Contemporary Evaluation of Burnham’s Plan from the Philippine Architect and Urban Planner – Felino A. Palafox Jr.
“These observations and recommendations (in Burnham’s plan) are more than a hundred years old, but are still relevant to strike a chord with planners and architects in the Philippines.” – Palafox, 2005.
Instead of an academic approach, this narrative discusses Burnham’s Plan of Manila from a practical approach – its implementation to the current urban planning of Manila.
Burnham’s Manila Plan is only partially realized on the architectural scale (The Executed Public Institutions of Manila Plan) and thus is regarded as an unrealized project on the urban scale. The aspiration of street systems, parks and parkways, zoning for various urban programs is nowhere to be found in the city.
“Today’s picture of Manila is a congested city suffering from disrepair and social maladies. Along with historic developments in Manila comes the rapid population growth significantly so because of the continuing influx of migrants from other provinces.” – Palafox, 2005
Felino A. Palafox Jr., a well-known Philippine architect and urban planner, sees the potential of Burnham’s plan as a foundation for Manila’s future urban development. In his research paper Manila Megapolis 2021 and Beyond: A Vision Plan Towards Vertical Urbanism, he affirms Burnham’s plan and regards it as a “missed opportunity” for Manila’s urban planning. Departing from Burnham’s plan, he set forth a series of urban strategies for Manila’s future development, envisioning Manila would eventually become what Burnham expected – “Pearl of the Orient”.
Burnham’s plan of Manila is the first transport road-oriented and metropolitan-wide plan. (Palafox, 2015) The street systems, the wide boulevards, and the waterways of the Pasig River are able to alleviate the serious congestion problem that Manila still has today.
The “breathing spaces” under City Beautiful Movement is able to lessen the pollution and simultaneously create recreational spaces for citizens. Palafox pointed out that, according to Burnham, these spaces “provide healthy activities to for those citizens who could not afford to travel and heavily reliant on the city to provide recreational and cultural enrichment.” (2014) This responds to the social economic disparity in Manila’s contemporary society.
Burnham’s idea of providing proper location for buildings of various programs is a means to strengthen urban resilience. (Palafox, 2014) For instance, placing the schools in Santa Mesa Heights prevents the school from flooding and detaches the educational program from the hectic city. “The higher grounds north and east of Manila is well-adapted for demanding a quiet location but still conveniently accessible from the city.” (Palafox, 2014)
Palafox’s urge to re-implement Burnham’s plan justifies its importance to Manila’s city planning. Although it has been over one hundred years, the suggestions are still applicable to contemporary Manila. In addition, the arguments made by Palafox are not merely a historical evaluation, his intention to carry out the plan is apparent in his frequent newspaper entries. Through the newspaper, he appeals for public awareness on Burnham’s plan, particularly calling for attention from the politician and government officials – people who actually determine Manila’s city planning.