Torre de Manila (yes, it’s late… I know)

One of my friends asked me one day what I thought about it. See when I look at something, I always like to zoom out and look at things from different angles. First, I’d like to share with you some ideas before we get into this:

  1. The built environment is not just about the architecture in itself. It is a mixture of different things coming together: stakeholders’ position, economics, politics, nation-building capabilities, logistics, culture, etc. It’s a heady mix of knowledge bases because it’s something permanent, tangible and culturally-charged. It is something bound by time and space that literature will always have something new on and about it.
  2. When people have a common experience, site, place or occasion, they may automatically act collectively or behave in the same way. Pierre Bourdieu introduced us to habitus, the apparatus of power strategies that are sustained by it subjects through mindless/ mindful repetition of culturally prescribed/ accepted codes.
  3. We don’t see things as they are; We see things as we are – complete with our biases, values and beliefs.
I’ve been able to read some articles both defending and bashing Torre de Manila. Each side having their own points. Listed are notable themes on why they prescribe to such side.
Against For
Heritage, Social Responsibility, Collective Memory and Posterity, Photogenic Spaces and Public Place, Politics No codes technically broken, Living City vs. Museum City, Why not treat it like Central Park, NY?
      See it’s not in our culture to openly criticize another’s work. It’s even deemed unethical to do so by the UAP Document 200, Architect’s Code of Ethics. (Really, we should start teaching/ practicing Architectural Crit so things like this get weighed in before things get ugly IRL but this is another matter to be discussed another day) Apparently, it’s also in our culture to react so late in the game. Could this have been prevented if as a collective we shun away from decisions that could be detrimental to posterity?
     It’s not even in the responsibilities of the Building Official to approve plans based on beauty or context (Example: Would this structure go well with its neighbors?). In a country where spot-zoning is so rampant and mistakes are overlooked at the right price, I believe this isn’t the only time such decisions are made/ enforced. It’s only unfortunate that this particular issue had been so publicized.
     With everything presented, let’s take it as a lesson. It’s good to see that people care. This conundrum actually raises an entire issue that PEOPLE SHOULD CARE about what is being built for and around them. I just hope community involvement would be stronger and would actually be sought by any architect/ developer. We are creating structures that affect more than the site that it stands on.
     An interesting idea: Why not build the supposed structure that towers behind the monument in its full Neo-Classical glory? Would that solve the photobombing problem? I’ve stumbled upon a NYTimes post on the matter and it seems like it’s not the first time something like this happen.
Of course you’d end up asking what’s my definitive stand on the matter.
The ideas behind the structures we allow to get built mirrors what a culture stands for/ believes in. It was allowed, from the very beginning. Higher officials knew what was being built, what it’s for and what it will look like. How do you really see this ending in a win-win situation? Money had been given/ received. Buyers are already asking what to do with their invested money. Should it be demolished? Would it be irrational?
Torre de Manila has a right to stay. I think it’s only fair especially when money has already been invested. It’s our fault as a nation that we try to correct a mistake once it’s publicly pointed out. Should we wait for another thing like this before we get involved?

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