[PHOTO AT LEFT - This convergence of three main thoroughfares — Ayala Avenue, Paseo de Roxas and Makati Avenue — forms part of the Ayala Triangle Gardens (ATG), “the biggest landscape in the heart of the Makati CBD” measuring 20,000 square meters and planted to over a hundred trees and tropical foliage.]

MAKATI, DECEMBER 19, 2009 (STAR) PERSPECTIVES By Tanya T. Lara - Behind every great city lies a great skyline. More often than not, these buildings are located in the central business district (CBD), a city’s financial and commercial heart. New York has Wall Street and Midtown Manhattan with the iconic Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, Shanghai has Puxi, London has Leeds, Hong Kong has Central, and Sao Paolo has Brooklin.

Any photograph of the Philippine skyline is most often than not Makati’s, the country’s major financial and commercial hub. And when you talk about Makati, you talk about three major arteries — Ayala Avenue, Paseo de Roxas and Makati Avenue — where the city’s most iconic buildings, and headquarters of top companies, are located.

Ayala Triangle is the center of the central business district. And if seen from above — or even from street level — dotted as it is with trees and foliage it is clear that, as it has always been, this will be the lungs of a very busy CBD.

This convergence of three avenues forms part of the Ayala Triangle Gardens (ATG), described as “the biggest landscape in the heart of the Makati CBD” measuring 20,000 square meters and planted to over a hundred trees and tropical foliage. Tower One is just the first of the towers planned for the Ayala Triangle Gardens.

The master plan for the Ayala Triangle Gardens was developed by Ayala Land’s Innovation and Design Group headed by chief architect Joel Luna. Landscape architecture was undertaken by E-Group.

Luna says the plan was “a result of a collaboration between the design consultants, the project proponents, and the various resident technical teams of ALI. Even ALI chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala was involved, given the significance of the project and its location.”

Ayala Land vice president and group head for Strategic Landbank Management Meean B. Dy says, “The vision has always been clear in our minds — we wanted a civic space where people can converge, maybe even open their laptops because the area is a WiFi hotspot powered by Globe. We want it to be a place where people can relax and unwind. While the gardens primarily serve as a pedestrian thoroughfare connecting the office workers to the major transit terminals at Ayala Center, we want them to linger a bit, pause for a break before they catch a ride going home. We also knew that if done right, this would be a place everyone can be proud of. We had to translate this vision into the design, the hardware of the gardens, the operational guidelines and even the programs that we put in place.”

Luna says the concept of the Ayala Triangle Gardens was “inspired by the many public spaces, plazas and parks in many parts of the world such as New York’s Stanley Park. The theme was dictated by several things — the existing mature trees that we had to preserve, the context of the site given that it is where the center of Philippine business is located, the history of the property as a former airstrip during WWII, and benchmarks of successful public outdoor places in other countries.”

He adds that they had to inject local attributes to the design — filling the space with shade trees, local plants and shrubs, and sculptures by local artists for a more festive atmosphere. “The result is a corporate outdoor space that I think is very unique in the sense that it evokes a sense of festivity in a very corporate setting. This makes the space less intimidating, yet not too casual — a kind of outdoor living room for the whole CBD.”

Dy reveals some of the exciting elements that will be incorporated in the master plan. There will be a pedestrian thoroughfare that will link Salcedo and Legazpi Villages and bring access to the various modes of public transport in the city. There will be open spaces that will be an oasis for the buildings all around and, as such, a natural attraction to the busy workers of the city who are seeking a break from their daily work lives. It’s a space where people can take advantage of mature trees that create a canopy to protect them against sun and rain.

“ALI has been known to create spaces that encourage community building. We do this in our malls and residential developments and we are doing it again here in the Triangle Gardens,” she says.

The Ayala Triangle Gardens is as open to its surrounding environment as it is literally open to nature. It has a program focused on art and culture that are not private but are open to all in the CBD. “These programs are deliberate, they are well-planned and they convey the spirit of the Central Business District — classic, timeless, progressive, not just done by masters but also by contemporary artists like Ovvian Castrillo and Ral Arrogante whose art pieces are currently on display,” says Dy.

