Rolling Manila
Rolling Manila
Rolling Manila
Rolling Manila
Rolling Manila
Rolling Manila
Rolling Manila
Rolling Manila

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Inteligencias Colectivas

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Rolling Manila: Reclaiming the City as Distributed Creative Potential in the Face of Standardizing Global Logics

Entre las soluciones uniformadoras del mundo desarrollado y la heterogeneidad de las culturas locales

Between the Uniformizing Solutions of the Developed World and the Heterogeneity of Local Cultures

It was almost night when we left the terminal parking lot at Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport in a van driven by Johann, our collaborator from Intramuros Administration. Between the traffic chaos, the tinted windows, and the mental interferences that assail you when you step into a country for the first time, it took us a few minutes to grasp that something was up in the traffic jam. Suddenly: “Johann, what’s this?” “A jeepney”, he responds. While he continues his explanation our pupils start to dilate, realizing that we are before what at Inteligencias Colectivas we call a “blue unicorn”, the paradigmatic example of why for the last ten years we have been travelling around the world with this project. All the vectors that sustain our research and struggles intersect in the jeepney, that is: re-use, assembly, customization, open source code, reprogrammability, and socio-cultural transmitter.

Soon we begin to understand that an entire ecosystem of vehicles exists, the owners, tricycles, pedicabs, and kuligligs, which together with the aforementioned jeepneys coexist in the streets of Manila as rolling species for the transport of goods and persons or for street vending. Like in a Darwinian dream they arise from natural adaptation to the environment, thanks to a network of manufacturers who work on the street and who make up a truly distributed automotive industry. They are joined by users and traders who sustain a culture and a society in constant change and who are always about to have a snack.

All of these jewels of urban adaptation, the fruits of the infinite capacity of resilience and of the creative power that resides in all of human society, are in danger of extinction by what—in short-sighted perspective—we regard as progress. In our opinion, one of the challenges facing architects and designers in the twenty-first century is learning from these naturally intelligent, diverse, and informal designs, ordinarily scorned by our professions, in order to legitimize them and grant them the incredible cultural, aesthetic, and functional value they deserve. The ultimate objective is always the same: to hybrid this informal knowledge with our own scientific information, obtaining innovative solutions that, moreover, guarantee the required standards of safety and health.

This mode of transport, on which so many depend directly or indirectly, is threatened by the possibility of importing completely new fleets from abroad. We believe that the necessary ecological improvements that the jeepney requires are not at odds with the maintenance by the guilds tied to the manufacturing of this national icon.
The pedicab demonstrates how a city can be transformed with just one material and its associated technology: the bending of 20 mm steel tubes. The technology transfer to our prototype was one of the first decisions made by the Rolling Manila workshop.
Groups associated with street vending and the transport of people and goods. In the photo, the typology of a motorized tricycle, street vending food cart, and a kuliglig, known for the peculiar sound of the adapted boat motor it employs.

Why We Travelled to Manila: A Travelling Ecosystem

The first secretary of the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines at that time, Guillermo Escribano, invited IC to develop a workshop in direct collaboration with local entities such as Intramuros Administration, the traders’ association Sanamai, and students from the Design Center of the Philippines and from the Escuela Taller. The fifteen-day workshop was to be dedicated to the analysis and making of prototypes, focused on the problems of the street vendors and their food stalls (originally mobile) in the Intramuros district. The specific challenge was to address the state of degradation that the food stalls have suffered after so many years of being exposed to the elements. Nevertheless, the majority of them work with frenetic activity, have a close relationship with their patrons, and display innumerable adaptations, extensions, fusions, and decorations of all types.

This situation was compounded by an interesting factor: all of the stalls had originally been identical. They were prefabricated stalls in pastiche aesthetics and inconsistently conceived for their function. A model designed and manufactured by a multinational corporation, which distributed them among the vendor community thanks to an agreement with the local authorities sometime in the 1990s. As we found out, this was not the first time that such a strategy was employed, apparently aimed at lending this type of street vending—so characteristic of Philippine culture—a uniform appearance. More than twenty years later, the authorities’ intention was to commission a hundred of these new stalls from some other multinational, once again manufactured in a de-localized manner. But thanks to the efforts of Guillermo Escribano and Guiller Asido, we had the opportunity of applying our methodology and proposing an alternative solution with a more inclusive and innovative objective, one that aimed to demonstrate that the homegrown productive and creative power distributed around Manila’s neighborhoods was more than capable of designing, constructing, and delivering these 100 stalls.

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Food stall in Intramuros. Despite its age and the deficiencies in access to public services, its women owners keep it exquisitely neat and adapted to the preferences of their patrons.

