Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Neo-Urban Plan suggestion on power shortages in Manila by Diego Maranan

Brownouts back in oven-hot Metro, Luzon

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:16:00 04/08/2010

Filed Under: Electricity Production & Distribution, Energy
MANILA, Philippines—As if the sizzling summer were not enough, rotating brownouts are back in Metro Manila and Luzon, shutting down air-conditioners and electric fans that help people cope with the heat.
Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s biggest power distributor, said all cities and towns in its franchise area were affected by the outages Wednesday as a result of the huge power supply deficit in the Luzon grid.

Diego Maranan suggests:

Link all the equipment in manila's gyms to power-generating
mechanism so that everytime we go on the treadmill or lift weights, we
generate electricity that is stored somewhere and is used to power...
i don't know, a giant parol. street lights. traffic lights. a
mechanical art installation.

Or if not all manila's gyms, then have a stationary bike,
power-generation center.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Show Us Your City: Neo-Urban Planner
Accord­ing to artist Mark Salvatus, Manila is a bust­ling city cry­ing out for rein­ven­tion at a town-planning level — a rein­ven­tion which is too import­ant to leave to the plan­ners — and which requires input from all it’s residents.

“We are affected by these prob­lems in the Metro Manila; why don’t we cure these prob­lems ourselves?” Asks Salvatus | Image cour­tesy of Mark Salvatus

For his Show Us Your City entry Mark sub­mit­ted Neo-Urban Plan­ner, a call for dis­cus­sion into the ways Manila can be reshaped, and an “online sug­ges­tion box” and start­ing point for engaged urb­an­ism. Rather than pon­der­ing the pos­sib­il­it­ies all on his own Mark sent a call out to fel­low city dwell­ers, while in res­id­ency at the Green Papaya Art Pro­jects, to get their input and solutions.

The sug­ges­ted solu­tions been thought­ful and play­ful, respond­ing to local chal­lenges — from sea­sonal flood­ing to trans­port issues to the spread­ing con­crete grey of a rap­idly grow­ing city — in invent­ive ways, and have come from sources as diverse as local artists, chil­dren and the Mayor of Bogota, Colombia.

“These are sug­ges­tions from the cit­izens and for the bene­fit of the cit­izens,” Mark told Varsit­arian. “We are affected by these prob­lems in the Metro Manila; why don’t we cure these prob­lems ourselves?”

“I’ve lived in the city most of my life,” Salvatus told the pub­lic­a­tion. “I have exper­i­enced the chaos of Metro Manila, and as an artist, I want to improve city life.”

“Neo-urban plan­ning some­what became a plat­form to present the people’s cre­at­ive ideas for change in their cit­ies, and even­tu­ally present these ideas to local officials.”

The pro­ject gets us all think­ing: how would you re-shape your city?

Mark Salvatus is one of the short­l­is­ted entrants in our Show Us Your City com­pet­i­tion. Explore per­sonal jour­neys through the most cre­at­ive cit­ies in East Asia with a walk in Seoul, a trib­ute to the sub­urbs of Sydney, a peek into the cre­at­ive spaces of Manila, or, in Sin­g­apore, through a photo diary or a study of con­tested spaces. Stay tuned for more!

INTERSTITIAL SPACE ALTERNATIVES Neo-Urban Plan submission by Ma. Deborah Virata

There are many unused spaces in the urban setup.  One of these are the spaces under the LRT Station.   Why not put the public toilets under the LRT.  The sidewalks we have right now in Metro Manila are already too narrow and adding public toilets here will only be an obstacle along the walkway.  Spaces under the LRT are not used so why not make them useful.   The walls can also serve as a canvass for creative graffiti of artists.  Utilizing stone cladding on walls and putting in more plants also add warmth on the overall ambience of the city.   

Another option is to just add more plants to make the urban spaces more relaxing.  Why not plant bamboos?  It can resist strong winds and are also very easy to grow and easy to propagate.

