Posts tagged Philippines
Home Is Where the Art Is

Buensalido + Architects designed Casa Uccello to reflect and showcase the incredible art collection housed within


In Quezon City, the Philippines’s largest city, Buensalido + Architects have created a distinctive home for their well-known clients, media personalities Julius and Tintin Babao and their two children.

The Babaos are avid art collectors, and over the last two decades, the couple has amassed a fantastic collection of contemporary art comprising over 400 pieces. It was their shared love for art that inspired the design direction. ‘The brief was to design an expansion of their existing house to not only have ample space to showcase their artwork but also to address the growing spatial needs of their family,’ Jason Buensalido, principal architect and chief design ambassador explains. ‘They appreciate how artists see the world differently and interpret it through their art, and how multiple questions and meanings can be derived from it. They wanted a house with this kind of perspective –– one that is unique, different, and challenges current paradigms of what a house should be like.’ The artworks take pride of place throughout the home and are complemented by a neutral and natural colour palette.

The exterior of the angular building features customised elements such as a folded shell, slanted windows and gradient slats. In homage to the original house, the design team developed ‘a language of transitions, manifested by folds, fragments and fractals of various scales, to negotiate the nature of the existing house to the new expansion,’ Buensalido says. A gradient of horizontal aluminium slats forms a brise-soleil, and the home’s facade is covered in an ever-changing pattern that changes according to the sun’s angle.

Inside, the dining room is one of the most striking spaces. ‘The owner envisioned this space to be the pièce de résistance of the house, as this is where the family and guests would spend long periods of time. We therefore designed it to be a cocoon-like experience, wherein a series of undulating metal strips engulf the space,’ Buensalido explains.

Along with ample natural light, the exterior is further incorporated into the design with a lower ground lanai, pool and deck ol, a terrace for al fresco dining, and a top-floor sky terrace that the family uses as an outdoor cinema. Wood is used throughout the home as a warm contrast to the white stucco surfaces.

The Baobaos prized furniture collection is a creative collage of local and imported pieces such as the Chiquita stools and the Yoda chair by Kenneth Cobonpue, the La Chaise lounge chair by Charles and Ray Eames, the Egg™ chair by Arne Jacobsen for Fritz Hansen and the Spun chair by Thomas Heatherwick for Magis.

The design team, in Buensalido’s own words, aimed to ‘engage not only the public eye, but the public mind as well, to make people rethink the current boundaries of what a home should be,’ and it's clear to see the boundaries have been rather stylishly, and artfully, shifted.

Text / Babette Radclyffe-Thomas
Images / Buensalido + Architects and Ed Simon

Latina Manila

Jonathan Matti’s recent collaboration with de Gournay is inspired by the rich history and culture of the Philippines


The word luxury gets bandied about so often these days that it’s lost much of its impact and meaning. Manila-based designer Jonathan Matti, however, knows the true meaning of the word, and that it doesn’t refer to anything ‘that can be found in a department store,’ as he often quips. According to the designer, true luxury is something that is hand-made, bespoke, unique. It’s for this reason that Matti often specifies custom de Gournay wallpaper in the homes he decorates for the upper echelons of Filipino society.

The British wallcovering company de Gournay was originally founded in 1986 by Claud Cecil Gurney, who purchased a few panels of antique Chinese export tea-paper at auction and was looking for a way to restore and replicate them. Gurney’s mission took him to the source, and after touring studios and factories in China he decided to create the company (named after the original spelling of the family name). Over the following decades, de Gournay has built a solid reputation for providing high-quality, hand-made and highly customisable wallcoverings based on the traditional chinoiserie patterns and scenic landscape panels that were originally created for some of England’s most stately manor homes.

Over lunch, after meeting Matti for the first time serendipitously at Decorex, Jemma Cave — de Gournay’s design director —  ‘popped the question,’ as Matti says, inviting the designer to partner with them to create a new panorama design based on his native country. The collaboration was unprecedented for the company. Matti, initially put off by his admitted lack of drawing skills, eventually agreed, knowing that Cave shared his vision.


What he may lack in drawing skills, Matti more than adequately makes up for with his encyclopedic knowledge of Filipino culture, design and art. The designer shared visual references from his own library with Cave, and after more than two years and several trips back and forth between Manila and London, Latina Manila was launched at Elements, de Gournay’s distributor in the Philippines, last month.

