Designing the Manileño dream

Not many will contradict me if I say that the works of fantasy writer Neil Gaiman and sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov are especially noteworthy for their world-building, for conjuring up a specific universe that we are happy to be transported to time and time again. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that these are the two favorite authors of William Ti Jr., principal architect at WTA Architecture + Design Studio.

WTA’s Ti is behind the masterplan development of Horizon Manila; and going beyond the pages of his go-to writers, he’s responsible for the blueprint of the tri-island community that would rise from the murky depths of Manila Bay, and be part of a bright Manileño future. That’s futuristic, three-dimensional world-building of its own order!

Perspective of Horizon Manila's Central Park created by WTA Architecture + Design Studio.

For Ti, working with JBros Construction Corporation has been a true pleasure. “It’s rare to find a client with the same vision and aspirations, and even rarer to find one willing to carry this out. Throughout our partnership, it has consistently been about how we could make the project better. In the end, that’s all we can wish for in any project -- designing the best.”

With a master’s degree in urban design from the National University of Singapore, and bachelor’s degree in architecture from UST, Ti sees WTA as an extended family of thinkers, caring about the studio’s legacy, and making architecture foremost about people. This is intimately connected to what working on Manileño, Horizon Manila’s Master Plan, has come to mean to him.

William Ti Jr., principal architect at WTA Architecture + Design Studio.

“We’ve worked on various masterplans in the past. The previous largest would be that for the 90-hectare Alabang Global City. Horizon Manila is, by far, the largest project we’ve tackled. It’s one of our most exciting projects not just because of its scale, but also because it’s about improving and changing the City of Manila. I grew up in Tondo, so Manila will always have a special place in my heart,” says Ti. “How I am and what I do as an architect are largely influenced by the people and neighborhoods of Manila.”

Describing the masterplan Manileño, Ti says it reflects the essence and character of Manila.

“Manila has always been a city with distinct, organically-evolved neighborhoods. You walk from one neighborhood to the next, and you see the distinct character of each. We wanted to recreate this in Horizon Manila with 28 distinct communities settled along a river valley, which we created with a canal and linear park.”

With a fresh, unhindered mandate, one not defined by land use and zoning, Horizon Manila will be defined by the character of these distinct communities. The plan is to have simultaneous growth anchors, which will hasten, not just the development of the new city, but also the unique character of each neighborhood. Urban planning is evolving toward a more organic and flexible framework upon which we grow communities.

“Sustainability must be seen as a systemic challenge. The most unsustainable part of Mega Manila’s development has been the constant expansion of sprawling suburban bedroom communities. This has created a daily migration for millions, consuming an inordinate amount of fossil fuel, and leading to a horrible commuter lifestyle,” observes Ti.

“Horizon Manila is a unique in-city master plan that will rejuvenate Manila. With the Green Plot Ratio, we are delivering 300 hectares of green space to the suffocating people of Manila. The more inclusive we can make the heart of our city, the more we will be able to lessen urban sprawl and preserve our green belts.”

If you need any more convincing on how “in” he is on this masterplan, that JBros isn’t just another feather on the cap of WTA’s roster of clients, Ti has this to say: “I look forward to living at Horizon Manila -- being able to go back to Manila and grow old there will be like a ‘coming home’ for me.”