You don’t usually find yourself going to the City Hall, when you do it’s usually for your obligations like taxes, permits & the like. And knowing the bureaucracy you’re about to face, it’s enough to make you dread the journey, especially in a developing part of the world like ours. But the last trips I had were to the Manila City Hall, one of the most recognizable of our public buildings and despite the urgent errand I was to make, I could not help but look up at the clock tower upon my arrival.
And so to lessen my misgivings I opted to put myself in the shoes of a tourist-designer to take note of the good things I would see and experience. It would have been easy to take note of the bad, but I had decided that the good things were more important.
I opted to enter from the eastern side, I came upon a paved courtyard from where I could see three arched windows with embossed figures of men and women and above them read the words “Labor, Wealth Capital”. Crossing towards the Justice Hall I made my way up the stairs to my right, and I noted how wide they were and how well lit from the large windows similar in shape to the ones I saw from the outside. Since this is a public building, it is fitting that it be built to accommodate a large number of people going up and down. But at that time it was alone on the wide steps.
Up from the stairs and around the landing there was a circular gallery space with the seal of the city with chandeliers around the ceiling. Around the walls were the portraits of the former mayors of the city and I took a little time to go around and read some of the familiar names like Arsenio Lacson. From this space I noted that it led to several corridors and to the office of the mayor.
As I lost myself looking for the departments I needed to go to, I noted how the corridors resembled the ones in my old school UP – Diliman, particularly Melchor and Palma Hall which were wide and tall. And though the hot humid weather was not as comfortable as I would like, it was definitely bearable because of the tall space. The long corridor felt like would go on forever, but atleast it was naturally lit. There were even small inner courts for the corridors that led away from the gallery, which provided light and natural ventilation.
Concluding the business I had, I spied a floor plan posted near the door to show the nearest fire escape, I was curious to see a large open plaza to the south. Wondering if this space was maintained I made my way to one of the long corridors that should lead to it, and to my good fortune I found that the large inner court was there with trees, plant boxes and some paved areas.
Making my exit I took a different staircase closer to the gate and it was still wide with windows for some natural light and ventilation.
Finishing that errand, I found myself satisfied, though I didn’t get immediate results, I felt that I would get them in due time. Expecting less than friendly service, I found people direct me when I was lost, ask if I would like to sit down, and despite some run arounds, a genuine endeavor to provide the information I needed.
Taking stock of this experience and my images, I am hopeful, that we could do better in design and execution of service in public buildings, as it seems we are capable of it. And all it takes is to continue the good that is already there.