The Liveable Cities Design Challenge | Inquirer Opinion
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The Liveable Cities Design Challenge

The Philippines is a country of almost 100 million people spread out over 7,100 islands. Traditionally, our economy has been viewed as mainly agricultural, with much of the business and investment focus on three key cities: Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao. In reality, however, the Philippines has become more urbanized over time; 63 percent of our population live in urban areas (including small urban areas), according to the 2012 World Population Data Sheet. Cities are typically centers of consumption, resource use, and waste. But they are also key growth drivers of regional economies, particularly when a number of cities and municipalities are clustered.

Today’s City is facing a new challenge. It now faces a climate-defined future aside from congestion and the need for mass transit, water resources, power, better law enforcement and public services. Climate change and natural disasters have become the unpredictable variables affecting our cities. Typhoons, monsoon rains, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have placed more of our cities under greater risk and disruption.

A design competition. Looking at both the risks and potentials of our cities, representatives of the National Competitiveness Council, Apec National Organizing Council, Urban Land Institute, World Wildlife Fund, Asia Society, and Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Reconstruction (or Assure) have teamed up to produce the Liveable Cities Design Challenge. Our goal was to put up a planning and design competition aimed at getting city planners nationwide to better plan their areas for a climate-defined future and for disaster risk reduction. Part of the objective was to encourage city planners to design Liveable Cities that would offer safety, convenience, livelihood, lifestyle, and sustainability to its residents and also foster competition among cities.

Twenty cities were selected and invited to join the competition, including those that will host Apec meetings in 2015 and others that are vulnerable to or have been affected by disasters.


Competition categories. We have broken down the competition into two categories, with each requiring a strategic vision and plan for a Liveable and Resilient City that will begin with an assessment of the existing situation and a strategy for disaster risk reduction and preparedness. The plan should include spatial, transport, and infrastructure planning and urban design strategies, and also involve the community in the process. At the end of the day, we want cities that are attractive for people to live, work and play in, and also affordable, accessible, socially acceptable, environment-friendly, economically viable and climate-resilient.

The process and the plan should be well documented, and should include phased development and how the public and private sectors and the community will work together to make the city more liveable, walkable, and resilient, thus ensuring its competitiveness.

The first category involves a “Government Center”—a complex of government buildings designed to be disaster-resistant (i.e., able to withstand designated limits of wind velocity, floods, and earthquakes, etc.) coupled with an awareness and education program to make people better prepared for disasters. These buildings must be located in an area that is hazard-free and designed to serve the public in pre- and postdisaster phases. They must serve a primary purpose as a public service facility (say, a school or hospital or office building) and a secondary purpose during disasters (say, an evacuation shelter or command post). They must be designed to be the last remaining buildings in operation, with full backup power, water, telecommunications, and other capabilities when all other buildings are down. This Government Center may be in a contiguous area or may be scattered over different pockets or zones within city limits and accessible to a majority of the city’s population.

The second category involves an “Apec Meeting Venue”—a plan covering a meeting site for one of the Apec meetings that the Philippines will host in 2015. The site need not cover an entire city but should at least cover an area surrounding a meeting venue plus access and routes to other events and functions and to the airport. The plan must include amenities that will make attendance at an Apec meeting enjoyable for both the delegates and the city residents, with no inconvenience to the latter. It should capture the soul and spirit of a city and be designed to be a permanent fixture of the city, thus creating a core capable of transforming that city into a Liveable City in the next several years. Additionally, the design must encompass disaster risk reduction principles.


The competition will be run with a team of architects provided by Assure who will act as mentors or as coaches for each of the cities. After site visits and workshops, the city planners will come together for a presentation and public display of their work. The competition has received support from USAID, through Project Invest, and Microsoft.

No formal awards will be given, but the winners will be under consideration for multiyear technical assistance support from USAID under its Surge project. We look forward to starting a trend for better urban design and the creation of Liveable Cities in the Philippines.


Guillermo M. Luz ([email protected]) is private-sector cochair of the National Competitiveness Council.

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TAGS: Business Matters, cities, Guillermo M. Luz, Liveable Cities Design Challenge, opinion, Population, Urban Planning

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