Harvard University Graduate School of Design and AECOM bring the Southeast Asia Design Studio to Manila, spotlighting future habitations

The program examines new approaches to endemic problems by inspiring new ideas for better design for 21st century resiliency, sustainability and livability

MANILA, Philippines, Feb. 6, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- AECOM, a premier, fully integrated global infrastructure firm, together with the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD), today launched "Manila: Future Habitations" at a capacity-filled public forum of over 300 participants, including senior Philippines government officials, business, media, civic and community stakeholders.

The program is the final part of the three-year series on Southeast Asian megacities, following Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. It is also the sixth year of collaboration aimed at providing some of the GSD's top students with exposure to the urban design challenges and opportunities resulting from the hyper-growth across Asia's cities. 

An important research initiative in one of the most challenging urban environments in the world

"Contemporary Greater Metro Manila, with a population of more than 25 million, is by far the largest city in our three-year series on Southeast Asia, and arguably the most complex, with vast extremes of economic and social strata, and yet universal challenges for its citizens, such as mobility, improved ecology and connectivity," said Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Alexander and Victoria Wiley professor of design. "Manila's fascinating history and unique characteristics have created an urban scenario among the most challenging, and yet promising, anywhere in the world. This makes for a truly fascinating and exciting study area."

"Manila's challenges may seem substantial, but the most critical building blocks of opportunity are present in the form of a strong economy which has been among the world's highest performing for close to a decade; and the yearning that citizens share for a better quality of urban life. Our collaboration with Harvard Graduate School of Design to expose its top students and stakeholders in some of the region's most dynamic cities to each other, is rooted in the belief that what we imagine together, we can deliver together," said Sean Chiao, AECOM's President, Asia Pacific.

The focus area for the Manila Studio 2018 includes the Central Manila Port Areas; the adjacent neighborhood of BASECO, which is one of the most economically disadvantaged; the disconnected mercantile communities of Binondo and Tondo on the north side of the Pasig River; and on the south side of the river, Manila's ancient historic heart, the Spanish walled citadel of Intramuros. Taken together, the study areas possess unique conditions that represent in microcosm, the extreme conditions faced throughout Greater Metro Manila. 

Imagining and redesigning a better Manila

At the heart of the six-month academic exploration of the Manila Studio 2018 is the journey towards proposing answers to a central question: How can all of Manila's existing constraints be seen as opportunities, building upon each challenge to find lasting solutions that will resonate with Manila's residents to unite the city across a unified urban fabric?

The Intramuros Administration, the Philippine government agency tasked with administering the historic district, partnered with the Harvard Graduate School of Design and AECOM to sponsor today's public forum and the Manila Studio research project. "We are grateful to the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and AECOM for having chosen Manila to be the focus city for the ultimate year of their Southeast Asia Studio program. We know Harvard GSD and AECOM are committed to ensuring a city's unique authenticity, and we look forward to discovering new insights as we crystalize plans for ours," said Guiller Asido, Administrator, Intramuros Administration.

Speeches were delivered by Philippines Senator Sonny Angara, Senate of the Philippines; Mr. Mostafavi; and Mr. Chiao. Panel speakers included the Honorable Ipat Luna, undersecretary for Manila Bay Concerns at the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Jose Ma. K. Lim, president and CEO of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), the Philippines' largest listed infrastructure firm; Art Corpuz, former chief planner for Ayala Land, a unit of Ayala Corporation, the Philippines' oldest conglomerate; Avelino Tolentino III, Deputy Secretary General of the Philippines' Cabinet-level Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council; Mario de los Reyes, Dean, University of the Philippines School of Urban and Regional Planning; and Henry Yap, General Manager, Robinsons Land Corporation, a large, diversified, listed Philippines developer.

"We are truly moved by the passion that Manila residents have for their city; it will go far in carrying the Manila Studio 2018 over its six month journey. Asia is home to the world's fastest urbanization and the world needs its future generations of design talent to understand this region's global impact, as well as possibilities to make a meaningful difference. As the Studio offers top students with the real and complex challenge of researching and developing new design concepts for Manila, diverse stakeholders across the city are able to discover new ways of approaching old challenges through the fresh perspective of the students," said Mr. Chiao. "This is the second time within a year that AECOM has had the opportunity to engage a diversity of stakeholders in Manila in imagining the city's future, when in March 2017, Manila was the inaugural symposium of Imagine 2060: Delivering Tomorrow's Cities Together, a new three year global conversation series launched by AECOM in collaboration with Asia Society."


AECOM is built to deliver a better world. We design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries. As a fully integrated firm, we connect knowledge and experience across our global network of experts to help clients solve their most complex challenges. From high-performance buildings and infrastructure, to resilient communities and environments, to stable and secure nations, our work is transformative, differentiated and vital. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM had revenue of approximately $18.2 billion during fiscal year 2017. See how we deliver what others can only imagine at and @AECOM.

About the Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Founded in 1936, Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) has roots dating back to 1874, when academic degree programs in architecture and landscape architecture emerged at the University. In fact, Harvard can be credited with founding the disciplines of landscape architecture and city planning prior to the establishment of the School, and founding the discipline of urban design in the 1960s.

As the premier design school in the world, the GSD has a legacy of leadership, innovation, and social responsibility. The School sets the standard for design education, regularly ranking number one in two of its core disciplines. GSD alumni and faculty are world renowned for creating the modern era's most iconic buildings, landscapes, and city plans, and the School is proud to have the highest number of Pritzker Prize winners and AIA Fellows of any design school.

Today, the GSD continues to explore vital, global issues with authority, synthesizing research and practice in a collaborative, holistic approach that empowers the design community to make a difference around the world.

About the Intramuros Administration

Intramuros Administration (IA) is an attached agency of the Department of Tourism of the Republic of the Philippines. The Intramuros Administration was created by virtue of Presidential Decree 1616 signed by President Marcos on April 10, 1979, amended by PD 1748 on December 10, 1980 and is in charge of the restoration, development, and promotion of the historic walled city of Intramuros, Philippines. More information about the Intramuros Administration can be found at

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Source: AECOM
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