Luna adds that the project was already in the planning stages when the global financial crisis hit in 2008. “The decision to even push through with a project of a civic nature was one of the struggles that the project team had to confront early on,” he says. “Several tradeoffs and hard design decisions had to be made. We had to balance our aspirations with the realities of the times, and the plans had to go through a lot of iterations, making sure we provide what is essential and meaningful by staying focused with the main goal of the project — which was to provide a pleasant venue for social interaction for the workers, commuters and residents of the business district and thereby reinvigorate and give something back to the CBD.”

He emphasizes that what makes Ayala Triangle Gardens unique is its size and location, being flanked as it is by the three main thoroughfares of Makati. “It is literally located in the center of the business district and is the home of the Philippine Stock Exchange. And yet it is also the largest commercial property in Makati that has remained largely undeveloped all these decades. Thus, much like what the gardens in Greenbelt have done for Makati and what Bonifacio High Street has done for Bonifacio Global City, the development of the Triangle will be similar in terms of catalyzing activity, generating social convergence, and providing a respite for workers and residents. What makes it unique is that it also happens to be where several commuters from Salcedo and Legazpi Villages pass through every day to get their rides, given the centrality of its location. This natural daily flow of people gives further meaning to the function of the gardens. The fact that we are able to provide a pleasing environment for commuters to pass through and linger for a few minutes before going home makes the Triangle Gardens unique from other gardens that Ayala has done in the past in terms of the experience and relevance we aspire to deliver.”

Ayala Land recently opened just the first phase and they expect the Triangle Gardens to evolve over time, adding activities and features. The immediate next phase will be food outlets fronting the gardens primarily to serve the users of the place.

The target locators are prime companies “and just like in Tower One, we would like to capture the Philippine headquarters of local and international corporations to have their place of business here. We also foresee that the Triangle will have a richer mix of uses in the future — prime retail and hotels alongside the office buildings will further strengthen the place and add to its civic vibrancy and its locational stature,” says Luna.

Why is this large chunk of prime real estate property being developed just now? Luna avers that this development is just one part of a bigger and continuing effort to continuously enhance the quality of environment in Makati CBD. “This started with the construction of the dedicated pedestrian walkways and crossings in the CBD, then the redevelopment of the Salcedo and Legazpi Parks (which, by the way, also breathed new life into those sections of the CBD), the continuing redevelopment of Glorietta and Greenbelt, and now the Ayala Triangle Gardens. All of these are part of the continuous push towards a more pedestrian-friendly environment for the CBD. The opening of the gardens is just one stage of several other future projects in Makati that will focus on pedestrianization and transit-orientation.”

He adds that the landscaped areas and walkways that were built in mid-1990s were redeveloped and expanded into the gardens that you see today. “The previous gardens were not being utilized sufficiently and we noticed that there is a need for more outdoor areas in the city for people to jog or walk. The intent is for the gardens to remain as such even after the succeeding buildings in the Triangle are constructed.”

Luna foresees that the Triangle Gardens will change the way the CDB is seen both by Makati employees and by people who are there for leisure. “Makati is a place for productivity. There has to be something in the congested, fast-paced city to make it worthwhile. The garden is in the middle of the city. Our main target is the office workers. Most of them try their luck here and have to be here to be with their employers or customers. We want to make sure that they are here not because they have to be here but because they want to be here.”

Dy says the impact of the Gardens will be much more than adding to the present skyline. “In general, being in Makati will be an altogether more pleasurable experience. While we associate Makati with work and productivity, there are certain aspects about this city that also make it endearing and aspirational — the gardens will hopefully add to this. It will also make walking more pleasurable and convenient and give an alternative breathing space for the busy office workers and, in the future, it will have retail especially for the lunch crowd and after-office get-togethers. The programs we will be putting together, such as the Christmas light show, will create a new tradition for the CBD. Something that is special that we can all enjoy and something that we look forward to every year.”

The Ayala Triangle Gardens may even change the way other CBDs in the country will be built. “We are so used to boardrooms and beautiful buildings but to be productive in an open space is a treat,” says Luna. “We hope you feed your soul, you get to know other people whom you wouldn’t if you were inside your room. The Ayala Triangle Gardens is a place where you can get rejuvenated. It should have spaces where you can breathe, think differently or socialize in a different format or do a different kind of networking.”

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Catch The Symphony of Lights at the Ayala Triangle Gardens from Dec. 14 to 19, and 21 to 24. Every 30 minutes from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Bring the family. Invite your friends.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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