Utopia When Sir Thomas More introduced the idea of utopia as a community or society possessing highly desirable or perfect

qualities, the subjective sense of desirable qualities gave people the freedom to dream and imagine their own desirable qualities of a utopian city. The concept may vary differently among different people since their desires and preferences may not be exactly the same. There are some common notions attached to the idea of utopia such as: hi-tech skyscrapers, state of the art transit systems, abundance of green spaces, peace & order, high-paying jobs, good government policies, etc. All of these are great characteristics of cities but doesn't necessarily translate to a completely desirable place for everyone because of each individual's unique idea on utopia. What some people may consider to be an attractive city in terms of employment opportunities and advance infrastructure, others may hate due to congestion and chaos.

Before proposing my utopian idea for the Philippines, let me first discuss the two basic planning approaches on how to make “utopian cities”. Top-down and bottom-up are what I believe to be these basic planning approaches. Since college days, planning subjects have generally taught us all the basic and most important planning principles and concepts from Howard's garden cities to Le Corbusier's radiant city to Burnham's city beautiful movement. Most of these planning models are achievable through top-down approach. And due to this, I have been strongly convinced that holistic top-down planning, one that looks at city problems from above and plans accordingly with little or no regard for small communities that maybe affected in creating grand plans and will only become collateral damage for what is believed to result to the greater good of the majority is definitely how planning cities should be. This approach is what I used to believe to be the key solution for achieving utopian cities. I used to believe that in order for cities to progress, solutions must come from the authorities above without consulting the general public and must be strictly implemented without any regard for those who will be negatively affected. This strategy has of course demonstrated several success in different cities around the world (depending on how success is defined). Authoritarian leaders like former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos who had things done as they wish have shown great success in terms of physical development and economic growth by using this strategy in their respective countries during their administration. On the other hand the top-down approach is not without flaws. Some cities which have used this planning approach in their desire to transform themselves into utopian symbols, have not successfully produce positive results. My favorite example for this case would be the city of Brasilia in Brazil, planned by the late architect and urban planner Lucio Costa. Costa who envisioned Brasilia as a "utopian" project, designed the city center to depict the shape of an irregular cross when Page 1 of 4

I have come to believe that an ideal utopia is not one where there is rational order in things but one where there is diversity and some sort of necessary chaos that makes a community vibrant. It is called New Urbanism. while these ‘master-planned communities’ may have seem to provide sufficient housing to a lot of people. walking from one place to another. and the environment. mixed housing. The main principles of New Urbanism include: walkability. A great source of inspiration for this realization is Jane Jacobs who recognized that difference between people and different activities mixed together is what a city is about at its best. However. traditional neighborhood structure and increased density. my idea for a Philippine utopia would mostly include city characteristics discussed by Jane Jacobs. which in its hopes to achieve a utopian image. mass transport. housing. safe and promotes the welfare of people. and has attracted foreign investors to contribute to our economy. economy. Like Jacobs’ ideals. Another planning principle I would very much like to integrate in my idea of a Philippine utopia is one that we haven't discussed in class but I firmly believe in its principles.viewed from an airplane. Page 2 of 4 . With lack of government initiated projects. of course it has generated more jobs. It is unquestionable that the majority of developments in Metro Manila in the last decade were undertaken by private developers. turned to a disaster. I have come to learn that though some urban problems must be addressed in a regional scale. This is a prime example of a top-down planning. The city looks rationally organized and magnificent from an airplane but experiencing it from a pedestrian's point of view. Even the structures. This has led me to a change of perspective in planning principles of what are my desired qualities of an ideal cities and how to achieve them. With this impression of utopia in mind. Most developers also created planned unit developments and master plans for large parcels of land. which are regarded as some of the finest in modern architecture such as the national congress building. On the positive side. they took the initiative of aggressively developing lands for residential. drainage. some are better addressed from street level perspective. few of which are related to each other or are properly supported by an infrastructure of roads. and the chamber of deputies are way out proportion in relation to human scale. The private sector have been mainly responsible in shaping or misshaping the urban fabric. the principles of New Urbanism are greatly people-oriented. commercial and office uses. buildings are not connected. and you have to travel for endless kilometers in completely straight path and exposed to the elements as if nobody ever thought what it would feel to be out there between all the monuments. the famous cathedral. mixed-use and diversity. quality architecture and urban design. Brasilia was the ultimate modernistic city built on all the ideas of modernism. it is a disaster. This outburst of developments have produced both positive and negative impacts on the society. Every distance is too wide. connectivity. waste disposal.