“The Food Stalls”: Introduction to the Project Rolling Manila and Its Four Phases

We understand that we are acting in a complex environment, where the stalls’ owners are closely linked with their patrons, whether they are students, workers, or pedicab drivers. This equation must also include the community of mobile street vendors of foods, people who supply drinking water, and other “urban actors”, who make up a colorful and vibrant ecosystem in which everyone depends on everyone else to maintain their livelihood. 

Phase 1. Research, Visibilization, and Sensibilization

About a hundred interviews were conducted with the vendors during the first days of the workshop, collecting information on hours, types of patrons, best-selling dishes, most popular hour, etc. The aim of this exercise was not only to collect information, but to visibilize the vendor community, giving adequate recognition to their activity as part of the emerging urbanism that directly or indirectly supports many lives.

After this phase we drew up various recommendations:

— Not to change the location of the stalls, as we understand that the logics and balance within the community of street vendors is complex and delicate. It would not be desirable, therefore, to inadvertently spoil it.
— The necessity of basic services (toilets, electricity, running water).
— The authorities should provide a general solution, but capable of respecting local diversity, aesthetics, and practices.
— Close some streets to vehicle traffic (such as Santo Tomás) and even contemplate making all of Intramuros a pedestrian zone.
— Study the interdependent human ecosystem. The network that sustains the selling of food on the street includes patrons (workers, students, pedicabers) and suppliers, as well as other typologies of street vendors who act as satellites.

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Thousands of Manila residents depend every day on fixed and mobile stalls for having a snack at any moment. The life of the vendors, who spend almost the entire day in their stalls, could be considerably improved with a small effort in design and with a bit of political will.
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A gigantic street guild. They build and customize—in a matter of hours—pedicabs, tricycles, and any part that can be built with welded steel.
Guild responsible for protecting Manila’s “rolling ecosystem” from the sun and rain. Capable of adapting to any tri-dimensional geometry, the colors they display make the city’s life pulsate.

Phase 2. Field Work in the Neighborhoods of Manila

In addition to the street vendors in Intramuros, we visited various places in Manila related to self-formed guilds, informal technologies, and local experts. Knowing the places where jeepneys and pedicabs are manufactured, the areas of opportunity, or emerging markets provides us with a knowledge that is essential, the starting point for any proposal.


Phase 3. Prototyping: Building Adaptations and Improvements on an Old Stall

As mentioned above, the goal of IC is to always learn the local technologies, materialities, and intelligent solutions (jeepneys and pedicabs are examples of them), in order to transfer them to architectural dispositifs. In collaboration with our partners and local experts, we designed and built an up-date for a street food stall from Intramuros that was in a derelict state, in order to propose design solutions for the present-day necessities of the street vending community. We called it Kalamansi in honor of our favorite indigenous citric fruit.

Phase 4. Public Event and Celebration

The Kalamansi prototype was presented at Escuela Taller on November 29, 2017, with a press conference and messages from all of those involved. Everyone had the opportunity of sharing food around the stall, exchanging opinions, and suggesting possible improvements for a future definitive model.

The Kalamansi Prototype: A Scalable Model

With the aim of addressing the different situations of the community in Intramuros, we proposed and developed four strategies, listed in order of complexity, but all of them compatible with one another. The implementation of one, two, three, or all four of these strategies will depend on the amount of time and resources available.

Strategy 1. “Custom-Refurbishment Strategy”

The primary objective is to provide the stalls and the spaces surrounding them with improved safety and healthiness. This refurbishment has to be accompanied by aesthetic guidelines that are “cleaner”, not to be confused with soulless uniformity. The idea is to supply an ample catalogue of colors, models, typographies, supports, finishes, and decorative parts, so that the owners can choose and adapt their stalls, façades, display cases, and tableware as they please.

We can see an example of this in the float of jeepneys operating in the city. All of them conform to the same typology of vehicle, with the same parts and decorative areas, but thanks to the capacity for personalization they appear entirely different from one another. Some are basic, almost minimalist, others more colorful, full of imagination and comforts.

Expectations:

— Cleaner appearance and a guarantee of a minimum of safety.
— Differentiation.

Strategy 2. “The Very Best Upgrades”

When the idea is to improve the stalls, then nothing better than learning from the experts. Even with few resources, owners have been installing upgrades on their own; these improvements indicate how an ideal stall could look like if we would include them in a single improvement kit: solar panels for supplying electricity, counters covered with ceramic tiles (instead of oilcloth or rubber), orbital fans, portable sinks, mirrors, infrastructure for the conservation of foods (stainless-steel tableware, lids, display cases, refrigerators), mechanical fly-killers, awning systems, “Hall of Fames” of the best patron … These improvements could be regularized and repeated in almost any stall, furthermore, we can even add one: USB charging points.

