News

“Megacity at a critical juncture”: MLA candidate Emmanuel Coloma reflects on studio trip to Manila

Manila's Binondo district, home to the oldest Chinatown in the world. Photos by Emmanuel Coloma (MLA '18).

Manila's Binondo district, home to the oldest Chinatown in the world. Photos by Emmanuel Coloma (MLA '18).

Spring 2018 option studio “Manila: Future Habitations” traveled to the Philippines in February to study housing challenges and opportunities in Manila, the world's most crowded city. Led by design critics Rok OmanDavid Rubin (MLA '90), and Spela Videcnik, students explored the city's many extremes: poverty next to affluence; congestion giving way to areas of release; pollution admits ecological diversity. Master in Landscape Architecture candidate Emmanuel Coloma shares his impressions from the week-long trip.

Text and photos by Emmanuel Coloma (MLA '18)

A city of extremes, Manila is a megacity at a critical juncture. The densest city-proper in the world, 21st century Manila faces the challenges of a constantly transforming landscape (ecologically, socially, economically, and politically) and confronting its past as a remnant of a post-World War II city that never fully recovered from destruction. The studio asks: how do you balance the growth of the city and simultaneously improve the quality of life for its inhabitants in a city of extraordinary extremes? During the studio trip, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to speak to many local stakeholders, receive helpful feedback on our initial research proposals, and take time to reflect on our role as designers confronted with a site marked by extreme histories.

Monday afternoon in the Baseco Compound. Over 60,000 people live in 0.56 sq. km.
Monday afternoon in the Baseco Compound. Over 60,000 people live in a 0.56 sq km area.
Many people from the countryside move to Metro Manila seeking better fortune. For most, fortune never comes.
Many people from the countryside move to Metro Manila seeking better fortune. For most, fortune never comes.
Over half the population of the Philippines is under the age of 23. Here, a few boys play on a heap of trash that sets the foundation of the land they live on.
Over half the population of the Philippines is under the age of 23. Here, a few boys play on a heap of trash that sets the foundation of the land they live on.
Children smile at a local playground.
Children smile at a local playground.
GSD students present their site research and analysis to local stakeholders and in front of national television.
GSD students present their site research and analysis to local stakeholders and in front of national television.
Sean Chiao (MAUD '88), president of AECOM Asia Pacific, discusses his design of the Bonifacio Global City in Metro Manila.
Sean Chiao (MAUD '88), president of AECOM Asia Pacific, discusses his design of the Bonifacio Global City in Metro Manila.
Reflected infrastructures on the banks of the Pasig River remind us of the constant development of Binondo, home of the oldest Chinatown in the world.
Reflected infrastructures on the banks of the Pasig River remind us of the constant development of Binondo, home to the oldest Chinatown in the world.
47 tributaries feed into the Pasig River, and most, like Estero de la Reina, are heavily polluted and ecologically dead. It overflowed during the recent Typhoon Haiyan.
Forty-seven tributaries feed into the Pasig River, and most, like Estero de la Reina, are heavily polluted and ecologically dead. The river overflowed during the recent Typhoon Haiyan.
Despite the heavy pollution of the Pasig River, fishermen try to make a living off of the river.
Despite the heavy pollution of the Pasig River, fishermen try to make a living off of the water.
Sunset over Manila Bay is a reminder that another day is yet to come for the 24 million people that inhabit Metro Manila.
Sunset over Manila Bay is a reminder that another day is yet to come for the 24 million people that inhabit Metro Manila.