Made up of 20 individual panels, the panoramic design illustrates a bustling scene of the Philippine islands —  Chinese traders, farmers and landowners all going about their days under palm trees that sway in the tropical breeze — depicted beautifully in colours reminiscent of fading light. An effect perhaps symbolic of a faded grandeur, the scenes are evocative of a bygone era, a time when the Philippines was one of the wealthiest countries in the region and under Spanish rule.

The design is an amalgamation, or a pastiche if you will, of a variety of elements of Filipino flora, fauna and colonial architecture. While not all the designs are historically or geographically accurate, they are the result of Matti’s exuberant imagination — and it’s about time somebody drew on the rich culture and heritage of the Philippines for inspiration.

Text / Suzy Annetta
Images / Martin Garcia Perez, courtesy of de Gournay

New Identity

In 2016, Philippines National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, popularly known as BenCab, became the first Asian artist to collaborate with Dutch brand Moooi Carpets. Design Anthology’s managing editor Phil Annetta caught up with BenCab and Moooi Carpets CEO Martien Valentijn at the launch event in Manila this past May for their thoughts on the results.

Design Anthology: Ben, you moved to London in the sixties for personal reasons. Did you also feel that it would help your work?

BenCab: Yes, in 1969. I met my wife-to-be in Manila and then we decided to go to London and live there. I did feel it would help my work — at age 27 I’d never been out of the country. I had my first exhibit a year after I got there. I met someone who introduced me to the actress Glenda Jackson — she was setting up a gallery and I was the first exhibit in her gallery in Greenwich. It was during that time that I decided to become a full-time painter.

After that you famously discovered some colonial-era material that depicted the Philippines from an Orientalist perspective. What were your impressions of that material when you found it?

Well, the trend then was minimalism, so I tried doing a few of those works but I wasn’t happy with them. And I just felt nostalgic and I started collecting turn-of-the-century travel books. I discovered all these old photos and how the Europeans or Americans saw Filipinos, like depictions of Filipinos waiting to become American — this was when we were being subjugated. And then the idea of the Filipina as a domestic helper, you know.

So I started doing research on that and I did a whole series of Filipiniana material. That was the basis of my first exhibit not in London but back in the Philippines — that was in ’72, just prior to martial law under Marcos.

And that was the Larawan series?

That was Larawan 1. After that I did Larawan 2, which was the Filipinos abroad. I’d say it hasn’t changed. The nineteenth-century servant girl Filipina becomes a domestic helper in this century. I was making a parallel.


You’re widely known as a painter but you’ve worked across a whole range of media. What is it about painting that keeps you coming back?

Well, I like working with my hands and I’m really, in a way, a graphic artist — I worked in a magazine for five years and that helped me use that technique to work on my painting. I guess that’s why it has some appeal, too. Like I said, it’s my subject — humanistic. And it’s slightly political but not propaganda.

You can’t count propaganda as art, right? It’s not interpretive.

Yes. And during that time under Marcos a lot of artists went into that: Anti-Marcos and revolution. And of course during that time there was the Vietnam War. But that was exciting in a way. It gives you a lot of references to what’s going on around you.

What about parallels for now? Are you seeing any in the way martial law happened here?

It’s coming around again. It seems to be an international phenomenon. We have Duterte, Trump, Erdogan… it’s unbelievable how the people feel that these people are the ones who really lift us. But instead it’s the other way around. Humanism is at risk.

I read that it’s bringing you back to painting.

Well actually, we had an anti-EJK show — that’s extra-judicial killings, which is not just killing but a process of ‘justice’. In the Far Eastern University circle, pop artists had a show and I joined them, reminding them that we fought against martial law. You have this president who’s an admirer of Marcos, and he even brought Marcos to the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, the heroes’ burial ground.


That form of populist identity politics defines one group negatively, whereas your work is so accessible because the humanism is universal. Is that something you try for? Do you feel your work gives a more positive identity to Filipinos?

I think it’s become like that in a way because it’s become so popular. But at the same time, if there’s a crisis in humanity, I go back to that, to what affects me politically. We’re going to have an exhibit in June at the University of the Philippines, and I did a very large drawing of humanity in crisis.

