The Peak of Luxury
One of the more enviable benefits of wealth is privacy. When you’re a man of means, you can build for yourself and your loved ones an utterly comfortable but closely guarded enclave where you can choose who to see or not to see – which is exactly the need that today’s developers hope to fulfill.
In recent years, the real estate market has seen the rise of luxury developments, oftentimes situated in mixed use environments. Whether they're high-rise condominiums or serviced residences, these developments hope to cater to the more discriminating tastes of the upper class market with their promises of a luxurious lifestyle.
And certainly, there seems to be a brisk demand for such projects. Raffles Residences Makati, for instance, a 236-unit residential project that holds the record for the highest price per square meter paid for a residential condominium in the Philippines, is reportedly over 70 percent sold out.
But what exactly does luxurious living mean?
For the most part, luxurious living is all about the experience, the feeling that you are going through something quite out of the ordinary. It is about spending your days in a fabulous location, amidst intelligently planned world-class surroundings, which reek of exclusivity and security.
Architect Gene Arthur T. Go, senior managing partner at GSN+p Architecture Studio, says, "Luxurious living will always have to deal with amenities and finishes of materials. Whether the developer is into horizontal (subdivisions) or vertical (condominiums), it is always about what it has to offer."
More specifically, Architect Francis Noel, president of Francisco Noel Architects, lists off such amenities as elegant and spacious rooms, high-technology components, valet parking, and sometimes, even landscaping as part and parcel of the luxury package.
The Luxe Package
There are many interpretations of the concept of luxury, as many as the developments sprouting all over the metro, in fact. Architect Go points to Rockwell Land Corporation as one of the leading proponents in the luxury market. The organization has successfully transformed Rockwell Center with its residential towers, office buildings, and shopping mall into an exclusive self-contained community.
He adds, "But there are other players like Ayala, Century Properties, and Alphaland hoping to penetrate the market of high end. For commercial developments, again Rockwell will be one of my top ranked developers. The others just try too hard and market themselves as high end but you can always see in the execution that it is all for show."
For his part, Architect Noel goes, "I would say Ayala is leading the way in showcasing Filipino designs for luxury living. Serendra is one."
For the most part, a high rise development is termed luxurious based on quality of materials used, location, and amenities, says Architect Go. However, today's developers seem bent on giving their market just a little something extra.
Some developments offer units with spectacular views, state-of-the-art security, gourmet kitchens and valet parking, says Architect Noel. Others have more opulent trappings like grand lobbies, service facilities that equal that of five-star hotels, and even, easy access to high-end malls, explains Architect Go.
"The totality of the project in terms of its locations, modern architecture and design, the community aspect, wide rand of amenities, project maintenance, exclusivity it offers, plus of course the name attached to the development make a project luxurious," says Rommel R. Orbigo, Assistant Vice President for Marketing Communications at Megaworld Corporation.
Eunice Acejo, marketing head of Ayala Land Premiere, says, "Luxury for us really goes beyond ensuring that we offer the best interiors - it's about building a home that takes into consideration the kind of lifestyle that our residents lead. From the European-grade fixtures and finishes that we provide in every residential unit, we also ultimately focus on our residents' ease of living, offering a seamless integration of their lifestyle."
Of course, everybody knows of the name Raffles, a collection of luxury hotels and resorts worldwide, which has consistently ranked among the world's best.
The thirty-storey Raffles Residences Makati, a joint venture between Kingdom Hotel, Investments (KHI) and Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI), features two hotel brands in one development. The first eight floors would be dedicated to the 308-room Fairmont Hotel; floors 9 and 10 to Raffles' all suites hotel; and the rest to Raffle Residences.
Living at the Raffles is sort of like living in a hotel with its access to the two hotels' facilities, butler service, and 24-hour valet parking. Not surprisingly, each unit has been imbued with a hotel feel, stamped with the Raffles brand of understand elegance.
Grace Soh, director for Brent Severin and Associates, which designed the Raffles, describes Raffles residents as "those who are linked with high expectations in relation to an address that is befitting to the exclusive level that they have attained in society - mainly the very wealthy, upper echelon of the Philippines who understand location, quality and exclusive nature."
As such, tasteful opulence characterizes every space with silk damasks, marble finishes, and gleaming fittings thrown in. As Soh points out, luxury is in the details.
Creating New Words
Megaworld Corporation seems bent on creating entirely new worlds with their projects. "Many of our luxury developments have been inspired by similar developments abroad. For example, many Filipino-Americans chose to get units at Eastwood City because they like its New York City vibe. They just go down the elevator and everything they need is there, be it McDonald's store, a salon, or a mall," explains Orbigo.
We've also seen it in the way they've built Newport City, where one can reside amidst the same arena that hosts Marriott Hotel, Maxims Tower, Newport Performing Arts Theater, and Newport Mall. And we'll be seeing it again with their latest developments, City Place in Manila and the Venice Luxury Residences in Fort Bonifacio.
With Chinatown as its background, City Place features two 35-storey residential glass and steel towers, a three-level shopping complex, Richmonde Hotel, and Chinatown Walk, a tree-lined promenade with restaurants, boutiques, and cafes.
Meanwhile, Megaworld's Venice Luxury Residences in McKinley Hill attempts to bring the romance of Italy into the Philippines. Inspired by the architecture of Venice, the project will eventually feature seven residential towers, swimming pools, various various gardens, and leisure and fitness centers as well as replicas of iconic Venitian landmarks such as the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, and St. Mark's Tower. Megaworld acquired the services of Italian architectural firm Paolo Marioni Architetto to help with the look and design of the whole complex.
"The Venice Luxury Residences is where residents can experience la dolce vita every day," Orbigo says.
When luxury developments are integrated into larger master-planned communities, they stand in a league of their own.
Over at Ayala Land, it's all about building and sustaining communities. Acejo explains, "There's the aspect of promoting a more responsible way of living. We may be investing a bit more by putting in place elements or features that encourage sustainable living, yet these also translate to minimized electricity consumption. For example, we have master switch cards that automatically switch on and off lights and certain appliances; there's our motion-sensor hallway lights, plus structural designs that maximize natural light and ventilation. All these do not in any way compromise the ease and comfort of our residents' living experience, yet only add to heeding to their highly-diversified lifestyles."
One Serendra not only offers largest unit sizes in the market, but also the least number of residents, resulting in a very exclusive environment. And speaking of the environment, this is one project which has dedicated approximately 65 percent of its area to open spaces, landscaped greens, and various leisure and fitness amenities.
Quality of life is what Ayala Land is after here. Its fitness facilities include a 620-square meter underground basketball court, a 320-square meter badminton court, two fully equipped state-of-the-art gyms, two garden swimming pools, a putting green, a spa, and playgrounds for children.
Apart from its accessibility to commercial establishments and educational institutions within Bonifacio Global City, One Serendra residents also enjoy full concierge service, 24-hour building security and doorman, and exclusive Laundromat services.
Another premier Ayala Land development is Park Terraces. Designed for people who want to be in the thick of the action, Park Terraces is located right smack at the heart of Ayala Center giving it access to hotels, shopping malls, offices and schools.
Going over the various luxury properties sprouting all over the metropolis, one can say that the Philippines is not that far behind in the global context.
Acejo says, "What's key to note is that local real estate continues to thrive and even offer faster return of investment. Land values in highly dense countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, for instance, will command the same prices, but for a very minimal space; while quite the same deal will allow you to invest in a developer whose heritage in the industry ensures quality and a sound investment."
And as developers think up of more ingenious ways to woo this discriminating market, we are only too excited to see what lies ahead.
The Philippine Star
30 September 2011
By: Jing Lejano