Thursday, August 27, 2009

Manila Frustration

Pictured above is the proposed Burnham plan for the reconstruction of Manila which never came into fruition save for a few buildings. This is really frustrating. Of course no one can ever tell of the real circumstances during that time, history anyway should always be taken with gigantic boulder of salt. President Quezon scrapped the plans to further his plans of a new capital outside of Old Manila in his name (which by the way also did not materialize). But can you imagine Manila if the plan did go through? Burnham's plan for Manila commissioned in 1901 and completed in 1905 was actually made before those of Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. (with McMillan, they revived L'Enfant's 1791 vision for the US Capital - the crowning feature of which is the National Mall). All these cities have the same perfect symmetrical look with wide diagonal boulevards, intersecting streets, big parks, and awe-inspiring public buildings and monuments.

Some of the amazing features of the Burnham Plan?
  • A 75 meter baywalk/park from the national mall all the way to Cavite with a wide scenic boulevard spanning the entire route. This actually "sort of" made it through as the Dewey/Roxas Boulevard.
  • A park, canopy covered scenic drive covering the entire length of the Pasig River terminating in an park at the edge of the Laguna Lake. Sigh... wonderful right?
  • Wide boulevards radiating from the center of the National Mall right behind the capitol. This is very similar to Paris' and DC's layout and it would have been amazing.
  • The capitol will surround a gigantic plaza which I imagine would look like Plaza Mayor in Spain.
  • Big parks surrounding the city edge.
A key feature of Burnham's concept of urban planning is taking advantage of waterfront scenery. Other big unplanned cities have covered waterfronts, filled to the brim with buildings whilst those of Burnham's like Chicago and DC has given the waterfront "to the people" with parks and public spaces which is ideal, since tall buildings built farther away can actually still see the view right? Burnham envisioned Manila as a walk-to-everywhere city just like Paris with more canopy cover, which would have been ideal, healthier citizens, with less pollution.

It's really frustrating. Chicago, after 100 years since Burnham's plan for it, is still implementing and finishing his fantastic vision, with building the eco-bridge that will cover the mouth of it's harbor in a bid to host the Olympics on 2016. Imagine, our city, with buildings rivaling those of Washington D.C. and Paris. Is it too late to reorganize our congested city? Do wee need the destruction of war just to fix our urban jungle? I'm actually loving Imelda in that she sees no boundaries nor limits in what she wants to accomplish. I want more architectural monuments in our capital, I want to bring Manila the glory she deserves.

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