Ayala Avenue streetsign

A Guide to Ayala Avenue – Part 1

If Makati is the business hub of Metro Manila and of the country, then Ayala Avenue is the heart of that hub. Simply put, Ayala Avenue is the most prominent address in a business hub as prominent as Makati where some of the most notable businesses are either headquartered or have a prominent presence there. For any business operating in Makati, nothing makes that business more legit than an address along Ayala Avenue.

Thus, it should be no wonder that Ayala Avenue is home to some of the most prominent structures that have defined the cityscape to what it is now. Some are quite unassuming while others stand tall and proud (literally and figuratively) Each structure has a story to tell not only of itself but of Ayala Avenue as well.

From EDSA to Makati Avenue

We start our “tour” by looking at the segment of Ayala Avenue from EDSA to Makati Avenue. Chances are the first thing you’ll notice is Ayala Center on the south side, dominated the huge building at the corner. That would be One Ayala which I won’t detail much since it’s still under construction at this time of writing and I’ve written about it already in the past. (Moving forward, any building that has been already talked about on this site will be hyperlinked to my piece about it for reference). But to review, One Ayala was built on the site of a former parking facility and the old Hotel Intercontinental which was a prominent landmark in the area before. Next to that is Glorietta 5 then Rustans’s+the link to the core Glorietta complex (particularly Glorietta 3 and 4), the 6750, and Makati Shangri-La Hotel, built on the site of the old Rizal Theater.

One Ayala

The north side is interesting in itself as this side is mostly dominated by residential buildings. Though from EDSA, the first we see is actually is something not many would notice, which may have been the intent since this area is a members-only club. This area is the home of the Makati Garden Club and while it is a “hidden” place, it manages to make its presence known with the green wall at the corner of EDSA and Ayala Avenue that welcomes you to the Makati Central Business District.

The Makati Garden Club was founded in 1957 by a small group of plant lovers who were passionate about the environment and urban gardening. It was first known as the Forbes Park Garden Club and moved a number of times until Ayala made a donation to help MGC find a permanent structure in 2009 which would be where they currently are. Nowadays, the MGC grounds hosts a small garden that can be rented out for events, a gift shop, and a French restaurant.

Across MGC, one can find a row of residential buildings. Considering their location, especially having Ayala Center right across it, it should come as no surprise that units in these buildings can fetch hundreds of thousands to millions in sale value. They are probably the most expensive in the metropolis today.

First we see is the 14-storey Urdaneta Apartments, which is actually the oldest condominium in the country as it was built in 1973. Beside it is the Twin Towers, built in 1989 and is taller at 26 floors each building.. Then there is the Pacific Plaza, built a bit later in 1992 but is taller at 43 storeys. At this point, you might be sensing a pattern here but unfortunately, this pattern breaks when we get to the Ritz Towers, whichs also a twin-towered residence but only at 27 storeys high and was built in 1983.

Urdaneta Apartments
Twin Towers
Pacific Plaza
Ritz Towers

Right next to it is a building still being constructed at this time of writing but is an important development to rise in this area to say the least. This project is called The Estate Makati, a 54-storey development by the partnership of SM’s residential development arm SMDC and Metrobank group’s property arm Federal Land. They even tapped the architectural firm of Norman Foster to design the unique cross-shaped building.

Image courtesy of buymanilacondo.com

Beside it is a more recent development that arose in the area in 2014, Discovery Primea which is touted as one of the most exclusive and upscale residential towers in the metropolis which also functions as a hotel. At 68 storeys and 250 meters high, it is also one of the 10 tallest buildings in the country today. But what makes this area interesting is what came before it. This used to be the site of the Gilarmi Apartments, the first serviced apartment building in the country when it was built in the 1960s. It was owned by businessman Virgilio Hilario and his wife, the first Miss Universe Armi Kuusela, hence the “Gilarmi” name. While the Gilarmi was demolished in the 2000s to make way for Discovery Primea, its memory has persisted when Discovery Primea’s lounge and dining area was given the name Gilarmi Lounge.