since exclusivity means that the more people are buying these “exclusive” properties. The concept 'woonerf' which originated from cities in Netherlands back in the 70's. illegal vendors or used as parking spaces by cars. I can confidently say that I feel safer walking by the streets of the universities in Manila at night with all the noisy students than walking at the dead town of Makati business district during a weekend night. In their goal to create more saleable spaces. Unfortunately. and increase density of the community. they have compromised street. Increased density also indirectly translates to increase in security since crime is often committed at low-density places where there is no one around to see the crime. Though the streets of Metro Manila are very different in context. pinch points. while if community is the marketing strategy. jeepneys and tricycles. there are lessons that can be learned in terms of providing priority for the pedestrians and cyclists. Streets and roads are also important as they are the arteries and veins that connect cities. Traffic is made to travel at slower speeds by design interventions. social activities. Properly designed sidewalks contribute to the safety and peacekeeping of cities. network of voluntary controls and standards among people themselves. sidewalks. a range of mixed use activities. Although I do not have the relevant statistics to prove this point. In many places in Metro Manila. And this can be achieved if urban spaces are planned with utmost consideration for pedestrians which are the majority users of streets and sidewalks. And if we compare the density Page 3 of 4 . The golden formula of more saleable space with the least possible cost is what is used by all developers in their desire to gain more profit rather than provide good services and commodities. Curitiba. almost unconscious. parks. Population density by definition. there is a need to prioritize provisions for walkable sidewalks. and community centers in exchange for tightly cramped spaces. For the city to become a more livable place. well lighted streets. the greater the value of the area will become because the sense of community is being fulfilled. we should be promoting a sense of community. and a sense of safety and security. sidewalks are effectively useless.police or fire protection. slowing traffic speeds through design initiative. pedestrians crossing the streets and roads of Metro Manila are constantly prone to vehicular accidents as there are few pedestrian bridges and crossings to protect them from reckless drivers. and enforced by the people themselves. In this problem however. and other physical features. Either they are too narrow for the volume of pedestrians of they are consumed by utility poles. The lack of these important urban elements have deprived people of decent communities. Density also contributes to the life of cities. landscaping. and developing a streetscape that contribute to wider built environment design aspirations. Jacobs (1961) put it well when she said that safety and security is kept primarily by an intricate. we may borrow some proven street designs from developed cities such as Copenhagen. and Bogota who have planned their cities with great priority for pedestrians. the lesser their value becomes due to the diminishing exclusivity. In Metro Manila unfortunately. refers to a certain number of people per certain unit of area. Density however. is just a part of it. pedestrians are generally regarded as second class citizens. such as road humps. pertains to a street where pedestrians and cyclists have legal priority over motorists. Rather than promoting the luxury of exclusivity. the more people move into the area.

We can start by having laws and codes that seriously prioritizes pedestrians through provisions of decent and sufficient sidewalks. and eventually losing our architectural character in exchange for mediocre buildings. and community parks and plazas. services and uses in different places. It also stimulates innovative economy as business people living in the area will constantly find creative ways to provide goods and services that the community and even adjacent communities require. And it also results to unnecessary heavy traffic. This idea is quickly becoming a popular concept used by developers. As I mentioned earlier. This is how I perceive the idea of a utopian city to be. be approached from a street level perspective. comprehensive planning and all sorts of political bureaucracy and thus can be retrofitted to any existing city even those outside Metro Manila. these are solutions to problems that mustn't be viewed from far above but rather. The individual cities must continuously update their land use plans and strictly monitor these developments. Jacobs' argued that the separation of uses destroy communities and innovative economies by creating isolated.of Makati's business district and Manila's university belt. The mixed-use of activities and services in an area will ensure that it is is awake 24/7. Mixed use developments encourage social interaction among different people and promote innovative economies that will produce a variety of activities and services. traveling time can be reduced significantly. Page 4 of 4 . All of these are simple utopian ideas that does not require new land. People may argue that this will affect a lot of existing developments but if those developments strictly complied with the building code in the first place. Though urban design elements should be planned and designed by experts in the field. will only be alive during working hours and immediately turns into a dead town after office. These superficial havens contribute to isolation. increase in carbon footprint due to long vehicular travels. traffic from adjacent cities such as Mandaluyong to Pasig can reach two hours travel which results to loss of productivity of people. So density must go hand-in hand with another important characteristic of a vibrant city: mixed-use. If only there were a diversity of activities. Lastly. we wouldn't have such inhumane sidewalks. it is very important to involve citizens during planning stage and seriously consider their insights because after all they are the end users of these utopian cities. Whereas areas or districts with specific uses such as offices. Existing sidewalks that are insufficient for the volume maybe increased. it may even turn out that Makati is more densely populated. unnatural urban spaces. expensive investments. mixed-use development must be encouraged in cities. At its worst. The next step would be controlling the development of urban sprawl. pedestrian bridges and walkways. Jacobs' ideals of upholding complex social structure and vibrancy over order and efficiency in communities definitely applies to our local context.

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