What I’m trying to portray through humanism is everybody gets affected by things like disasters, whether you’re rich or poor, you’re affected. And I did the whole series on disasters after the big earthquake… I consider myself as observational.

When you chose the works for the carpets, did you really want to show that kind of humanism again? What influenced the choice?

I have some works that are more … pleasant (laughs), with the subject of the Filipina, so with the Abitare group and us, we sort of compromised on that because we have to think of it as a carpet as well, not just a statement! I envisioned what would be good on a wall — something very strong.

Had you created design objects before?

I created two Swatch designs using my image of Sabel. Sabel can be abstract and it can be realistic. I love drawing from life and I did a whole series on Filipino musicians, mostly alternative music. I like direct drawing. I did seventy drawings and came out with a book.


Is it the immediacy that draws you?

Yes, I like the immediacy. Also nudes — I love drawing nudes.

What did you think when Abitare approached you about the carpets?

I’m always open to new media. I met this friend who said, ‘Why don’t you do some sculptures?’ and for me it was a challenge. So we started doing some sculptures, first with clay and then some metalwork. It’s always a challenge. When digital art was very popular, I started drawing on a Wacom. Hockney used to do so many things! You don’t limit yourself.

You do span a lot of media, and you created some of those media as well, such as your work with hand-made paper. Did you enjoy the materiality of the carpet?

Yes. It’s different from making paper. That’s really more organic, but this is more technological, which I welcome. As a senior artist (laughs), you also want to venture into something new. Although it can be very, you know, safe, just doing your work and selling.


As a ‘senior artist’, you’re also helping younger artists as well.

Yes, I did some before we founded the Tam-Awan Village (for preservation of Cordillera culture and traditions). A friend of mine started buying those abandoned Igorot tribal houses made of wood and thatched roofs. We put them in a place and came up with the idea of having a museum — a living museum. So, we started inviting other artists and sort of harnessing that idea in the Cordillera because it’s very rich, culturally. The Ifugao carvers, they’re complete artists for me because they can carve, they can plant, they can do their houses.

And that’s the tribal art you collect. What is it about their art particularly?

Yes, that started my tribal art collection. The first art that was introduced to us Filipinos came from China and Europe, especially Spain — people collecting saints and ivories and all that. And I feel that tribal artists are us, it’s real, it’s not imported like the Catholic religion is imported.

Do the Cordillera artists also focus on human subjects?

Yes, it’s really the anitos, which is ancestral worship. It’s very universal, I mean you see that in Africa, Indonesia, everywhere.

They seem to have a strong sense of cultural identity there. Haven’t there been insurgencies in the Cordillera region?

There’s always something going on. Even during the Spanish and American periods they were never really subjugated, so that’s part of my admiration for them.


Moving back to the present, what kind of changes have you seen in the local arts scene over the years? You’re celebrating fifty years in that scene.

Among the young artists it’s the phenomenon of new technology. In their paintings, because of the internet, the image sometimes repeats itself and they tend to do layering because of the influence of the many images you can get.

Do Filipinos support local art? There are a lot of art museums here as well, where other countries have a lot of history museums, science museums…

Very much so. And I’m enjoying being part of it. I started my museum after I went to Indonesia and met an Indonesian artist in Bandung who built a museum with his own money to showcase his work and other artists, and that gave me an idea because I like objects, I like collecting and I concentrated on the Cordillera pieces. And at the museum, local artists have a venue to exhibit and then sometimes we have lectures and presentations.

And finally, how do you feel about the results of the carpet collaboration?

I’m so happy with the carpets. When your work gets enlarged and created in a new material, it gives it a different feel. I guess because my paintings became so expensive that bringing it out in this form you spread your work more and it kind of democratises your work. Because you can only do so much in painting, you know — it takes so long to do an original.

Is it something you’d consider doing again?

Yes, and actually Moooi can now use wool as well as the acrylic we used for these, so why not?


Martien, what was your reaction when Abitare approached you to do a rug collection with Ben?

Martien Valentijn: I was happily surprised because I thought it was a very nice expression of collaboration between a famous and well-known artist and our technique, our capabilities of producing carpets. So I welcomed the idea.

Did you know Ben’s work?