Rounding off apartment row is the Makati Tuscany, which is one of the oldest residential buildings in the metropolis. Standing at 26 storeys high, it was built in 1976 and it shows with its brutalist architecture which was in vogue at the time. It does serve well complementing the structure across it, The Peninsula Manila Hotel which was built around that time as well. We’ve touched upon Peninsula Manila anyway so we cross Makati Avenue and check out the structures in the area.

Makati Tuscany
The Peninsula Manila

From Makati Avenue to Paseo de Roxas

Directly across Peninsula Manila is the Ayala Triangle flanked on both ends along Ayala Avenue by the monuments of Gabriela Silang and Benigno Aquino Jr. This part of the triangle is dominated by two structures in contrast: the 1970s-era low-rise brutalist architecture of the Makati Stock Exchange Building and the massive 1990s-era, steel-and-glass highrise that is Tower One. Both represent the evolution and continued relevance of Makati as a financial center even if they no longer house the operations of the stock exchange.

Tower One

It wasn’t always like this as during the prewar and wartime years, this part of Ayala Avenue was an airport. In fact, the nucleus of what would become Ayala Avenue was the airport’s old south runway from which the road would be built on during the development of Makati CBD in the 1950s.

On the opposite side, coming from Makati Avenue, the first building we see is yet another building in brutalist architecture. And if tell you that building is the LV Locsin Building, that should come as no surprise. After all, National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin is known for espousing brutalism in his architectural works. It also is fitting that the building (which he built to house his architectural firm) is located just across two of his works: Peninsula Manila and the Makati Stock Exchange Building. At 19 storeys and built in 1985, the building is known to be the first building in the country that was constructed without any corner columns. Considering its prime location, it is also a highly-valued address as well.

Right across it is the Allied Bank Center, which served as the head office of Allied Bank which was founded in 1977 before it merged with Philippine National Bank in 2013. The 14-storey building itself was built in 1980, 3 years after the bank was established and is known to be one of the first buildings in the country to have its own helipad.

The buildings next to Allied Bank Center are mostly around 14 storeys though they were built quite earlier. (Come to think of it, perhaps Allied Bank opted to “blend in” with the environment at the time it was constructed) Next to it is Bankmer Building which was built in 1970, though not much is known about its history and why it’s called Bankmer. Then we see the conjoined twin buildings SGV I and II, built in 1967 to be the home of Washington Sycip‘s SGV accounting firm.

Bankmer Building on the left and SGV I and II on the right

Next to SGV I is the 12-storey National Life Insurance Building, built in 1986 to be the corporate home of the now-shuttered National Life Insurance Company of the Philippines, one of the first Filipino insurance companies which was established back in 1933. Beside it is another 12-storey building, the STI Holdings Center which is the home office of the parent company of STI and Academy. Previously, it was known as Bankers Centre and Philfirst Building, after Philippines First Insurance Company, another insurance company which moved its home office there in 2005. Philfirst is still around though it apparently sold the control of the building to STI at some point.

National Life Insurance Building and STI Holdings Center on the right

Then we have the most prominent structure (at this time of writing) at the corner of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas, the two-towered Enterprise Center. Built in 1998, the complex is actually a joint venture between the Kuok Group of Shangri-La, ING, and Andres Soriano Corp. The architecture is also a joint venture between Hong Kong’s Wong & Tung International Limited (WTIL) and ARADS & Associates, the local counterpart. Tower 1 is the tallest of the two at 40 storeys, making it into the Top 20 of the tallest buildings in the country while Tower 2 is at 30 storeys. It also has a grand podium where there are retail shops, dining area, and a direct connection to the Dela Rosa elevated walkway.

Interestingly, before Enterprise Center, this particular site was actually the head office of San Miguel Corporation before it moved to its current home in Ortigas Center. And who was at the helm of San Miguel during those Makati years? Andres Soriano and, after his death, his son Andres Jr.. So one can say the Soriano connection has always been in that part of Makati.

To be continued…

Acknowledgements as well to KMC Savills, Emporis, Colliers, Makati Rent, The Estate Makati, Discovery Hotels, Awesome!, Wikipedia, Business Mirror, and Philfirst

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