground, the rhythmic thump of joggers circumnavigating the trails, tai-chi practitioners in silent, coordinated formations, and a family picnic or two amidst the grassy greens are sights and sounds that I partake with joy and familiarity on my visits.

We built this city

The greatest achievement of MACEA, at the end of the day, is the acknowledgment of the city’s human soul, and the need to nurture and protect it for the city’s continued flourishing. We find, manifested in all these urban interventions, that MACEA has not only stayed loyal to its mandate to care for the Makati CBD since 1963 but has gone above and beyond to become a positive force for good health and living creatively. “To implement successful projects for pedestrians, consistent and continuous planning and implementation must be done over several years to achieve practical and coherent projects such as what MACEA has been doing in the MCBD for many years,” Arch. Tan adds. Behind the infrastructure, we find heart and soul. It is really no wonder why I look forward to my visits to the city.