Ma. Deborah Virata is an Architecture student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Neo-Urban Plan @ The Varsitarian

Painting the town GREEN

MANY Filipinos who experience traffic jams, knee-deep floods and crater-riddled streets share the dream of rebuilding Metro Manila.
Now, they can give their recommendations on how to rehabilitate the metropolis through an online suggestion box spearheaded by street artist Mark Salvatus.
“I’ve lived in the city most of my life,” Salvatus said. “I have experienced the chaos of Metro Manila, and as an artist, I want to improve city life.”
Salvatus, a UST Fine Arts alumni, launched last February the Neo-Urban Planner, as part of his residency at the Green Papaya Art Projects, an artist-run space in Kamuning, Quezon City.
Salvatus started his Neo-Urban Planner endeavor through his blogspot account, where he posted a blog entry asking readers what they would like to change the most in their environment.
The artist said he posted questions such as, ‘If you were Bayani Fernando as the head of the MMDA, what do you want to change about our city?”
The blog post attracted a lot of feedback and suggestions.

continue reading here. 

James C. Talon with reports from Alphonsus Luigi E. Alfonso and Maria Joanna Angela D. Cruz

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Manila from outer space

I've been following Astro_Soichi on twitter, taking photos from the Space Shuttle Endeavour
follow him

Neo-Urban Plan update: Pananaw 7

Art and its Public/s | Broad topic: Art of/degrees of Engagement
by Lisa Ito

Locally and globally, this triennium from 2007 to 2009 was anything but serene and stable—with the unfolding downfall of the global economic oligarchy and monopoly capital, the rising threat of climate change, and intermittent disturbances throughout this archipelago of unrest.

Inescapably, such an untenable situation has left its mark—whether overtly or implicitly—in the ways that visual artists have responded to the calls of creativity. Among the impressions that the numerous exhibitions and artist initiatives from 2007-2009 have left, it is the reminder that Philippine art remains a potent response to socially-situated realities: a journey of dismantling and discarding, constructing and reconstructing, seeking the invisible and reinventing the visible.

This article attempts to thread through a quad of four disparate art projects exploring intersections between art and social reality. Situated from 2007 to 2009 in various spaces (from state cultural institutions to commercial galleries, as well as “non-art” sites of struggle from the rural areas right to the distended bowels of Metropolitan Manila), the exhibitions refresh reflections on the role of the artist in society and demonstrate how art, in activist-scholar Lucy Lippard's words, acts a “powerful partner to the didactic statement, speaking its own language...and sneaking subversively into interstices where didacticism and rhetoric can't pass.”

Confronting Urbanities, Embracing Ecologies

While the HOC workshops are situated as a response to various intersectional traumas (personal and political, racial and economic), another recent art initiative focuses on engaging facets of urbanity: the Neo-Urban Planner online project by University of Santo Tomas-based cross-disciplinary artist Mark Salvatus, as part of his residency program for Green Papaya.

Channelling the Internet and blogging as technological tools for engagement, Salvatus issued a call early this year for public submissions to reimagine and reinvent the Philippine's urban centers and their motley landscapes of crime and grime. This, of course, poses quite a conceptual challenge for a territory plagued by unprecedented environmental degradation (the World Health Organization counted Manila among the five dirtiest cities in terms of air pollution worldwide in 2005), extreme congestion and rising poverty (20 million urban poor Filipinos in slum communities).

Salvatus' brainchild is perhaps a personal response to the growth of urban sprawl since the 1970s –fuelled by growing dislocation from the countryside yet compounded by the dearth of urban employment opportunities. With both manufacturing and agriculture down, a situation ensues where the state of urbanization seen is not necessarily contiguous to development or national industrialization. As cofounder of Pilipinas Street Plan artists community, Salvatus' previous engagements in bringing art out into the metropolis (through graffiti and other street art forms) now takes a reverse tack and tries to bring the city into art space this time around.

The project is an exercise in changing the landscape of the metropolis and an interesting counterpoint to the practices of the infamous Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the government agency which chalked up a lengthy list of controversies in pursuing the metropolitan transformations it conceptualized (lightning demolitions of urban poor communities, displacements of street vendors, construction of an elevated U-turn overpass, the Valentine's Day massacre of trees along Katipunan Avenue, urban 'facelifts' that painted the city in ubiquitous Sanrio pink and blue). Salvatus asks the public re-imagine their selves in the place of the MMDA, identified with huge dispensatory and administrative mandate over the metropolitan landscape, and to do as they wish.

