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REDISCOVER the Cultural Center of the Philippines – part 1

In line with the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) 40th year (and for archiving my stories as well), I am reposting here the first of the 2-part special report about CCP’s redevelopment plan which I co-wrote (my last big story for my newspaper job then).

Personally, I haven’t made any follow up on this story, as I ventured into business-lifestyle and personal finance writing. I do hope though the CCP, with the aid of true lovers and caretakers of Philippine arts and culture, will realize its vision and mission.

Posted on Monday, May 16, 2005

Grand plan to change face of Cultural Center complex
By Ayn Veronica De Jesus,  Subeditor and Lynda C. Corpuz, Contributor

First of two parts

The Cultural Center of Philippines (CCP) complex has long been considered the biggest white elephant in Pasay City.  Occupying a vast area on Roxas Boulevard’s reclaimed zone, the “untouchable” seat of the arts bears the stigma of the ill-gotten opulence of deposed President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda.  The masses have never been drawn to the complex, believing it be a symbol of inequality in the country.

That negative reputation may soon change. Efforts are finally moving to make the CCP complex not only as a symbol of Philippine heritage and arts but as a thriving commercial hub as well.

Today’s CCP complex has a variety of isolated establishments—the theater, a hotel, a theme park, a mass concert venue and a convention center.

The new development plan will change all that. The complex will evolve into a spanking new venue for the arts and culture, as well as a magnet for moneymaking ventures, in the tradition of Singapore’s Esplanade, Australia’s Sydney Opera House, New York’s Ground Zero, or even the controversial Hong Kong West Kowloon Cultural project.

Steering the vision
In charge of this colossal project is the CCP president, Nestor Jardin.

“The past CCP administrations had planned to develop the complex,” he said. “Several plans were drawn up [but] the present plan is the most comprehensive and the [only] one that went through a proper process.”

By “comprehensive,” Jardin meant that consultations were held with various groups to discuss the commercial viability of the plan.

“I needed to consult the CCP board, the management committee, the staff, patrons, resident artists, the media, businessmen and some government officials within one year in a series of meetings that covered everything from needs analysis, environmental issues, comparative analysis of similar projects abroad, public impact, environmental impact and everything else that one can think of that all stakeholders should discuss,” Jardin said.

“So far, I haven’t heard negative comments. In many parts of the world, in urban countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, New York and Los Angeles, they have used cultural facilities as a magnet for commerce.”

Jardin cited the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, which overcame skepticism to become a phenomenal success.

He is undaunted by competition from Hong Kong’s Kowloon project or Singapore’s Esplanade said. “They have hardware but we have the software. We have a rich heritage, and many of them are exporting our artists, our curators. We have a rich tradition of arts and culture. When the CCP is developed, it will make our arts and culture truly alive,” Jardin said.

World-class arts and culture
Over the years the absence of a comprehensive development plan for the CCP complex has turned it into a confused—almost chaotic—site for arts and cultural events, sports and recreation, convention and trade fairs, dining, transient living, and ferry terminal operations.

With the post-EDSA I ascension to power of the institution’s new set of officials in the mid-eighties, the wheels started to turn around plans to overhaul the complex.

To be sure, the plans were on a par with world-famous arts and culture centers, and in line with the CCP charter’s P.D. 15, which seeks:

  • The construction, establishment and maintenance, in a single site, of a national theater, a national music hall, an art gallery and other such buildings and facilities for conferences, concerts, seminars and the like;
  • To awaken people’s conscious cultural heritage and to encourage them to assist in its development, enhancement, preservation and promotion;
  • To cultivate and to enhance public interest in and appreciation of distinctive Philippine arts in various fields;
  • To discover, to assist and to develop talents connected with Philippine cultural pursuits, and to create greater opportunities for individual and national self-expression in cultural affairs; and
  • To encourage the organization of cultural groups, associations or societies, and the holding or the staging of cultural exhibitions, performances and similar activities.
    Development plan for the CCP complex

A key aspect in the development plan for the CCP complex is the site’s present condition.
The CCP complex sits on the Boulevard 2000 property, which covers about 1,500 hectares of reclaimed land along Manila Bay’s southern coast. Under the project, the 88-hectare CCP complex is designated as an arts and entertainment area.

Because it is located along Roxas Boulevard, in front of Manila Bay, and encompasses a two-kilometer waterfront, the complex is considered prime land for cultural and commercial development.

From the sixties to the late seventies, the developers staggered the reclamation of the property until it was completed. The landownership dispute from the seventies between the CCP, Republic Real Estate Corp., the Pasay City Government and Stonehill Corp. has also been settled: the Supreme Court ruled that the CCP is the legitimate owner of the property.

Today the complex is ripe for development.

Of the 88 hectares of land, only 62.4, or 71 percent, of the property are owned by the CCP.