Expectations:

— More assets and comforts for patrons.
— Comfort and safety for owners as well as for patrons.
— Sense of belonging.

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Final prototype of Rolling Manila employing the four strategies. We have to confess that we only needed a bit more time to develop the surrounding awning, joined to the neighboring stall, to protect the patrons.

Strategy 3. “The Backpack Strategy”

The rear part of stalls is generally used as improvised auxiliary kitchens, sinks, or storerooms. These places sometimes also serve domestic needs, such as for rest or family care. What we propose is building a longitudinal infrastructure for the rear that is shared or individual. This piece of metal should be covered or ready to be joined to the stall by awnings.

Expectations:

— A washbasin with supply of taps supplying public water and an infrastructure of a communal sink.
— Auxiliary kitchens. Many stalls use an area as an auxiliary kitchen for preparing some of the dishes, usually located on the floor.
— Waste separators.
— Storage of foods and tableware.

Strategy 4. “Exoskeleton”

The food stalls exhibit a general state of obvious deterioration, some even of ruin. This last strategy consists of designing and building with Manila logic a steel structure that protects the stall and provides additional space for storage and rest, but also offers a support structure for future development, when the components of the stall can no longer be repaired.

This exterior skeleton will be the framework for future implementations while the old stall “disappears” or until new necessities arise. If owners require more shelves or a new counter, all they have to do is sand the painted area to weld on the new structure.

Expectations:

— More resistance.
— Easy to up-date and improve by the owners.
— More work space.
— More storage space.
— Resting space for the owners (two persons).
— Adequate covered areas that can even be used to connect with the next stall.

This fourth strategy is compatible with the three previous ones and can be implemented in an “all-in-one” model that combines the four of them.

The basic methodology of Inteligencias Colectivas is based on using what already exists, learning from vernacular knowledge, and incorporating the largest number of local actors possible in the design process. In this way, we preserve and adapt local identities to the modern world, without surrendering to uniformizing globalization.
op-Prototipo_RollingManila_All-In-One_IC

Next Steps: At the Gates of Radical Change

Thanks to the experience of Rolling Manila, we were able to verify first-hand that the city is prepared for the challenge of changing globalized logics and of assuming, on its own, the manufacture of these 100 food stalls—and in fact any element of its mobile ecosystem—without any need of outsourcing it.

If the government would take the step of creating a type of strategic plan that compiles local technologies, supporting and hiring the network of experts that make up the gigantic distributed industry it possesses, it would be able to plunge into the logic of the “fourth industrial revolution”. Manufacturing models that adapt to climatic conditions and to cultural context; employing local labor, materials, and technologies as an alternative to externalized production (to China, for example), which is always an unsustainable model, one of assembly lines of large corporations that continually produce impersonal results.

We are ready to face the next stages of our collaboration and to offer a final model for a stall totally based on and manufactured in agreement with the Philippine culture. This is a unique opportunity for executing the first public policy, fostered by the government, that is clearly committed to the knowledge, protection, and promotion of the local economy and culture.

op-IMG_9419

Zoohaus is a platform for online creativity in the form of a non-profit cultural association. Made up primarily of architects, since 2007 it has realized projects in the field of city planning and architecture, focused on the most social and participative aspects of these disciplines. In 2010 Zoohaus launched the project Inteligencias Colectivas (IC), which since then has existed as a line of research and action.

Inteligencias Colectivas is an open database that collects and shares non-standard constructive details and “pacts in the city” in emerging urban environments that are increasingly described as “tactical urbanism”. IC uses workshops held around the world in necessary collaboration with local agents to generate theoretical content and to construct prototypes in places such as Palomino (Colombia), Lima (Peru), Santiago de Chile (Chile), Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), Berlin (Germany), Budapest (Hungry), Managua (Nicaragua), Bata and Malabo (Equatorial Guinea), Seoul (South Korea), Karachi and Lahore (Pakistan), Manila (the Philippines), and adrid and Bilbao (Spain), among others.

Zoohaus has been supported by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), Matadero Madrid (Spain), the Escuelab de Lima (Peru), and the Centros Culturales de España (CCE) in Malabo, Bata, Lima, Managua, and Santo Domingo, as well as by various Spanish embassies, among other public and private institutions. Zoohaus has collaborated with institutions of international standing such as the Goethe Institut (Germany), MAK in Vienna (Austria), and MoMA in New York (United States).

This publication is commissioned by the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines in conjunction with the Spanish Cooperation through the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AECID nor of the Embassy.

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Embajada de España en Filipinas
Embassy of Spain in the Philippines

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Metro Manila, Philippines

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