Not really, but I very much liked it from the beginning — I was immediately surprised by the movement in his paintings and I thought his work on our carpets would perfectly match because of the colourful style, the gradients and the movement.

How much has it been made possible by the technology?

Well, the technology was very important because even three years ago it wasn’t possible to do this type of collaboration. The technique is so new that in the past it was only possible to print a maximum of twelve colours, and Ben’s painting is full-colour, so we needed to do it full-colour otherwise you’d have a bad reproduction.


Tell me about the machine.

It’s a Chromojet printer, a hundred metres long and four metres wide. We can print graphical designs with a limited amount of colours or do a full-colour print. So if you do a production with a more graphical design with, say, eight, ten or sixteen colours, then you can specify them specifically with Pantone or other colour references like CMYK to print exactly the colour you want. With the full-colour method it’s more a trial-and-error method. For this collaboration, Ben’s designs were sent to us, we produced samples of one by one metre, then we checked whether they matched the original. If not, then we changed the colours and the file.

Overall, it’s high-pressure printing from the bottom to the top of the carpet with thousands of nozzles — it’s a very specialised technology creating exact designs on carpet, on different surfaces. We started with one specific material, an acrylic, and since April we’ve also had the possibility to print on wool, so that’s our next generation. Wool has a different aspect to it, it’s a different material, it’s naturally yellow whereas the acrylic is white, so the usage depends on the design — where for example with Ben, some of his paintings have strictly pure white, so it’s better to print on acryclic because the white is much brighter. When you have a natural yarn like wool you have to keep a close eye on the colours of the design because it affects the colour.

So maybe in the future there’ll be another few items on wool. It needs another approach because the colours and the yarn respond differently to each other, so the fixation of the colours on wool is different than on acrylic — there are different materials, different problems, different approaches.


And tell me about the printing process.

Well first we have the production of the carpet itself, and we have the cleaning and the washing of the yarn because it needs to be fully clean and washed before printing. And then it goes through the printer, it’s printed on, then there’s the fixation of the printing — you need to have fixation of the colours — and to do that it goes through steaming, which takes up twenty-five metres from the hundred metres in the printer. And then you have the drying.

And what’s very important is we have a stretching method at the end of the machine to fit the rug exactly to the dimensions.

What about the making of the rug? Is it based on any particular technique?

It’s all machine-made, but for the new wool for example we have tufting but also weaving from this September. We also do Axminster weaving, which is used in high-end hotels. We weave it in white and then we print on it.

Did you go through many rounds of changes for this collaboration?

We did three or four rounds. If you want the best results and you have the artist’s critical eye then it takes some time. But in general, for most projects it takes one or two rounds. Sometimes it’s about colour and sometimes there are things a little bit more pixelated in some parts of the design, so it can be that one design is correct in the first round and others need a second or a third round. But for this one it took all up about nine months’ preparation including the production and the finishing, et cetera.


You seem happy with the results.

I’m happy! I saw the samples but I didn’t see the results until the launch. It’s amazing! Even though I’m used to seeing the small samples and you imagine what it would be in full scale but when I entered the room and saw the results yesterday it was really nice. The presentation was beautiful, and to be here in the Philippines and in Manila is a beautiful experience together with Abitare, and they were so beautiful on the walls, and I have personally two favourites out of the eight myself (laughs) but technically they were all really beautiful results. I’m sure the people interested in them were also amazed by the result, and this makes me happy — it’s what you want with a collaboration like this.

This is your first time working with an Asian artist or designer, isn’t it?

Yes, and there can be more. It’s a very nice way of working together which can be done in other parts of the world as well, and I think it’s extra added value to our Moooi Carpets brand to work with artists like BenCab and the best artists globally because the clients and the public loved his work. We are actually the canvas, but he’s the artist. So I hope this will be followed up with other artists as well.

When did Moooi open the carpets business?

Actually only two years ago, because our technique was so brand new. We were launched in 2015 in Milan, and we started with a collection of forty-eight signature rugs presented in one thousand, eight hundred square metres. That was with 20 signature designers presenting their designs – it was immediately really appreciated by the public, and we had to deliver to immediately 70 countries where Moooi was. So it was a lot of work in the last two years, but the growth and the interest was immediately there. Moooi has actually existed since 2001 — Marcel and Casper started it with a lighting collection and after that they added furniture and in 2015 we added the Moooi Carpet collection. So we’re the youngest part. Personally, I collaborated with Moooi before, but when we invented the new technique then Marcel and I said we now have to make it a new section of Moooi.

