architectural-criticism

Northern (In)convenience at Trinoma

TRINOMA, or Triangle North of Manila, occupies 13-hectares in what is believed to be one of the most highly trafficked areas in Quezon City, with a steady stream of train commuters being virtually linked to the transit’s terminal drop-off point. By the time the blue line coaches arrive at North Ave. station, a concrete block with nary a punch-hole window apparently presents its subdued surface palette. The instant one passes through the turnstiles, TriNoma seems to bask comfortably ahead, as if it has always been in that choking point of EDSA. The mall’s cavernous approach gives no hint of its luxuriant consumerist function. Not quite spectacular, the understated approach nevertheless attracts passers-by to stop, for a quiet refuge amidst the urban derelict; and shop, from an abode of mutated images of the ordinary.

            Complementing this low-key premise is a generous green gesture. In full knowledge of the site’s context, Seattle-based Callison Architecture set out to create an urban park that is self-contained, and at the same time, bears a receptive quality. Perching above the terraced gardens on the opposite end of the retail emporium, this verdant open area contrasts the vertical volume formed in the middle of the mall’s developmental axis. The building’s hybridity actually takes cue from its typologic precedents: the atrium space of the traditional Glorietta and the extroverted oasis in Greenbelt.
            For one who is strange to these mall developments, they are attributed to Ayala Land, Inc. Through the decades, the real-estate company pioneered the transformation of Makati from being a suburb in 1960s to becoming the country’s prime business district today. Since then Ayala, which has been the brand associated with prestige establishments catering to the upscale market, has broadened its investment beyond Makati with the inclusion of Quezon City’s financial district in its portfolio.

            As such source from sister malls in the south, the proponents thoughtfully devised that an interaction of such structural simplicity and organic elaboration would find itself in a similarly large idle space, where a flea market used to be, probably terminating a vista. The driving concept of the shopping center is the “story of a journey,” creating a sense of flowing space and de-emphasizing exterior-interior barriers.
            In the mall’s interjacency to the street, crude conditions of spatial organization are employed.
            The contrastingly restrained approach from the MRT emphasizes the sheer scale of its luminous façade on the north. The receptive character of the entrance is formed by the concave elevated walkway of rustic limestone walls and steel posts. Positioned between the glass curtain wall and multi-layered garden, it frames a magnificent view of the two-level park teeming with lush foliage and flowing waterscape. Arrival is then officially announced by a “reverse waterfall” incidence upon rims of limestone in differing sand hues.
            Perhaps the setting of TriNoma is ideal but its substantial meaning is obscured by the scheme of uninterrupted display of secular pleasure. The enclosing park sets it off as a central-type building, as it is fortified perceptually by subordinate stonehenge-like pilasters and by its rooftop situation, which altogether denies the mall’s essential linearity. The expression of the park as the climax of the whole composition is thereby reinforced.

            Internally, walking around is akin to meandering in an urban jungle. The shops are arranged in curved paths rendering a sensuous feel, yet lacking consequently any direction. Deviously pedestrian in scale, double-loaded corridors enhance the grace of interminable merchandising planes, but with the fear of getting lost; the fact that you can look to the distance through the in-between openings offers a sigh of relief. The experience is furthered by cove lighting, as it provides toned down illumination, reminiscent of the shade of canopy trees. Thankfully, it is better implication in the tropics to enter into a darkened area where one is psychologically sheltered from heat and glare.
            The sinuous curvature exercises an inordinate influence upon the rest of the configuration. Unlike its historic archetype, the activity area contours an elliptical figure and diverts from architectural passé of the orthogonal atrium. The triple volume’s verticality, complemented by the beams radiating from the ovoid dome, maximizes the degree of orientation as it is viewed from all levels of the mall.
            The use of limited palettes assists in the legibility of the zonal composition. In effect, the polished white finish in the Activity Center conveys an unobtrusive contrast to the otherwise coarse natural stones of the landscaped outdoors. The Wellness and Home Zones induce a relaxed and laid-back atmosphere with soft hues and furnishings. Mixing a triad of blue, yellow and magenta, muted lighting brings emphasis as one is drawn to the Teen and Sports Zone. A browse in the IT zone presents its sleek, elegant finish. Resonating theatrical drama, structural columns are coated in silver with hints of green on the Cinema level.
            Upon reaching the transition to the topmost floor through a winding flight of stairs, one realizes the more intimate setting created by the noticeably dimmer lighting and congenial character of a cascade. Alfresco dining spaces skirt a voguish café’s perimeter amidst a concerted paradise of varied kinds of fern and bamboo, and fish pools. The overall theme beckons patrons, and idlers alike, to explore the commercial terrain beyond the bridges over the film of calming water.

            What is revealed by the significant rise to prominence of TriNoma as an innovative shopping complex, the synthesis of nature over layers of man-made domains, is speaking as a potent language of its conscious manipulation of architectural imagery of consumption via wayfinding and envelopment. As it transits from driveway, to entrance, restaurants and cinemas that conclude into the realm of nature, a control of power takes place. Somehow with the culminating destination, convenience is maneuvered to success.