DMCI: Heritage, progress can coexist | Inquirer News

DMCI: Heritage, progress can coexist

By: - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
/ 03:50 AM August 23, 2015

START SPREADING THE VIEW  The Rizal Monument gets a Manhattan-skyline backdrop in this artist’s perspective recently released by property developer DMCI to defend its 49-story Torre de Manila that conservationists fiercely criticize as ruinous to the “visual corridor” of the heritage monument. They find the image “unrealistic, impractical and deceptive.”  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

START SPREADING THE VIEW The Rizal Monument gets a Manhattan-skyline backdrop in this artist’s perspective recently released by property developer DMCI to defend its 49-story Torre de Manila that conservationists fiercely criticize as ruinous to the “visual corridor” of the heritage monument. They find the image “unrealistic, impractical and deceptive.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

What’s wrong with the Rizal Monument having Torre de Manila and a cluster of other skyscrapers as background?

Saying it’s possible for development and heritage to go hand in hand, the construction firm DMCI recently distributed an unnamed artist’s perspective of the Rizal Monument with a background sight line of tall buildings not unlike the skyline of New York’s Manhattan area or Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbor.


“What we are trying to convey is that it is not really bad if we have that kind of background for the Rizal Monument because if you look at the Constitution, there is actually a marriage between heritage and development. Because, otherwise, Manila would remain the same,” DMCI legal counsel Roberto Dio said in a media briefing.


Dio referred to Article XIV, Section 14 of the Constitution, which provides: “The State shall foster the preservation, enrichment and dynamic evolution of a Filipino national culture based on the principle of unity in diversity in a climate of free artistic and intellectual expression.”

The Knights of Rizal, in its suit in the Supreme Court, is invoking the same constitutional provision and other laws to preserve the sight line or visual corridor of the monument. The group wants the 46-story Torre de Manila torn down.

The Supreme Court earlier stopped the Torre de Manila construction and impleaded the City of Manila, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the National Museum to get their side on the controversy. The high tribunal is conducting oral arguments on the case.

Accommodate changes

For Dio, the preservation of heritage should also accommodate changes.

“Dynamic evolution refers to the course of changes,” the lawyer said. “How can you move forward if you stick to the past?”


Dio referred to 30 St. Mary Axe, popularly known as the “The Gherkin,” or the egg-shaped or bullet-shaped building that was allowed to be constructed in London’s financial district, which has a lot of centuries-old historic buildings.


However, conservationist and architect Richard Tuason-Sanchez Bautista criticized the artist’s rendition of the Rizal Monument with a background sight line of tall buildings, calling it “unrealistic,” “impractical” and “deceptive.”

“That’s not going to happen. The picture is not clear as to what it’s about. There should be proper sensitivity when you develop,” he told the Inquirer when asked about his expert opinion on the possible cluster of skyscrapers that would join Torre de Manila in the area east of Rizal Park.

Based on his estimate, the architect said the buildings depicted in the picture would encompass large parts of the Paco district and reach all the way to Nagtahan and probably even Pandacan.

Bautista said there were many recognized heritage sites and institutions in the area that could not be demolished to give way to skyscrapers.

“Rezoning the area so that those buildings can be constructed won’t do. There would be a lot of land use-related problems like ground subsidence and sewerage system as well as traffic and even security. Buildings that overlook Malacañang, the seat of government, just across the Pasig River, will certainly not be allowed,” he said.

Bautista said that in the past, there were several plans to construct buildings that would affect the visual corridor of the Rizal Monument but the architects made sure there was “proper sensitivity” and “symmetry” in their designs.

“In those planned constructions, the Rizal Monument is the focal point. Streets and buildings seem to radiate from it. Everything is in harmony. Here [in the artist’s rendition], it’s just a jagged view of skyscrapers,” he added.

Bautista was referring to abortive proposals during the American colonial period and the early days of the Philippine Republic for the construction of massive buildings right inside what is today’s Rizal Park and even behind the Rizal Monument.

The so-called Burnham plan for Manila, as conceptualized by the architect Daniel Burnham during the early American era, envisioned the area behind and beside the Rizal Monument as a national government center.

William Parsons, the consulting architect tasked by the colonial government with implementing the Burnham plan, designed a cluster of neoclassical buildings surrounding the monument.

The centerpiece, immediately to the back of the monument, was to be the Philippine version of the US Capitol, the Casa de la Nacion (House of the Nation), which would house the legislature.

“According to the general scheme of improvement, this site [around the Rizal Monument] has been reserved for the government center and here will be grouped the capitol for the legislature, the executive offices for the governor-general, the Supreme Court, and buildings for the various departments and bureaus, which are now scattered about in different parts of the city,” read an article on the 1911 issue of Century Magazine on the plans to beautify Manila.

“In composition, this group takes the form of a vast quadrangle, open on one side, with an uninterrupted view of Manila Bay and Mt. Mariveles, at the entrance to the bay, 25 miles to the west,” the article added.

The Burnham plan was slowly abandoned due to lack of funds and shift in government priorities. The former buildings of the legislature, and of the agriculture and finance departments, all now occupied by the National Museum, were the only structures in the park built from the Burnham plan.


Cultural center

During the administration of President Ramon Magsaysay, when the country was preparing for Rizal’s birth centenary (1961), another cluster of buildings, the Jose Rizal Cultural Center, designed by Juan Nakpil in the modern architecture style, was proposed to be built right inside the park.

The Rizal Memorial Theater was to be put up behind the Rizal Monument, while a library and a museum would be constructed on either side of the park. Only the library, now the National Library, was constructed.


Hall of justice

In the early 2000s, the Supreme Court also planned to construct the Manila City Hall of Justice on the grounds of the demolished Jai Alai building but this was also aborted.

Dio said DMCI was mindful of aesthetics, the reason the company’s design of the Torre de Manila more or less reflected the designs of buildings around the park.

“There is a principle in architecture that whenever there is a new construction on an area dominated by buildings of a certain era, then the new construction would as much as possible fit itself in the prevailing design. That’s what we did. That’s why you can see that it is not a glass building. We tried as much as possible to copy the theme of the area and make it conform to the general design of the area,” he said.

Critics demonize Torre

The DMCI counsel cautioned, however, that the Supreme Court suit was not whether a design was good or not.

“If we go into the design, that would be aesthetics. [As one justice said,] the Supreme Court is not a court of aesthetics. What might be ugly to you is beautiful to me,” the lawyer added.

He lamented that Torre de Manila was continually being “demonized” by critics and many people tended to believe the criticism even if they did not yet know all the facts of the construction.

DMCI maintained that it complied with all the requirements, including obtaining all permits and clearances, before undertaking the construction of the condominium and that the location of the building was not a historical or cultural site.


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TAGS: DMCI, heritage, Manila, Supreme Court

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