Soon the car will find its way to the driveway on the fourth level and once again you hear the soothing sounds of cascading waterfalls along the sides of the drop off area. Sometimes it makes you wonder if youre really going home or checking into a five star tropical island hotel. Then again, once you get into your residential unit you have the impression that you could be in a flat or an apartment in Paris or New York where everything; bars, restaurants, shops and a mall are literally walking distance.
How cool is that? In just a few minutes youll be on the fifth level where they have lagoons, ponds and swimming pools all there to help you detox. Then after a refreshing swim, you go back up to the flat, change into a suit and walk over to the concert hall to watch a symphony or ballet performance. After that, youll have plenty of time to pick a nice place for dinner or maybe join the family at the open-air amphitheater or check out whats new in the shops. The great thing is that you dont have to go into the city for any of that, cause youre already in the City.
The best of it all is that theres barely any sign of the heavy traffic, because here, pedestrians rule, while heavy traffic is kept outside. As the planners explained: Here they have a Manhattan-type of grid thats very clear, you dont go through crazy up and downs or around. Here you have beautiful sidewalks and the traffic moves. You dont even hear the hum or rumble of vehicles or ground level noise because all the residential units begin at the 8th floor. Youre literally above it all.
I remember when they first told me about the project.
Back then it was all a big Maybe. Maybe Rockwell Land will be able to buy the 3.6 hectares of adjacent land that belonged to Colgate-Palmolive, and then they did. Then they talked about collaborating with the Global architect Carlos Ott. That certainly had a lot of heads turning and wondering if Carlos Ott could be convinced to make time, and if the Rockwell Land could afford such expertise.
Apparently they could and the Billboards started popping up by the bridge, with Carlos Otts photo and his bold statement: If they expect a shoebox building from me, they will be disappointed. There was never any doubt that Carlos Ott would come up with world-class designs, but the biggest challenge was how to merge his ultra modernist concepts, with the elegant conservatism of Rockwells original masterpiece community? Everyone expected a Wow factor but not something radically detached from its roots or sticking out like a sore thumb - Las Vegas style. Yes they wanted to step forward into the future but maintaining their links to their past successes.
A few months later the first designs were on a table and Carlos Ott did not disappoint his fans. Ott presented five majestic towers each one resplendent in glass and with a crown of its own. As he explained the process of design, I remember him saying:
The intention here Mr. Beltran, was not to do architecture, I thought (to myself) we had to do sculptures. We are not doing a building with four facades, and when you go up to the roof you have the water tank, Machine rooms for the elevators and the satellite antennas. (Like many buildings in Metro Manila)
No, if you look at beautiful cathedrals, if you look at the beautiful monuments and the beautiful buildings, Congress halls and so on, around the world, you always have a pinnacle, a copula, a bell tower. I thought we should not do a Mexican guy without a Mexican hat. We needed a crown.
The structural sculptures were certainly impressive particularly the Iconic building. I never imagined that the design of the Iconic Tower was more than just about looks. During his presentation, Carlos Ott shared how a fat low building stands by itself. On the other hand a high skinny building in a typhoon area, because of the strong winds, will experience torsion or torque.
Traditionally architects and engineers would put a huge center core much like a spine made of steel and concrete to counter the torsion. The problem with the structural spine is that it takes up a lot of the buildings footprint thereby eating up a lot of space and dictates the design efficiency. The designers sacrifice their flexibility in design and in the end, you have less space, smaller units and even less views.
Instead of relying on massive central structural cores, Carlos Ott placed shear walls on the external perimeter of his buildings. This effectively spread the buildings resistance to torsion without eating up space or limiting viewing areas. As a result the buildings have units that are much bigger than usual, which is what many buyers prefer. Consequently the sleek fins or shear walls stretching all the way to the top of the building became an esthetical element that emphasized the vertical lines while the ends came together as the crown for each building. The buildings came in different shapes: circular and square, in order to create variations on theme that used white shear walls, glass, balconies, floor-to- ceiling-wall to wall windows, all slightly of different heights and rooftop geometry.
Just from how the scale model looked one got the impression that the development could just as easily be in place in the skyline of Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore. Without a doubt, The Proscenium as the project is called, is literally In front of the scenery or the scene, ahead of any other architectural and residential community currently in the making.
To emphasize the point, Walter Raleigh Stewart, a San Francisco-based Urban Planner and architect had this to say:
In contrast to most developments that you see in this part of the world, also here in Manila, the buildings are much closer together. And what we have done here [at the Proscenium], even insisted on it, are five towers when there could have been six.
There could have been more. What that does is it allows us to have more green space on the ground and it has more privacy between buildings.
If you go to Hong Kong, or if you go to Seoul, sometimes you feel like you can leap off the balcony of one building, on to the balcony of another What you have here and in the rest of Rockwell
is you have this variety of building heights and not only does that make a more interesting skyline, but it also gives distinction and uniqueness in each building.
Not only is The Proscenium a stand out project because of the architectural sculptures, it is also unique in terms of how the developers collaborated in building an environmentally balanced project that features a cultural plaza showcasing a theater for the performing arts, a community-oriented museum for the fine arts, an open air amphitheater for performers as well as artistic residents in need of a venue or a place to commune.
All this came about from the passion and interest of the Lopez brothers namely Oscar who dreamed of having a Concert hall within the community while Manuel, the Philippine Ambassador to Japan was already in the process of building a museum to house his collection of fine arts and rare books. All this seems to be more than mere coincidence considering the principal architect of the project, Carlos Ott is well known around the world for designing several opera houses and concert halls, the most famous being LOpera Bastille in Paris.
I distinctly remember Carlos Ott telling me: It would be a very sad community if the center of the community is just their shopping center, their consumer society
Fast forward to the present, Carlos Ott is developing a Cultural Plaza where the Lopez multi-purpose hall and museum of fine arts will be adjacent to restaurants and bars and an open amphitheater so that it (The Proscenium) becomes a cultural venue as opposed to the shopping mall venue.
At the end of our 2-hour talk, I had to ask what should have been obvious; still I did because only the artists really know their work. What to them was the Wow factor?
Wally Stewart gave the answer: To me the wow is that these are spectacular, unique buildings that we are not seeing anywhere, are here. The way they are arranged. I think the cultural component of this project is inspired in fact by the daring art and sculptures of the buildings, when you look at them youre thinking art.
The question Im asked is: Is this a world-class project? How does this meet world-class standards? To me the rest of the world is going to look to Rockwell. Try to top these fellows. This has standards, this is an environment, it has a setting, it has examples that youre never going to find anywhere.
What new development have you seen or heard in the last 20 years that has its own community within a larger community, thats a balanced community? To me I think the kids should be studying this in school.
Are we world-class standard? Were setting the world standard.