Twenty-five hectares, or 29 percent, are owned and managed by various government agencies. For instance, the Government Service and Insurance System owns the land of the Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel, the Coconut Palace and Gloria Maris Restaurant. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas owns the Philippine International Convention Center. The Privatization and Management Office owns Star City.

With these measurements as the basis, the CCP administration bid out the project to several development companies.

In August 2002 the CCP bid out the services for drawing up the master and development plan for the CCP complex. Of the 10 bidders, which included urban development specialists Palafox and Associates and Locsin and Associates, Planning Resources and Operations Systems Inc. (PROS) emerged the winner.

“The plan is a group effort that would probably withstand even the changes in the CCP administration,” Jardin said confidently.

The master plan
PROS worked closely with the CCP board and management to flesh out the following objectives:

  • Develop the CCP complex as a center for arts and culture in Asia and the centerpiece of artistic expression of the Filipino soul and spirit;
  • Maximize the income potentials of CCP’s real properties;
  • Encourage private-sector participation in the development of the CCP complex; and
  • Promote private and public activities in the CCP complex.

In November 2003 PROS produced a two-volume CCP business and master development plan, which covered studies, research and recommendations on the following aspects:

  • Approach and methodology
  • The regional setting of the CCP
  • Existing site conditions
  • Potentials and challenges
  • The master plan
  • Access and circulation strategies
  • Engineering studies
  • Environmental management plan
  • The business plan
  • Program of implementation

Design guidelines and standards
Under the plan, 57.8 hectares of the 62.4-hectare property are due for development, including the existing CCP Main Building and the Production Design Center. Of the total land area, 50 percent will be used for artistic, residential, office and commercial spaces, and the rest as open public space.

The PROS plan allocates the land use area allocation as follows: “Each cluster shall be treated as a microcosm of the whole,” said Virginia Bactad, CCP assistant vice president for complex development, and PROS president Geronimo Manahan, in an interview with The Manila Times. Great care will also be taken to ensure that the complex events and concepts will be family-oriented, will cater to the A to D markets, and demonstrate the skills of primarily local performers.

“We do not want the CCP to be a Mall of Asia,” Bactad said.

The precinct approach below shows the land-use strategy of the plan.

A copy of the plan given to The Manila Times indicates that Cluster 1, tentatively named the Lucresia Reyes-Urtula Promenade in honor of the National Artist for Dance, will be the “cultural mall” of the complex.

This area will be an extension of the present Baywalk, with some areas leased to include (but not limited to) retail stores, cafés, restaurants, studios, galleries, residential lofts, commercial art galleries, bookstores and antique stores.  A visitor center, ferry terminal and yacht club facilities will be built to serve as gateways for visitors coming in from the bay.

Bactad said the idea of a gateway from the sea came about after Batangas residents expressed interest in attending performances. By sea the CCP complex is only 30 minutes from Batangas. The bay gateway will also serve as the entrance for elite tourists who choose to arrive by yacht.

Retail outlets in this cluster will feature the uniform concept of a katig, or outrigger, a layag, or sail (such as the planned Balay na Daku, or indoor congregation space), and the Palabas, or entrance marquee. The Promenade’s arts and cultural facilities will also include a contemporary art museum and the Lucresia Kasilag Circle.

Cluster 2, the Art Sanctuary, will be a purely cultural forefront as a strip solely dedicated to the arts, Bactad said.

With the CCP main building as the anchor, the proposed Performing Arts Theater is projected to seat 1,000, plus the expanded library, archives and a highly specialized storage facility. It will further stretch out to a three-hectare open-air venue, called Freedom Park, as the focal or endpoint. An elevated breezeway will connect the two buildings and pedestrian ways at ground level.

Manahan said that Filipino qualities are to be intricately woven into the modern structures, taking the cue from the dominant CCP main building. Interpretations of the salambao, or fishing boat, as bandstand will be named after the composer and conductor Lucio San Pedro, and an open space for events and other activities will be named the Levi Celerio Playground after the lyricist and composer.

Other arts and cultural venues include the Antonio Molina Conservatory (within the CCP administration building), the Production Design Center, and an underground parking area.

Cluster 3, or the Breezeway, is envisioned as a mixed-use lateral corridor that links

Cluster 2 to spaces for performances and events. This concept is taken from the Filipino tambayan, or gathering place where people exchange views and ideas, mingle or simply hang out, and will feature a tiangge-style gallery.

Facilities in this cluster include an 8,000-capacity multipurpose hall for concerts, cock derbies, sports events, festivals and sales. The hall will also include the Nick Joaquín Beer Garden (after the late National Artist for Literature known for his love of drinking), the Asian Music Gallery, the National Artists Museum, Museo ng Kalinangang Pilipino, and two artists’ centers called Andrea Veneracion Concourse and Wilfrido Ma. Guerrero Teatrillo.

To be continued


Written by Lynda C. Corpuz

January 20, 2009 at 12:14 am

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