Strengthening the Lungs of Our Cities

Our cities are for people. As architecture and planning firms, Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group, Inc. have a duty to create environments and spaces where people can connect with and enjoy nature.

Our cities are for people. As architecture and planning firms, Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group, Inc. have a duty to create environments and spaces where people can connect with and enjoy nature. For more than 30 years, we have been a strong advocate of making our communities and cities healthier and more livable by protecting our natural environments and developing more public green and open spaces and urban farms. We believe that parks and other green open spaces are the lungs of our cities and are beneficial not only to our communities, but to the environment and our economic growth.

In addition to green open spaces, if our cities were designed for the majority of its citizens — those who do not have their own vehicles — our cities would have access to well-designed sidewalks and stronger bicycle infrastructure, among others. Furthermore, an agropolitan approach to development that integrates agricultural farms into the urban setting helps cities become self-sufficient by securing food sources within.

In other progressive cities in the world like Singapore, Copenhagen, Melbourne, Amsterdam, and New York, parks, other green spaces, urban farms, as well as comprehensive networks of pedestrian and bicycle lanes are well-thought-out and developed. As a result, people are healthier, happier, and more active; pollution and urban heat island temperatures are reduced, stormwater management is improved, and property values increase and attract more opportunities for business and tourism, among others.

Sadly, such places and spaces are lacking in the Philippines. We have seen numerous times how our cities’ green canopies have been converted to commercial centers and subdivisions. Moreover, because of the state of our sidewalks and pedestrian walkways — which remain uneven, narrow, and obstructed — and the lack of an efficient urban network of streets and bicycle lanes, we choose to get around, even for short distances, on public and private vehicles. The WHO recommends 9 square meters of open space per person; unfortunately, we only have 5 square meters per person in Metro Manila.

Therefore, we applaud our national government’s efforts to launch the "Green, Green, Green" program through the Department of Budget and Management. By implementing this program, financial assistance will be given to 145 cities, so they could develop more public open spaces like botanical gardens, forest parks, and greenhouses and carry out other activities and urban design improvements like tree planting, adding more landscape, installing bike lanes and walkways, creating greener streetscapes, and adding other forms of green infrastructure. With our expertise in architectural and engineering design, master planning, urban design, urban and regional planning, and environmental and urban analytics, we have been very fortunate to be involved in the planning and design of a variety of walkable, bikable, green, and vibrant public spaces for the private and public sectors.

 Some of our most notable projects that include the vibrant designs of parks and open spaces, promenades, waterfronts, playgrounds, and walkable and bikable streetscapes include the Metro Davao Urban Master Plan, the Master Development Plan for Clark Freeport Zone, the Pampanga Megalopolis, Pasig River Rehabilitation, Marikina River Redevelopment, Ortigas Center Master Redevelopment Plan and Urban Design, Manila Urban Renewal, Tangub Gardens of the World, Araneta Center Redevelopment, San Fernando City Civic Center Master Plan and Urban Streetscape, Comprehensive Site Planning and Urban Design and Revision of Land Use and Zoning of the City of San Juan, Malay Master Plan for Tourism, Iloilo Business Park, the Zamboanga Conceptual Development Plan, and the Expansion of Asian Development Bank Manila.

For us, even the notorious traffic in EDSA is not hopeless. At Palafox, we believe one-third of streets should be for people, one-third for trees and landscaping, and one-third for vehicles. Thus, it is possible for EDSA to be walkable and bikable by adding elevated pedestrian walkways with bicycle lanes from end to end. These walkways can feature vibrant urban design, street furniture, and commercial kiosks — offering safe passage from moving vehicles below. To make EDSA healthier and aesthetically vibrant, we propose green infrastructure like linear parks and pocket parks. Building pedestrian bicycle bridges every 800 meters across the Pasig, San Juan and Marikina Rivers and other waterways will also make it easier for more people to just walk or ride their bicycles to where they need to go.  

As we celebrate our firm’s 31st anniversary on July 1st, our commitment and aspiration to help develop greener cities all throughout our country are stronger than ever. We advocate and walk the talk on green development initiatives and promote our 12 Green Advocacies: green architecture, green urbanism, green technology, green energy, green interior, green furniture, green infrastructure, green manufacturing, green transportation, green purchasing, green jobs, and green sustainable development. Guided by our core design principle of “Integral Ecology” — balancing social equity or people first with protecting and conserving natural environments, inclusive economic growth, culture, history, and spirituality — we endeavor to continue planning and designing communities and cities that are people-centric, more livable, healthier, sustainable, and resilient. In the middle of the global pandemic, we believe enhancing our healthy and natural spaces and adding more green infrastructure to our urban and rural landscapes are a few of the best ways we can adapt well into the post-pandemic new world order. This health crisis has presented a chance for us to expand our vision and understanding of planning to help create truly livable communities and cities. There is no excuse for inaction. We have to take hold of this opportunity one green initiative at a time.