Interestingly, the reference to the MMDA in the Neo-Urban Planner project finds resonance in Fallen Map, where Anading's fallen pieces of gaily-colored rubble recall the swaths of “MMDA art” (a “beautification” program aiming to literally whitewash and overlay the works of vandals-- including graffiti and revolutionary or progressive slogans--with gay geometrical designs) but then break that allusion down into a crumbling edifice. Far from pursuing the path of MMDA art, Neo-Urban Planner directs improvement and creativity towards community-centric advancement rather than expanding state-sponsored aberrations. Speaking from the point of view as a citizen-artist, Salvatus asks: What is our role in changing the city?

Following the online responses to the artist's call for neo-urban planners were ideas that were green, clean, people-friendly and doable–no pink overpasses and community demolitions this time around. Ranging from backyard tips to city-wide plans, these belied a concern for upholding the ecological, cultural, and economical: a (finally) clean Pasig River, comprehensive mass transportation and railway system, urban planning around architectural heritage, contingency plans for the perenially-submerged Camanava (Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas,
-Valenzuela) district, canopied streets, judicious use of concrete, and small-scale adoption of renewable energy technologies. In the process of soliciting suggestions, Salvatus later on engaged in a collaborative community-based art workshop with children from the Parola compound in Binondo, Manila, using clay art to model their aspirations for the city where they were born.


This paper was presented in collaboration with Lauren Villarama of UP-D CSSP at the 31st (UGAT) Ugnayang Pang-Aghamtao / Anthropological Association of the Philippines Annual Conference
"The (Re)Making of Cities and its Consequences."
22-24 October 2009
Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City

The Neo-Urban Plan

The Neo-Urban Plan is an ongoing online project initiated by multimedia artist Mark Salvatus. Through the blog Neo-Urban Planner, he called for ideas on how to ‘improve’ or ‘change’ cities. Salvatus aimed to make the project as the bridging tool for an interactive dialogue between the city and the people who live in it. Salvatus envisioned the project to be a platform to present creative change coming from the people/”city dwellers” themselves, and that the ideas they come up with would eventually be presented to city administrators, local officials, and yes, the MMDA. The project did not specify any particular city or urban area—participants were free to choose the locale of their suggestions. The project sparked interest from different sectors—plans were received from individuals and organizations of different backgrounds, and prompting these “neo-urban planners” to present their ideas amid an audience.

To jumpstart the project, Mark Salvatus posted a ‘sample plan’: putting hanging gardens on footbridges. He also suggested the use of boats for Manila’s CaMaNaVa area, referring to the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela. These areas experience perennial flooding even when there are no heavy rains, due to its location by bay. Salvatus toyed with the idea to ‘convert’ parts of CaMaNaVa into floating markets—much like that of Thailand. “I have been to the floating market and someone told me that it was a flood zone area. The residents made it sustainable by turning their flooded community into a market and a tourist spot,” Salvatus wrote in the Neo-Urban Planner blog. His urban plan then was to make the most out of a problem—turning this into a solution. Of course, it would be better if those living in those areas would come up with this idea on their own.

Here are just a few of the submissions for the Neo-Urban Plan so far:

Setting the mood with photography. The project launch opened with a slideshow presentation of images taken around Manila by photo enthusiast Gem Urdaneta. The presentation became a guessing/memory game of sorts as the audience tried to identify what the shots were of and where these were taken. It “set the mood” for an urban-centric discussion and made the audience “re-view” the city and its structures that are often taken for granted when one sees it on a daily basis.

Greening the city. Educator Diego Maranan laid out a detailed plan:

1) Have 80% of all exposed cement, concrete, or metal in the city covered in a creeping plant of some sort, like ivy
2) Find or bioengineer great, big, tall, sturdy, flexible trees that can withstand typhoons and have massive canopies and blanket the city under interlocking canopies
3) Ban the use of concrete in certain areas or certain structures. Only volcanic ash, wood, bamboo, recycled plastic, rubber, brick, mud, straw, whatever is appropriate
4) Link all the equipment in Manila's gyms to a power-generating mechanism so that every time we go on the treadmill or lift weights, we generate electricity that is stored somewhere and is used to power... Street lights. Traffic lights. A mechanical art installation. Or if not all of Manila's gyms, then have a stationary bike/power-generation center.
5) Go to communities and ask people to model their ideal version of the city using children's clay.

Comfort for all. Art writer Clarissa Chikiamco suggested turning the for-males-only urinals into “real” public toilets in bus stops.