It’s quite an integrated offering you have, I saw.

Yes. We have 3 different divisions — the signature collection, the works collection and your own designs. We have a configurator on our website where people can create their own designs based on predefined designs, so they can change colours, they can change the shapes and they can create their own rug online. Lots of architects and interior architects are using all the groups in their projects, so we sell signature designs for specific areas of an hotel, for example, and the architect adds some designs made on the online tool, and for other parts creates custom designs and sends it to us, so then there are three different aspects of the possibilities of the technique in the one project, whether it’s retail, whether it’s contract, it’s a nice aspect.

Historic First: Philippines participate in Venice Biennale of Architecture

This spring saw the first-ever exhibit by the Philippines at the Architecture Biennale in Venice. The biennale  — touted as ‘the Olympics of the art world’ — was established in 1895 to advance contemporary culture and art. The architecture biennale was formally added in 1980 and its popularity in visitors each year now rivals that of the art biennale.

A significant amount of work and resources go into participating in the biennale, and for each country it’s a different process. Some countries, for example, have an established presence and are honoured to participate in each and every biennale with permanent pavilions built in often distinct, endemic architectural styles by their most influential architects: a simple, prefab-style structure with sublime natural diffused light by Alvar Aalto for Finland, a Delano & Aldrich-designed dome-capped Jeffersonian pavilion for the United States, and the German pavilion made headlines this year by taking a wrecking-ball to its Nazi-era structure in a symbolic break with history.

In the case of the Philippines, however, who had never before been involved, establishing a pavilion required not only shoring up political support at home, but also finding a suitable exhibition space in Venice.

Senator Loren Legarda led the campaign for the inclusion of the Philippines in both the art and architecture biennales after attending a previous year’s opening, where she was surprised to discover much smaller nations being represented. ‘So why not the Philippines of 100 million people of artists and culture bearers?’ asked Legarda.

It was a long and arduous process of slowly garnering support from fellow legislators to allocate modest funds and official endorsements. At the same time, Legarda and her devoted staff had to familiarise themselves with the rigorous open call process for new applicants.

But for Legarda, it’s a question of raising awareness of culture. ‘It’s importance to government and society and our country. This is unheard of in the history of the Philippines Senate, and why?’ she questions emphatically. ‘It’s our soul, it’s our being, it’s our life as a nation.’

With considerable budget restraints, the Philippines pavilion inspected several sites around Venice before settling on the Palazzo Mora, selected for its twin conditions of affordability and accessibility. While set apart from the vast majority of other biennale participants whose pavilions are located between Arsenale and Giardini in the far east of the island-city, the Palazzo Mora fit the bill perfectly. Here, the Philippines’ exhibition occupies three sequential exhibition rooms on the top floor of this 16th century-structure with a view out across terracotta tiled rooftops.

Our readers can look forward to Issue 11 of Design Anthology when we’ll be discussing more about the exhibition itself in conversation with the curatorial team, who took on the very topical issue of heritage preservation in their exhibit, Muhon: Traces of an Adolescent City.

The historic involvement of the Philippines in this year’s architecture biennale is the result of a passion project — both on the part of  Sentaor Legarda with her dedicated team and the artists involved — that offers a preview into the extraordinary depth of cultural and artistic capital on offer in this small but spirited nation.

Visit the Philippines pavilion at  Palazzo Mora in Venice from now until November 27.

Rising Stars

At this spring's Maison&Objet Asia, six young designers were recognised for their budding talent and growing contribution to an Asian design scene. In Issue 5, we featured excerpts taken from interviews with these young designers and are please to bring you the full, unabridged content of those interviews below.

Image 1

Image 1


Can you briefly describe your work?

