We are now ready to wrap up this virtual tour of Ayala Avenue that we have taken these past two installments. So without further ado, let’s continue the journey.
From Rufino Street to Legaspi-HV Dela Costa Street
Starting from the south/eastbound side, the first building in this block is one with a unique history. The structure was originally built in the 1960s, one of the first buildings to rise in the Makati CBD. It was known as the V.A. Rufino Building which was originally at 10 storeys high. It was, and still is, owned by the Rufino family, whose properties included the Ever Theater in Manila, the NET buildings in Bonifacio Global City, as well as ownership of the Philippine franchise of Dunkin Donuts and Philippine Daily Inquirer. And yes, the street the building is located that intersects with Ayala is named after one of the members of that family. During the skyscraper boom in Makati in the 1990s, there was an opportunity for the Rufinos to take part in the frenzy. Some had thought that they will demolish the old V.A. Rufino Building and build a skyscraper from scratch. But credit to the Rufinos for doing something which was radical at that time. They decided to keep the building and transform it to be the podium of the skyscraper they decided to build. Hitting two birds with one stone, so to speak. The result was the transformation of the 10-storey V.A. Rufino Building into the 41-storey Rufino Pacific Plaza, a towering structure of steel and glass with stylized glass coating the entire building. At the time of its completion in 1994, it was the tallest building in the country at 161 m (200 m if you count the antenna at the tip of the building). While it lost the title in 1998, it still remains the tallest steel structure in the country.
Fittingly next to Rufino Pacific Plaza is a building that is, by contrast, one of the newest in Ayala Avenue but just as iconic. The NEX Tower, which was completed only in 2018, is already making heads turn because of its unique architecture courtesy of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill. The 28-storey structure features a side which seemed like it was sliced off to crated this sliced design. According to its developer NOVA Group, it served to provide more space for the lobby, as well as make a bold architectural statement especially in area where there is a mix standouts and typical ones architecturally.
Up next is the Sky Plaza Building, a 24-storey building completed in 1999. It is also known as the Standard Chartered building because it has served as the Philippine office of Standard Chartered Bank, the oldest international bank in the country. Standard Chartered used to have a more notable presence with a retail bank operations and this building had a large Standard Chartered bank branch. However, due to challenges the bank was facing overall, it let go ts retail bank operations in 2016 to focus on institutional clients. East West Bank acquired the retail operations of Standard Chartered, which explains the East West branch that we see there in the building today.
Between Sky Plaza and the next building is an empty lot, the last empty lot available in Ayala Avenue. No developments going on there at this time of writing but it may change soon given the rapid developments in the area as of late. That is the case with the building up next, the former unfinished, 49-storey JAKA Tower which was touched upon a couple of times for its infamy as being the “eyesore of Ayala Avenue.” The former JAKA project that was stuck in “development hell” since 1997 was relaunched in 2015 by its new owner, Ayala Land, as the Alveo Financial Tower. Construction was finally completed by 2019 and is set to open soon-ish as the pandemic delayed the developments somewhat.
Wrapping up this side of the block is the Convergys One Building, one of the two buildings in Ayala Avenue dedicated solely for outsourcing businesses. Inaugurated in 2005, this 8-storey building in particular was built specially for Convergys, a US-based business process outsourcing firm with a wide presence in the country. Convergys was eventually acquired by another outsourcing firm Concentrix which in turn absorbed the former’s operations in 2018. Though from what I can tell, the building still retains the Convergys name though it may be changed soon.
Now checking out the north/westbound side, from Rufino Street we see the Keyland Ayala Building, owned by property developer Keyland. The 8-storey building has a lengthy history, originally built in 1975 and was acquired Security Bank’s property development arm in the 1990s. It underwent a massive renovation in 2013 as it was being transformed into an outsourcing office and retail space before Security Bank eventually turned over the property development business, and the building along with it, to Keyland in 2015..
Right next to the Keyland building is the 37-storey Smart Tower, the corporate office of PLDT’s mobile arm Smart Communications. It may have been completed in the 1990s-early 2000s right around the time of the Makati building boom and it features not only a communications tower at the top (of course) but also the flagship retail store of Smart. Recently though, it made news as it was revealed that PLDT had sold the building last December 2020 to DMC Urban Property Developers Inc., a sister company of developer DMCI.
