Architect Felino Palafox Jr.
“In areas prone to flooding, let houses be built to float or built on stilts, elevate the electrical system, and interconnect the buildings with elevated walkways and elevated monorails.”
BY MAIELLE MONTAYRE
PHOTOGRAPHS BY DANIEL SORIANO
Rome was not built in a day; it took some time and judicious urban planning. Now, take a look at Metro Manila, a booming metropolis. Tall buildings and condominiums rise to occupy empty lots and dot the skyline. Road works, repairs, and construction of flyovers and bridges appear at each street corner. Signs of progress can be seen everywhere, but do these address the perennial heavy traffic, lack of public transport, and constant flooding in the metro?Architect and Urban Planner Felino A. Palafox, Jr. sheds light on the basics and purpose of urban planning.
LAYING THE FOUNDATION
Founded in 1989, Palafox Associates is one of the country’s top architecture firms today. In 1999, it was the first Filipino architectural firm cited in the World’s Top 500 Architectural Firms of the London-based World Architecture magazine. Over the years, the firm has received more than 200 awards and recognitions. It has accomplished more than 1,510 projects in 40 countries, overseen the planning of 25 billion square meters of land, and designed the architecture of 12 million square meters of building floor area. Palafox himself has worked as Architect-Urban Planner with Ayala Corporation and Ayala Land, Inc. From 1977 to 1981, he was name-hired by Sultan Khalifa Al Habtoor of Dubai, UAE as Senior Urban Planner-Architect working in a multinational and interdisciplinary team. He was the only Southeast Asian and the youngest professional. “My best experience in urban planning was in Dubai. I was hired to help bring Dubai to the first world in less than 15 years,” Palafox says.
Urban planning is a weighty concept covering several aspects. It begins with determining land use, then
conceptualizing the infrastructures and circulation routes necessary for transportation and utilities. The firm then proposes road transport corridors; that is, one-third of the road cross-section should be designated for trees and landscaping, one-third for pedestrians and bicycles, and the remaining third as traffic lanes for vehicles. “It takes a minimum of 10 trees to recover the oxygen of the carbon monoxide per car. For larger vehicles like buses and SUVs, they should plant more trees per car,” Palafox points out.
Apart from this, urban planning also involves housing for its residents and managing urban sprawl. It also touches on urban design concerning the aesthetics of architecture, landscapes, and open spaces. Another aspect involves healing the city through risk and disaster management. “It is 90% cheaper to address the hazards before they become disasters, aside from saving human lives and infrastructures. It is 10 times more expensive to do rehabilitation,” Palafox stresses. Urban planning also addresses economic development by taking care of jobs and businesses. Thus, it covers a wide range of disciplines.