My designs explore the multifarious expressions of light through an ongoing series of creative experiments that involve studying the properties of heat-resistant materials, repeatedly testing illumination-producing electric bulbs for permeability and glare, and giving form to unique ideas in a way that resembles a couturier’s draping technique. By using the same process employed in haute couture dressmaking — first study the materials and then design the product — my ‘light couture’ is a study in intimate interactions of light and materials.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

It’s not just the illumination of space that I hope people experience; I want to bring a sense of harmony to people and their feelings through light. Whether switched on or off, a lighting fixture is an important design element of any space and a conspicuous part of daily life. I want to help create refined and inspirational spaces in which to spend relaxing and inspirational time.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

I dreamt of becoming a designer since childhood because I loved drawing and

playing with tiles from my father’s workshop.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

I have a fairly extensive knowledge of fashion and textile design and like to research newly developed

materials. All materials, from yarn to metal, stimulate my curiosity.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

The techniques of experienced craftsmen. I am always impressed by their technical prowess when I visit a factory. These people are always searching for ways to bring out the very best of their skills.

Can you name your top three influences?

Techniques of craftsmen; Family; Japan’s distinctive four seasons

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

I am currently trying to link people closely together and respond to the Japanese sense of aestheticism. I am trying to find light that draws up closely and embrace people, and am making new lighting equipment that brings harmony to the everyday scenery of people’s lives.

Image 2

Image 2


Can you briefly describe your work?

We are an embroidery design studio based in Bangkok, combining industrial embroidery, art and craftsmanship to create experimental designs that bridge traditional techniques with new, experimental forms. We hope to create new experiences of textile art and embroidered products.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

We recreate ordinary yet meaningful objects that reflect our everyday lives. By observing and exploring things that surround us, we seek to integrate emotional value into our products. We hope that people will realise how much design can be a part of their lives.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

We like to create new experiences of textile art and products by bridge traditional technique with experimental new technique.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

If we have a very short time - talking, eating and drinking.

If we have a short time - go to the museum, events and exhibitions.

If we have a long time – traveling

Can you name your top three influences?

Our families; Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec; Atelier 2+

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

We want to contribute to the development of our country on the world stage through art and design.

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

A new collaboration called 'Issaraphap' (Issaraphap is Thai meaning ‘Independent’)

We hope to bridge Thai culture values to contemporary design by challenging the conventional creation of objects through industrial processes, as well as to tell Thai stories through design objects that maintain the character of materials, production and local creativity.

Image 3

Image 3


Can you briefly describe your work?

In our latest New Old Light, it is the contrasting qualities of peaceful and dynamic that sets KIMU on its journey to discovering new soul in old living objects. The traditional form and function of an oriental paper lantern meets with Western design aesthetics and is transformed into a beautiful new shape for the modern-day lifestyle.

The deconstruction and reinterpretation of a cultural imagery can also be seen in The New Old Vase when it disassociates itself from having an inherent volume, leaving only a linear structure that blurs the distinct personalities between the East and West.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

Besides being poetic in bridging conflicting elements, our designs also allow plenty of room for the user’s imagination and interaction thanks to their playful setups. Even though the creative balance of form and function is essential, every product is only truly complete when it is being used and loved in everyday life.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

Ketty realised when she was a child but Kelly and Alex only realised after graduation from the college of Industry design department.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

We use primarily wood, paper and metal in our designs. These materials are nostalgic, while also relating for people the warm feeling of being touched.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

We love ancient culture and museums a lot.

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

KIMU pop-up shops all over the world.

Working with craftsmen from different countries.

Seeing people use KIMU designs in their homes.

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

Our aim is to complete the KIMU New Old Collection, so we’ll keep designing mirrors, clocks and side tables to launch later this year.

Image 4 (needs to be mirrored)

Image 4 (needs to be mirrored)


Can you briefly describe your work?

LAB DE STU is a design collective based out of Australia representing three designers — Adam Lynch, Dale Hardiman and André Hnatojko. Thus, the work produced by LAB DE STU is quite diverse due to the variety of interests we each have in design.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

The particular typologies we explore tend to be fairly static and are used throughout commercial spaces, therefore can be somewhat forgotten. We can only hope that people notice our work within these spaces. The difference between the commercial and non-commercial output of LAB DE STU is that we’re producing objects for a particular purpose and space. The non-commercial works seek to explore unknown territory.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

I’m not sure if there was any particular defining point for any of us to immediately decide to be a designer. André had previously studied interior design and decided to change to furniture, Adam had studied woodwork throughout secondary education and Dale had no interest in design until beginning university after not first getting into fine arts.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

We tend to work across all materials as we do not want to be restricted to only a single medium. We are constantly learning by working with new materials and their processes. There may be a particular material we seem to keep revisiting in our commercial pieces and that tends to be the availability of that material or process with manufacturing in Australia.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

We like to believe we draw inspiration from everyday life, but a more direct inspiration would be from visiting factories and building relationships with those who make our objects. Due to the limitations of manufacturing in Australia, we explore simple forms with achievable outcomes so that we aren’t just producing high-end products.

