Parqal: A Unique Shopping Experience by the Bay

The shopping mall landscape in the reclaimed Manila Bayside area has long been dominated, and is still dominated, by SM Mall of Asia. Being the first and the biggest shopping mall in the area (not to mention one of the biggest malls in the country), SM Mall of Asia has left an indelible footprint in that part of the city that other shopping malls would find hard to compete. As such, shopping malls that were to follow would have to find unique ways to stand out from the dominant competition.

Ayala Malls Manila Bay did just that in a way, by offering an atrium garden while also strategically placing itself between the giant hotel and gaming complexes of Solaire and City of Dreams, but if the Urban Roamer has to be honest, it did not do much to make it stand out.

Enter D.M. Wenceslao and Associates (DMWAI), the developers behind Aseana City business district, which comprises the reclaimed area between the reclaimed area developed by SM and Federal Land (AKA the SM Mall of Asia and Metropolitan Park complexes respectively) and Asiaworld (where PITX is located). Actually Ayala Malls Manila Bay is located in Aseana City itself but it seemed DMWAI was intent to build a more “iconic” shopping destination in the area.

DMWAI envisioned a retail and office complex that would give a unique character to Aseana City and was given the name Parqal”, a word play of the words “park” and “kalye” or street, which would serve as an anchor to their vision for this complex. With international architectural firm Aedas and Filipino architectural firm Visionarch bringing ths vision of a mixed development complex to life, work on Parqal began in 2019 but faced significant delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic which hit the following year. Work eventually resumed and completed by 2022 and Parqal formally opened to the public on September 2023.

The design for Parqal inspired by the traditional landscape of the Spanish-era Philippine town center, with a central open space surrounded by “bahay na bato” type houses. Aedas gave Parqal a more contemporary twist, with teh preseence of a spacious and walkable central plaza covered in a canopy and surrounded by nine industrial design-inspired buildings. These 9 buildings are 4 storeys each in height, with the first two allotted for retail space and the upper floors alloted for offices and event venues. The buildings were named after the building materials traditionally used in Philippine houses and furnishings: cogon, sawali, adobe, rattan, nipa, kawayan, banig, abaca, and capiz.

While the central plaza of Parqal is surrounded by most of these buildings, one part of the complex was left as an open space and serves not only as the mall’s pocket partk but also an events place of sorts with the presence of a small amphitheater.

Another thing to note about Parqal, and Aseana City in general, is how most of its roads are named after Filipino artists. Parqal for instance is bounded by Cabrera St. in the north (named after Ben Cabrera or BenCab) and Luz St. in the south (after Arturo Luz) and is intersected by two other streets: Abueva (after Napoleon Abueva) and Imao (after Abdulmari Imao). In a way, Aseana City serves as an extension of the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex as far as honoring Filipino artists are concerned.

In a way, Parqal’s layout is similar to the Bonifacio High Street, which remains the gold standard for open space retail development in the country. That being said, Parqal is a worthy addition to the list, with its open layout taking advantage of its location near Manila Bay and the sea breeze it provides while also providing ample protection from the heat and rain thanks to its large canopy. As it is, the complex could benefit from additional greenery and trees beyond the small pockets found throughout the area, including the amphitheater park.

At this time of writing, Parqal has yet to fill its retail space capacity but DMWAI seems to be bullish about the complex’s potential, especially with the up and coming developments happening around it. As it stands, DMWAI must be commended for realizing a unique vision that is providing more character and variety in the metropolis’ retail and commercial landscape.

Acknowledgements as well to Aseana City, D.M. Wenceslao and Associates, Parqal, Aedas, Visionarch, and BusinessWorld

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