What used to be known as the grassy fields of a former military base, Bonifacio Global City (BGC) has transitioned to become one of the Philippines’ premier financial districts since 2013. As it seamlessly weaves into its mix an upwardly mobile lifestyle, it has become the canvas both professional designers and street artists want to leave their mark on. Just as Escolta was the playground of Art Deco and Makati of the Brutalism, BGC is undeniably shaping up to be the place future historians will scrutinize to understand and, hopefully, define the Filipino architecture of the 21st century.
The W Group already had an impressive portfolio of office towers within BGC—W Tower, W Highstreet, and W Fifth Avenue to name some— when they started talks with CAZA Architects. Founded by Wee Lee Hiong, the company sought the services of the Brooklyn-based firm with offices in Manila and Bogota, to develop a premier BPO tower on the corner of 30th Street and 7th Avenue. Francis Wee, W Group’s head of real estate, turned to Carlos Arnaiz, CAZA’s principal, to actualize the company’s vision of an efficient building that will attract next-generation BPOs. The result is what we now know as the W City Center.
TOAs we face a future where artificial intelligence takes care of most of our transactional tasks, service providers who are evolving with the Fourth Industrial Revolution are ever more reliant on creatives and analysts as their competitive edge. Although the price point is part of the criteria for selecting a space, these tenants look for value beyond the bottom line. “The future of working requires offices to be desirable and engaging spaces,” says Arnaiz.
The conceptualization of W City Center began with a review of the history of office buildings, which led Arnaiz and his team to further study the skyscrapers of the 1950s. Sleek glass boxes dominated Chicago and New York’s skylines because of their resonance with modern corporate values and culture. Thus, the beloved glass curtain wall, which we still see in BGC and Makati today, was a definitive starting point.
“Since we knew that this was going to be for a new breed of BPOs, which was then just arriving in the Philippines, we asked: how do we merge ‘corporate’ with the local identity of a place?” he shares. “That form you see now is a hybrid between the modern office tower and this tropical playful character of the Philippines, which is relaxed and less serious,” he continues. The development is made up of a total of 29 stories, and 55,000 square meters of premium office space.
The rectangular tower stands on a lot that measures 3700 square meters, with typical floor plates at 3090 square meters. The monotony of glass on the building’s skin is given a refreshing break courtesy of the mullions of perforated aluminum. These perforations attractively frame windows and views, but also serve to heighten the energy efficiency of the structure—they reduce heat gain inside the building. Its west facade, which one can see from the high street cinemas is rectilinear, an homage to the modern office tower. This is also the side where the drop-off point and lobby are located. Vehicular access is tucked ‘behind’ the building at Lane B, which frees up other sides of the building for more pedestrian activity.
On a portion of the basement and on the ground level beneath the staggering podium whose overhang forms an arcade is a series of shops. Employees from the building, those walking by, and even those alighting from their commutes in the bus stop nearby shuffle in and out of the cafes and restaurants, making the building pulsating with energy throughout the day.
On the southeast side of the building is park that allows the structure to breathe Moreover, this pocket of open space makes it possible for people to marvel at the structure, and it also ensures that the line of sight from that angle will remain unobstructed. CAZA placed the W City Center’s most notable feature on the east facade—a ripple formed by a series of cascading balconies. The different floors, as they were designed, were impressed with gradual and concentric circles. On a finer level of detail, the ceramic frits that frame all the widows are red on this wave; they are beige on the rest of the building. The effect is an expressive and striking geometry atypical of an office building today. It is immediately recognizable from the east of High Street, through the gap between two towers as one approaches it from the north, and even from a plane descending to land in the Manila airport.
W Group and CAZA set out to attract prominent and future-ready BPOs—and they achieved their goal. The W City Tower is now the home of the fun quirky spaces of global tech giant’s Manila office, the distinctly red branding of a Fortune 500 Healthcare solutions provider, and extensions of Globe Telecom. With such tenants, it is easy to conclude that this iconic building is built to become a game-changer.
This article was first published in BluPrint Volume 4 2018. Edits were made for BluPrint online.
Photographed by Frank Callaghan