Horizon Manila By WTA Architecture and Design Studio Wins The 2021 WAFX Award
This is a triumph for the Filipino firm whose 419-hectare reclamation project in Manila Bay champions sustainability and the growth of community through shared spaces
The WAFX Award heralds the world's most forward-looking architectural concepts, and is awarded to future projects that identify key challenges that architects will need to address in the coming years. This year, a Filipino project, helmed by Architect William Ti, Horizon Manila by WTA Architecture and Design Studio, is the overall winner of the 2021 WAFX Award at the 2021 World Architecture Festival after first winning the WAFX Water Category. These triumphs are not only recognition for the Filipino talent behind the project, but also for the imaginative and rigorous undertaking this master plan hopes to achieve. Sustainability, a sense of community, utilization of open public spaces, waterfront living and regard for social interactions are at the heart of this ambitious local project.
What is the future? When you close your eyes and try to imagine a better tomorrow what is it you see? Do you see flying cars and cities on mars? Or do you see a better world of green fields and white shores? The thought of tomorrow creates a picture of children playing and laughing, creating memories in thriving communities. The future is all about the next generation. It is about us finding a way to prosper in the human environments we have built for ourselves.
Manila is the capital of the Philippines and the center of a growing Metropolitan region of 30 million souls. It is the densest city on earth and houses over 1.78 million people in what limited land is left for living space. The incredible pressures put upon this scarcity has created an almost unbearable living condition for many of its people. People travel 3-4 hours each day just to get to study or work in Manila. Behind this veil of urban misery and pain however is a beautiful city with mountains to the east, a lake in the southeast, and the bay to its west. A city of canals and rivers, of plazas and of distinct communities and closely knit neighborhoods. It is a city of happy people, where you hear children laugh and play on the streets.
Scenes From Horizon Manila, WAFX Overall Winner, 2021
Scenes From Horizon Manila, WAFX Overall Winner, 2021
Horizon Manila is a 419 hectare reclamation project in Manila Bay. This project will reclaim 0.2% of the bay and provide almost 10% more land to Manila. It is about finding space for 150,000 Manileños at the geographical and political heart of our country. It will increase the available public open space by over 50% in the city with its canal park and provide almost 20km of waterfront living. It is an incredible opportunity to reimagine what Manila can be in the future.
A reclamation project means having to consider the blank landscape that you get. Geography was introduced into this greenfield site by creating 3 islands connected by a canal park that serves as a center for the urban valley that's created by the built form surrounding it. This urban valley is the setting for the different communities at Horizon.
Communities grow around common interests anchored by shared spaces. WTA Architecture and Design Studio kept the following objectives in creating communities in Horizon Manila: To grow distinct communities; to determine what makes communities; to simultaneously grow 28 diverse communities that are reflective of the barangays that are the basic governing blocks of the Philippines as a democratic country.
Each of these communities or barangays grow around a shared common ground that is reflective of the various historical districts of Manila. Where you can walk from Divisoria to Binondo, to Sta Cruz and Raon, from Ermita to Intramuros, from Malacanang to España. It is this great diversity of urban neighborhoods that gives character to each district and barangay and makes Manila distinct and dynamic.
This ecosystem of neighborhoods is completed by inserting various urban amenities and public spaces. Think neighborhoods that grow around botanical gardens and museums, theaters and shopping streets. The main fabric or framework of this masterplan is about the various social interactions that lead to the growth of small hyperlocal communities. This is WTA Architecture and Design Studio's solution for how to grow and manage a megacity like Metro Manila. This creates an almost pixelized, more digestible kind of urbanity. Where each pixel serves as a hyperlocal barangay that provides a mix of typologies and uses centered around a common ground.
In this project, building human environments that prioritize not just social interactions, but also strengthen personal mobility in the most traffic congested city in the world are two goals with regards to the human environment. In Horizon Manila, you are always 400 meters away from the nearest tram or ferry station and anywhere in the 3 islands is always just 15 minutes away. This is done with three intersecting major road loops formed by tree-lined sidewalks and bike lanes, arcaded walkways and a tram line that connects the 3 islands. More than half of Horizon's streetscape will be primarily pedestrian. This is reflected in the pedestrian roads and bridges that crisscross the islands.
This is kind of human environment overlaid upon green networks will bring back bird songs into our daily life, like that of the humble maya that we used to see everywhere in our city. These green corridors serve not just the wildlife but allow citizens to comfortably walk across the 3 islands all the way to the water's edge.
How do you get Pinoys to walk under the hot tropical sun? We've interspersed points of interest distributed every 400 meters or so that pique the interest of the curious Pinoy. Whatever direction you walk in, there is always something interesting going on just around the corner, and these barrier-free public spaces will always be open and allow you to join in. We've also created a diversity of building heights that allow us to shade the streets. The districts have building densities that alternate between shaded and open neighborhoods so you're never too long under the sun or in dark shade.
The critical need for more housing in Manila is addressed with a diversity of housing typologies and densities. One of the key features of Horizon is the incorporation of the city's first CBD public housing program. Providing instantly inhabited districts that not just further quickens growth and development, but also provides public housing for 8-10,000 families. This assures the new city of access to service workers who are the vital lifeblood of its day to day operations.
Public Space and Sustainability
Civic spaces are a critical component of nation building. Public housing needs to be reinforced by much needed public space. Horizon Manila will provide an additional 50% of open green space to the city. This access to public space allows us to reconnect with nature and allow us to reconsider our relationship with public space. Manileños perceive the fronts of our homes as the only public space we own. This lack of connection is what leads to detachment from and degradation of our public parks and waterways.
The reintroduction of canals, reservoirs, and waterways into our city serves to rekindle the memory of what it means to live by the river. This is at the core of what it means to be Tagalog, people of the river. Awareness is created and strengthened by exposure. The canal fronts and seafronts of Horizon will always remain public and showcase a diversity of experiences. The shoreline will reclaim our lost mangroves with over 70% of the shoreline planted with mangroves. This allows everyone to walk all the way to the water's edge and enjoy walks by the shore with the sunset and the skyline view. This will be the reclamation of our legacy.
One of WTA Architecture and Design Studio's legacies will be how the unfortunate annual water scarcity is dealt with. This is the greatest challenge for our future. Horizon will provide over 3 million cubic meters of freshwater reserve by harnessing and collecting the annual rainfall that falls on the Philippine islands. This will be able to serve over 5 months of reserve and provide freshwater back to the old city.
City of Tomorrow
WTA Architecture and Design Studio named this project Manileño to highlight the focus on the people. The future is uncertain. Technology is uncertain. What is certain is the continuation of the thread of life. Cities are about people. The future is about building strong communities. Communities are about life. Life by the water. Life in our beautiful city of Manila.
Photographs Courtesy of WTA Architecture and Design Studio