Int’l designers bewail snub by Mar Roxas of Naia 1 plan
The country needs an airport that works well and not one that just looks nice, the government said on Friday, in a counter to a group of renowned designers who said months of work they had poured into a proposal to redesign the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 1 had gone to waste.
World famous furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue, interior designer Budji Layug and architect Royal Pineda said they were contracted by the government earlier this year to come up with a new design for the three-decade-old Terminal 1.
But earlier this month, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) announced it had given the contract to refurbish Naia 1 to architecture firm Leandro V. Locsin & Associates (LVL), led by the son and namesake of the late national artist Leandro Locsin.
“Layug, Pineda and Cobonpue have made available their inputs and interior design suggestions for the aesthetic look and feel of Naia,” Transportation Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said.
The most significant part of the three designers’ proposal was the construction of a multilevel parking lot in front of the terminal building to replace the airport’s open parking area.
The space that is freed up would then be turned into a garden and visitor area surrounded by restaurants and concession stands that would bring in higher revenues for the government.
“The DOTC is grateful for their inputs but since their inputs are aesthetic, we will take them into consideration after the more basic fundamental structural and electromechanical works [have been done],” Roxas said in a text message.
Instead of adopting the proposal, made public by the three designers on video streaming website YouTube.com last October, the DOTC said it had opted to go with LVL, the firm that came up with the original design for Naia 1 some 30 years ago.
DOTC said LVL had a distinct advantage over any other architectural or engineering firm in the country because its founder, the late Locsin, was Terminal 1’s original designer.
“LVL’s firm has insights that will be of valuable help in minimizing disruption to operations as well as shorten the time the rehab will take,” Roxas said.
He said the Layug, Pineda and Cobonpue proposal focused more on the aesthetics of the facility and did not cover the electromechanical and other technical aspects of the project. These technical areas of the terminal’s redevelopment, Roxas said, were higher on the DOTC’s list of priorities than making the airport look nice.
Pro bono work
In an interview, Cobonpue said his group’s design was done in coordination with airport engineers. “We also had the original blueprints and plans in front of us when we were making this,” he said.
“This Leandro Locsin now is not the same Leandro Locsin that designed the airport 30 years ago,” Cobonpue said, noting that his group’s expertise should be at par with, if not on a higher level than, LVL’s.
He said the group felt slighted because they had agreed to work on a new design for Naia 1 pro bono at the request of several Cabinet officials: Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, former Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang.
He said his group’s proposal would also cost the government just P1 billion. Cobonpue, who has gained popularity for designing pieces of furniture for several Hollywood celebrities, said his group’s redevelopment plan could be implemented in a year and would cover both the interior and exterior of Terminal 1.
This is better than the government’s current plan to spend P1.16 billion just for the airport’s interior, he said.
“All we want is transparency. What happened to our eight months of work? Why did the government’s mind suddenly change?” he asked. He said he also wanted the government to clarify if there was a transparent bidding done before awarding the contract to LVL.
“We’re willing to let the project go. We just want to know what happened. We already wasted eight months of our time and we don’t want to waste any more of it,” he said.
“All we want is what the rest of the country wants: a nice airport,” he said.
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