If you happened to walk around Ortigas in recent years, it is likely you have taken the high road—and by that we mean the elevated walkway along Julia Vargas Avenue. You may have also found temporary respite on the benches in its plaza, or shelter from the harsh heat or sudden rain.
This 320-meter pedestrian system, which starts at Sapphire Road and ends at ADB Avenue, was designed to improve the walkability of the highly urbanized district without compromising vehicular circulation.
The project is called the Ortigas Elevated Walkways and Plaza, designed by urban planner Paulo Alcazaren’s PGAA Creative Design. It recently won the 2020 Haligi ng Dangal Award for Landscape Architecture presented by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA). The biennial award recognizes exemplary works that promote awareness on the role of design in the country’s social, economic and environmental development.
Unlike the inconvenient walkways along EDSA, this one is senior citizen and PWD friendly—accessible via escalators and elevators. It's also lined with local, low-maintenance plants which add nature to the concrete. And there are also covered benches for tired commuters.
Serving as an oasis to Pasig City’s business jungle is its plaza with an oculus water feature. It functions as a skylight for the road below. The elevated area, located at the intersection of F. Ortigas Jr. Avenue and Julia Vargas Avenue, has also become a visual focal point in the Ortigas CBD.
In a 2019 interview with ABS-CBN News, Alcazaren says the government had obviously failed to include green parks in its masterplan. “There’s very little opportunity in our dense city centers to open up for actual green parks,” he said. Thus, “retrofits” are necessary to address this.
“In areas where there are little opportunities for additional open space such as the Ortigas CBD, the Elevated Walkways and Plaza are a modern approach to problems of inadequate pedestrian spaces. It helps define the district with a welcome amenity for passers-by,” reads a post by Haligi ng Dangal on its Facebook page.
Alcazaren said the project was a joint initiative of the Pasig City government and the Ortigas Center Association (OCAI), the administrator of the Ortigas Center business district. He said the walkway is part of a larger system they master planned for pedestrians and non-motorized transport servicing the Ortigas Central Business District.
Images courtesy of Paulo Alacazaren