Another skyscraper stands beside Smart Tower, the 38-storey LKG Tower, with LKG standing for the initials of Luy Kim Guam, the founder of International Copra Export Corporation, which happens to be the owner of the building. Completed in 2001, the building features a unique design courtesy of its architect Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, along with local partners Recio+Casas Architects wherein the building looks as if it’s “sliced” from the top, giving it a “sharp” upper portion. LKG is one of the more popular buildings in the area, partly because of its vast foodcourt that Makati CBD employees go to during lunchtime. (PBCom and Enterprise are also favorite lunchtime haunts in the area as well)
Next is the 22-storey Multinational Bancorporation Building which was completed in 1998. It is owned by the Multinational Investment Bancorporation, said to be the oldest existing investment house in the country. Beside it is the Cocolife Building, owned by the insurance company United Coconut Planters Life Assurance Inc. or Cocolife. Not much information is available about this 8-storey building, but it may have been built around the 1980s, certainly after 1978 which was when it was founded.
Then we have another insurance company-owned building, the BPI Philam Building which is the home of the life insurance firm joint venture BPI Philam Life Assurance Corp. the 33-storey building was completed in 2008 and designed by Filipino architectural firm Pimentel Rodriguez Simbulan & Partners.
Rounding off this block is another landmark of Ayala Avenue, the GT International Tower. The GT there stands for George Ty, the founder of the Metrobank group which includes not only Metrobank but also Federal Land, which developed the building. At 47 storeys in height, the building features sharp fins on the edges which look like cutters piercing the sky, a product of a collaboration of 3 architectural firms: G.F. & Partners (which designed the PBCom Tower), Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and Recio+Casas Architects (both having designed the LKG Tower). GT International Tower also figured in the news years ago as the building the French urban climber Alain Robert, AKA the “French Spider-Man” climbed up to in January 2019. He was arrested briefly after that stunt.
From Salcedo-H.V. Dela Costa Street to Gil Puyat Avenue
We’ve talked about the RCBC Plaza in two dedicated pieces previously so let’s check out the two (or three) buildings across it. Right at the corner of Ayala and Salcedo Street is the Ayala North Exchange, a mixed-use development complex with retail, office, and hotel components in one. Rising above the 3-level retail podium are two building at 35 and 25 storeys respectively. Aidea handled the design of the complex and is also one of the newest landmarks in Ayala Avenue as it was completed in 2018.
Finally, we have the 4-storey Teleperformance Center, the other building that was built specifically for outsourcing. It was originally completed in 2005 as the PeopleSupport Center to be the headquarters of outsourcing company PeopleSupport. On a personal note, I know this place very well as I was an employee of that company during that time and our team was one of the first teams in the company that moved to that space. Eventually PeopleSupport was acquired by other companies until it was absorbed by another outsourcing firm Teleperformance in 2014, which also warranted a change in name.
Ayala Avenue Extension
Technically, the area from Gil Puyat Avenue to Metropolitan Avenue is not really part of Ayala Avenue originally as it is an extension of it. Then again, it bears the Ayala Avenue name and there are not much landmarks to write extensively about so might as well include it here.
On the south/westside portion at the corner of Gil Puyat Avenue is a small park with a fountain and some benches. Some call it the Makati Central Post Office Park because of its proximity to the Makati Central Post Office. Across it is the 3-building residential complex The Columns-Ayala Avenue. Completed in 2006-2008, the complex was developed by Ayala Land, one of the first residential building projects it developed, with each at 30-storeys in height.
Next to The Columns is the Alphaland Makati Place which we’ve touched a bit the last time because of the controversy behind its construction. Nevertheless, construction went on and was completed by 2017, a 55-storey mixed development with retail, hotel, and residential components, as well as a sports club. Across it are two important city units, the Makati Central Fire Station and Makati Central Police Station in their modern architecture. However, in the case of the Makati Fire Station, it is set to relocate to a new site lalong Gil Puyat Avenue as it is said that the present site will be transformed as a station of the planned Makati City subway line.
To round off this tour, beside the police station is the headquarters of the Philippine Dental Association, the association of dentists in the country. The organization has been around since 1908 but not much information is known about its 2-storey building though it may have built in the 1960s. Across it is a taller and fairly new building by contrast, the Bank of Makati Building. This 14-storey building serves as the home of the Bank of Makati, which was founded in 1956 as a rural bank and was elevated into a savings bank in 2015, a milestone timed just right as its new building was to be completed the following year.
With that, our journey along Ayala Avenue is now done. The Urban Roamer hopes you have enjoyed not only roaming but also learning about the rich history of this thoroughfare and the landmarks alongside it, in the hopes that you will have a better and richer appreciation of this often-seen but otherwise unfamiliar landscape.
Acknowledgements as well to KMC Savills, Emporis, Colliers Lobien Group, JLL, Keyland, Wikipedia, BluPrint, Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Rchitects