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Ayala unveils McMicking memorial in Makati

Ring of light: Leandro V. Locsin Partners connected Exchange Plaza’s original pool with the new McMicking Memorial and Courtyard via a strip of light.

He was the visionary who master-planned the Makati Central Business District. She was the matriarch of a powerful, landed business family. Together they created an enduring legacy that still resonates today.

A memorial to Col. Joseph McMicking and his wife, Mercedes Zobel McMicking, was recently inaugurated at the Ayala Triangle Gardens, in a location now christened the McMicking Courtyard.

Leandro V. Locsin Partners, in collaboration with Ayala Land and the Zobel family, designed the memorial — a portal of weathered steel that rains down a curtain of water.

“Together and in their individual capacities, Col. Joseph and Mrs. McMicking made significant contributions to the development of Ayala Corporation, Makati City, and the rest of the country,” said Don Jaime Zobel de Ayala, chairman emeritus of the Ayala Corporation, at the ceremony. “This memorial honors their contributions to uplift the Filipino people and nation, and we hope that their legacy continues to inspire present and future generations.”

The unveiling also celebrated another milestone: Ayala Land’s 29th anniversary last September. “The events are timely and intertwined because Ayala Land’s roots started with the vision of Col. McMicking, who saw the potential of 950 hectares of very raw land and was able to transform it into the country’s financial district,” says Cathy Bengzon, head of corporate brand for Ayala Land, Inc. “His vision and development principles are the principles Ayala Land Inc. continues to uphold, as it develops master-planned, sustainable estates. We now have 23 large, mixed-use sustainable estates all over the country.”

Golden Couple

During World War II, McMicking was one of General Douglas MacArthur’s staff officers ordered to leave Corregidor. He then worked as MacArthur’s intelligence officer in Australia, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and gaining US citizenship for his services during the war.

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In 1944 he went back to Manila and married his childhood friend, Mercedes Zobel. Together with her brothers Jacobo and Alfonso, she was heir to the Zobel de Ayala family’s vast tracts of land in Makati and Calatagan, Batangas. Founder of the White Cross, which helped orphans and tuberculosis patients, Mercedes worked throughout her life with many other religious organizations.

The war had left the Zobel family fortune in ruins, but Mercedes credited her husband with bringing it back. A visionary planner and innovator, he pioneered concepts on urban development and financial services that served as the foundation on which the modern Ayala Corporation is based.

According to architect Andy Locsin, McMicking sold parcels of land to build up a “war chest” that would eventually fund the development of the core 950 hectares that today comprise the Makati CBD.

McMicking became president of Ayala Corporation, and he and Mercedes founded the Filipinas Foundation, which is now known as the Ayala Foundation.

 

 

 

 

Locsin says the Ayalas and Zobels had been thinking about how to pay tribute to the McMickings for a very long time — “decades, in fact. How do you memorialize someone? Historically they’re a company with a great deal of restraint. They’re not the types to put their names all over stuff and beat their chest.”

After asking Locsin to identify artists who could execute a memorial, in the end Ayala went with the architectural firm itself. “They felt that whoever became involved had some connection meaningful to the whole story,” Locsin says. “Our firm is an old firm and started development side by side with Ayala many ages ago when my father formed it.”

LVL Partners had never done a memorial or sculptural piece before. After “countless iterations,” they came up with a doorway-like fountain that had all the elements symbolizing the McMicking couple.

According to Locsin’s design brief, “The portal and water represent the union of Colonel and Mrs. McMicking, a partnership that brought together the ingredients of visionary resolve and deep humanity.”

The steel symbolizes the dashing colonel. Locsin went with a little-known material called Corten (aka “weathered steel” in Asia) used for boats that had to be sourced by boat builders Asia Pacific Marine. “It rusts from outside, then stops,” he says. “A few millimeters into the material, the rust seals itself and keeps its strength and material properties forever. You get this incredibly beautiful weathered orange color — the natural patina.”

The water signifies Mercedes’ softness. “I met her and she was fantastic,” recalls Locsin. “So serene, full of quiet strength.”

Inscriptions to both of them are etched on one side of the portal. When you read his, in your eye line are structures like Ayala Tower One and Exchange Plaza — the modern urbanscape that is the fruit of McMicking’s 25-year master plan. When you read hers, which is lower to the ground, in the background is the natural environment and lush greenery of Ayala Triangle Gardens.

Locsin connected it with Exchange Plaza’s original fountain pool by a strip of light that runs across the courtyard and up inside the portal frame. Every detail has been thought out, parsed, and is freighted with meaning.

“In this millennial age, it is a little nerdy,” he admits, but hopes the public will connect enough with the memorial to play with it, walk through it, and remember why it’s here.

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The McMicking Memorial and Courtyard is located in the Ayala Triangle Gardens, Makati.

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