More than just child’s play. Interestingly, from the online project Salvatus also received an invitation to conduct a workshop at the Museo Pambata in Manila about mapping and clay city planning together with the Children’s Advocates Program. The workshop, titled “Clay City,” allowed the children residing in the Parola Compound in Tondo, Manila to be urban planners for a day (February 28, 2009). The workshop also supported Diego Maranan’s suggestion to ask people to model their ideal version of the city using children’s clay.

Aside from the submitted suggestions for the Neo-Urban Plan, the initiating artist invited individuals and groups who deal with the urban environment as their subject of interest to weekly presentations at the host gallery. The presentations ranged from art talks, visual art exhibitions, and film screenings. These presentations gave an insight to the urban culture that inspired the participants.

Graffiti artists presented a short audio-visual on why they paint the streets; a discussion on the skating culture of Manila was also conducted; and even the emerging alternative sport parkour was given its time in the NUP limelight. Young contemporary conceptual artists created visual and audio representations/interpreta
tions of the city (Wesley Valenzuela for the visual aspect and Buen Calubayan for the sound art). Wesley Valenzuela’s graphic images morph into layers of human figures with other familiar elements of the streets of Manila.

The presentations, though not suggestions for change as called for by the NUP, nonetheless showed the urbanscape and lifestyle as experienced and expressed by the graffiti artists, skaters, parkours, and conceptual artists who participated in the project. The sharing of ideas and thoughts about the city created for them a placeworld—a shared understanding of the city, of what the city is for them—that is worth exploring.

Implications of the NUP Project
At this point it is important to note that, with the exception of the children of Parola Compund, most of the suggestions and presentations were by people from Salvatus’ own network of young artists and urban culture ‘colleagues’. Nonetheless, to derive their sense of aesthetics, it is necessary to ask “why” in inquiring the reason behind the suggestions.

[The next ‘phase’ of the project (and the ongoing study) should then be a more in-depth analysis of the submitted suggestions and presentations. How did they arrive at these ideas?]

The NUP, in creating a shared understanding of urban space as experienced by the participants, created a placeworld with a common view of urban culture—hip, expressive, leaning on the visual, and questioning what is functional and aesthetic. In submitting their suggestions and presentations, the participants of the NUP allowed us to look at their own aesthetics and sense of what is appropriate for a place, what their city should have.

Looking back at the suggestions cited here, we can give a short analysis of what constitutes the placeworld of the participants and their sense of aesthetics as they exercised it: for example, in Diego Maranan’s suggestion, exposed cement, concrete, or metal in the city should be covered in a creeping plant, like ivy. This could mean that “bare” exposed cement is aesthetically ‘lacking’ or unappealing, and also, considering the rest of his suggestion, he would like to have a ‘green’ city with its own power-generating capacities. In turn, what do his suggestions imply about the city? We must also note that he was the one who suggested asking people to model their ideal version of the city. This certainly is a participatory activity that can be part of future urban planning. On another aspect, Clarissa Chikiamco’s suggestion to create public toilets for males and females is an implication of the desire to have an equal comfort zone for all, not just for the males who need to pass water every now and then. The suggestion looks more aesthetically appealing too (as for the “olfactory aesthetics” however, we’ll just have to see).

The initiating artist’s own suggestion, to use boats for flood-prone areas, turning these into livelihood must-haves not only used for fishing but also for trade, suggests a growing consciousness of climate change and a sense of necessity for climate change adaptation, to be proactive instead of reactive.

Taking off from the sustainable suggestions, the Neo-Urban Plan also hosted a mini-exhibit of the winners of the YP Design Challenge, a competition that “seeks to encourage young design professionals to apply their creative abilities and design skills to projects addressing real community needs.” The winning designs, according to Salvatus, can be models for housing institutions and providers like the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Gawad Kalinga. The suggestion was for these institutions to consider the type of designs lauded in the competition—low-cost and environment-friendly housing but with a very high aesthetic value—in the houses they build.

