Plant, plant, plant: Architect wants more urban gardens, pocket parks amid pandemic


Posted at Sep 15 2020 11:49 AM

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MANILA - More urban gardens and pocket parks, wider sidewalks and bicycle lanes, and converting basketball courts into makeshift COVID-19 centers are just some of the ways the government can transform Metro Manila in the middle of the pandemic, renowned architect and urban planner Felino "Jun" Palafox Jr. said Tuesday. 

Speaking to ANC, Palafox said the government could push for "tactical urbanism" that would create more open spaces in cities. He noted that in urban poor areas, there could be as many as 5 people living in 9 square meters or 2 square meters per person. 

"It's better for them to go out, get sunshine and air," he said.

One way of improving urban areas, he said, is to implement cash-for-work programs that would promote urban farming, clean up esteros and sidewalks and plant more trees. 

He cited the improvements in Europe's previous virus epicenter Milan, which he said has been "widening sidewalks and making bicycle lanes."

"Let’s take advantage of the pandemic to correct all of these before cars come back. Pocket parks also from pavement to parks, most progressive countries are doing that right now," he told ANC.

"Open spaces are the lungs of the city, Metro Manila doesn’t have enough open space."

"We have, I heard, 8,000 hectares of vacant land in Metro Manila. We can do urban farming, urban gardens in many properties including government offices. There’s so much idle land," he added, citing as an example Singapore which has rooftop gardens.

Palafox added that open spaces are good for the recovery of hospital patients.

"Open spaces [were] proposed by Hippocrates and Florence Nightingale... Hospitals that have windows with natural light and ventilation, patients recover quicker than (in) hospitals without windows," he said.

The metro currently has some 1,500 hospitals out of the ideal 5,000 for its 107 million population which is why Palafox Associates has donated designs for the conversion of basketball courts into COVID-19 centers to decongest hospitals, the architect said.

The Philippines on Monday reported a record-high 259 new deaths due to the coronavirus, bringing the total to 4,630.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the country so far reached 265,888, with 207,504 recoveries.