The Philippines is internationally known as a culturally rich country. Metro Manila alone is home to more than 30 museums that showcase the culture and history of the nation. However, there is a perceived lack of connection between the public and the arts. This creates an opportunity to create a structure that serves as civic art structure and as a cultural hub. In line with this vision, the Metrobank Foundation Inc. and Federal Land Inc. held a design competition to design the Manila Arts + Culture Center, an iconic civic structure that complements Philippine Architecture, showcase temporary and permanent exhibitions, and establish an appreciation of the arts and culture among the public.
In order to come up with an architectural design proposal for a Civic Center for the Arts, Culture, and Tourism, one has to thoroughly understand the context of the project. The challenge was to envision a structure where museum, cultural centre, and civic center merge as one.
The design for “Arko” or “Arch” was inspired by traditional or local gateways found on the boundaries of different provinces, towns, barrios, and other similar neighbourhoods in the Philippines. Our aim for the design was to focus on the complete experience that a Filipino community provides to its visitors, to its guests, and even to its own members. We interpreted Filipino culture as experiential more than physical.
In line with this, our team intended that our structure introduces and immerses the visitors to the local culture, the inner workings, and the intricate characteristics found within it. We intended that our structure exemplifies a sense of link and continuity in the area. We intended it to envelop the users.
Having been provided with a lot, categorized under a ‘green park’ zone, the design for Arko sensibly preserved the original intent of the planners. The site was maximized through adhering to the prescribed setbacks, building height limits, and gross floor area while the form of the structure was defined by projected pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow within and around the site. Pushed back edges, projected corners, and basement floors were utilized to extend the landscape, surrounding the structure, and attaining a desirable human scale. The structure was then punctured horizontally and vertically to create a sculpted "Urban Room" that evokes a more experiential space.
Thus, the design planned that the structure be of human scale, while maintaining vistas of adjacent developments, avoiding visual obstruction to vehicular traffic, and creating spatial continuity for pedestrians. And lastly, it intended to act as a guide.
THE GREEN PARK FEATURE
The design blended the building harmoniously with the site by having a low ecological footprint. 10.88% of the site is softscaped while 59.01% is permeable hardscapes. The introduction of a landscaped green roof increased the open space cover of the site to 58.90%. This design strategy addressed the conflict between introducing a new structure and preserving the original land use of the site which is categorized under the city’s “Green Park Zoning”
The landscaped roof further touched the ground, extending and making it accessible to the public, thus creating a human scale. This created an easily accessible structure for pedestrians coming from adjacent developments. The form was then molded asymmetrically in order to create a unique spatial experience.
THE URBAN ROOM
The concept of enveloping users in the structure is further explored in the interiors of Arko. The structure created a huge open space, dubbed as the Urban Room, which instinctively directs the users either towards the basement level or to the upper ground level and the green roof through the atrium ramp. The Urban Room acts as a continuous vertical link through all the floor levels of Arko and as a continuous horizontal link for pedestrians from adjacent developments.
The Urban Room, along the vertical ramp, would allow natural daylight and natural air ventilation to easily penetrate into the interiors of the structure. Further, rainwater runoff would pass through this vertical cavity and be harvested for reuse in the structure.
STRUCTURAL FEATURES AND MATERIALS
The exploded axonometric drawing displays how structural assembly, building form, materials, and finishes were merged to form Arko.
Supported by sculpted structural steel sections and combined with the integration of Weaved Outer Skin material, Arko becomes a structurally stable and culturally relatable building. The outer skin, combined with the façade’s double glazed glass exterior, functionally addresses environmental considerations. Their combination reduces direct heat gain in the interiors of the structure. Aside from adding to the character of the building, the Weaved Outer Skin will also empower domestic economies by representing traditional Filipino materials.
The arrangement of spaces gives importance on the level of privacy in the activity that is to be housed in Arko. Located at the Lower Ground level are the main entrance, café, and access to classrooms. This area is deemed to be the busiest level of Arko, thus it acts as a main receiving hall and as a jump off point linked to the different levels of the structure. Located at the Upper Ground Level is a huge open gallery space that will house different kinds of indoor activities and exhibits. The Upper Ground Level also provides a 180 degree outdoor view.
Along the Basement Level 1 is another gallery that will house permanent exhibit pieces. Classrooms and conference rooms are also located on this level. Lastly, along Basement Level 2, is a library, considered to be the most private among all the required spaces. Clearly shown on the sections is how these levels are connected by the atrium ramp.
Through a rigorous analysis, the final design for Arko was achieved. Social, Cultural, Economical, and Environmental concerns were considered in the design process of the structure. Arko’s intent is to allow everyday life to naturally flow through its humbled arched frame. Arko intends to be a transitional urban space that transforms into an urban stage where the arts and culture are introduced into the city.
“Arko” gives users/exhibitors the chance to fill up the center with their own activities, their own culture while it acts as a guide for visitors and tourists. “Arko” introduces and immerses.