The Neo-Urban Plan, as an exercise in ethnoaesthetics, elicited people’s vision of a city and the changes that they would like to see made to improve their surroundings and the way they live. It also opened our eyes to certain aspects of the process of urban planning that may have been lacking—in particular, the engagement of those who live in the city. Through the NUP, previously disempowered individuals and groups were given a semblance of power to control how cities look, a form of artistic license to participate in the production of designed spaces. From passive viewers of the changes going on in the city (including the pink-and-bluing), the participants became proactive urban planners, albeit only visually, online, or through projects and activities such as the design competition and clay city building. As art writer Lisa Ito put it, the Neo-Urban Plan “directs improvement and creativity towards community-centric advancement rather than expanding state-sponsored aberrations.”

‘Inward’ thoughts
One thing I learned by doing community development work is that when people have a sense of ownership, they tend to protect or take care of what is owned and not alien structures. When one sees more of the self in programs, projects, and structures, one becomes more responsible, and there is a conscious effort to build or work toward the advancement of these programs and, in the context of this study, structures. Thus, a strategy used by local governments is to say “alagaan ang lungsod—atin ito,” to instill a sense of community and to elicit cooperation. Note that most vandals are on walls and structures marked “government property.”

The Neo-Urban Plan is an example of a ground-up instead of a top-down plan for a city, to use terms commonly used in community development. This gives ‘urban development’ a positive meaning to people, instead of connoting that ‘development’ simply means more sidewalk clearing operations, more (not-so-people-friendly) footbridges, and more concrete.

Recommendations and Challenges

What’s next for the project?
• The project has had a good start in providing an avenue for the expression of ethnoaesthetics. The continuation of the project is crucial in maintaining a dialogue about how people experience their placeworlds and in eliciting ideas for development.
• The ideas and suggestions submitted for the NUP would remain ‘in the air’ unless these are realized/put to action/concretized with the cooperation and participation of the governing bodies concerned, in particular, local city planners and yes, the MMDA.
• It is also recommended that more participatory activities in urban planning are conducted, not only in Metro Manila, but in other areas as well. Local governments and city planners together with the communities may collaborate and conduct their own ‘versions’ of the project, with participatory aesthetics as the main idea behind the planning. The resulting project must enable communities to express their own visions of and ambitions for public space—why waste funds on structures that have no meaning for a people?
• Taking off from the earlier suggestions, it would be best to include plans for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (as is appropriate per area) in future ideas.

What’s next for anthropology?
The challenge for Philippine anthropology now is to use our knowledge of ethnoaesthetics and the significance of placeworlds in pursuing studies related to space (conflicting spaces, embodied spaces, etc.), urban aesthetics, and urban planning and be able to apply these to wherever these are appropriate and necessary.


The Children's Advocacy Program or CAP is an alternative educational program that aims to help children understand and appreciate their roles in their families, schools, communities, and in society. It uses the child-to-child approach wherein children advocates serve as mentors who help inspire other disadvantaged Filipino children through outreach activities in schools and communities. Children advocates are chosen from various street children centers and disadvantaged communities and are exposed to workshops, field trips and film showings to enhance their awareness on identity, nation-building, rights and values formation. CAP is a venue for children to learn how to formulate ideas and speak their minds on issues affecting them. []


WEDNESDAYS i'm-n-love OPEN PLATFORM RESIDENCY (WOP) is an experimental and creative laboratory for new artistic explorations in contemporary visual arts, performance, and new media. Six local artists/curators/researchers have been selected to present their current tendencies and creative investigations for a once-week critical exchange via screenings, conversations, performance and temporal exhibitions for a period of two months at Green Papaya Art Projects. During the residency the artists will develop and/or produce their works (literary, writing, video, performance, painting and plastic art) referenced on the creative environment and experience brought about by the Wednesdays happenings while negotiating the exigencies of documentation and archiving. The outputs of all six participants will be presented in a culminating exhibition and publication after one year of WOP Residency completion as part of Green Papaya's calendar for 2009. W.O.P RESIDENCY is a program of Green Papaya Art Projects and supported by Arts Network Asia. []

Young, Jane M. (1998). Ethnoaesthetics. in Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music and Art (Hardcover). Edited by Thomas A. Green. Published by ABC-CLIO.

Gordon, Eric & Gene Koo. (2008). Placeworlds: Using Virtual Worlds to Foster Civic Engagement. in
Space and Culture vol. 11 no. 3, August 2008 204-221. Sage Publications.

Ito, Lisa. (2009). Art and its Public/s | Broad topic: Art of/degrees of Engagement . Pananaw 7.