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

That's such an incredibly difficult question to answer, as the further our practices develop, the more areas and disciplines we find ourselves attracted too. It’d be fairly selfish to say ‘design a product for a major furniture and lighting brand’, so a dream project would most likely be to be given a budget to produce editioned works for a major gallery without commercial constraints.

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

LAB DE STU is not just a company that produces objects. As a collective it represents three different designers, all with varying interests. We also run exhibitions through 1-OK CLUB, Dowel Jones is having its first solo exhibition next month and together we are planning on a potential retail front.

Image 5

Image 5


Can you briefly describe your work?

We are a small, inter-disciplinary design studio based in architecture. We work on a wide range of project types from residential and institutional buildings to landscapes, interiors, events and project furniture. We have a special focus on design for children and families.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

We always hope that our projects will promote a sense of playfulness and surprise. Our work is intended to contrast those kinds of architecture that take themselves too seriously and are too prescriptive in telling users how to occupy or experience the space. In designing for children, we have learned to relax and to enjoy the unexpected and imaginative ways in which our users inhabit our works; in many ways we think of their contribution as the second half of the design process.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

For Josh, it was in high school. He became very interested in avant-garde architects (mainly postmodernists) who believed that architecture could shape and influence human social experiences. There was a comic book called Mr. X about a masked designer who invented ‘psychotecture’— a way that certain forms could make people think and feel different things. This seemed too exciting to pass up.

Shing became interested in architecture in college. She had been studying math and art history, and was most attracted to learning about buildings. Like Josh, she was very interested in the way that architecture could affect human emotions and interactions.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

Our material is space, basically. There are many physical materials in architecture — we like concrete and timber in particular — but these really all serve to create a larger environment. It’s the latter that makes architecture unique from other art forms, and gives it a special impact. We like space because it can only be partially controlled; no matter how accurately we model or visualise our project, there are surprises. Space seems to have a will of its own, like a co-designer, and brings with it moods and emotive atmospheres that feel larger than our design ideas could ever be.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

Honestly, most of our inspiration is drawn from outside design. We are influenced by cartoons, food, dreams and music. Much of our process, at the early stages, has to do with translating creative ideas into architecture from a different medium. For example, we are very interested in the way that Brian Eno layers sounds in his songs; the ideas behind his method have been recorded in a card game called Oblique Strategies. We have been trying to develop an architectural equivalent for years. It hasn’t happened yet, but we are still trying!

Can you name your top three influences?

Tom & Jerry, Charles Mingus, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

Probably a church or a mosque — we have always been especially interested in religious and ‘transformative’ spaces because they distil very intense human emotions in a single building.

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

This year is interesting for us because it seems to be a return to houses. We are working on planning two inter-generational family homes here in Singapore. This is very interesting because it somewhat resembles an Asian family compound with up to four separate wings or generations of one lineage in a single building. It’s both an old and a new type, given that it’s being re-born in the dense Asian cities of today where real estate is expensive and space is limited. The new version hasn’t been developed yet, but it has elements of the house and something larger, like a small hotel, resort or dormitory. This is a really interesting thing for us to explore, and it’s very close to home — we live in an inter-generational home ourselves.

Image 6 (needs to be mirrored)

Image 6 (needs to be mirrored)


Can you briefly describe your work?

My work is a poetic attempt at expressing form and function in material terms.

Is there something in particular that you hope people will experience through your work?

I hope that when people encounter my work, they will experience the sublime.

When did you first realise you wanted to become a designer? 

It was during my sophomore year in art school when I realised the practicality and necessity of design.

What is it you like about working with your particular material?

I like the material to be open to exploration and manipulation.

Where do you draw inspiration from outside of design?

Experimental, global folk, punk, and noise music have been constant sources of inspiration.

Can you name your top three influences?

Andrea Branzi – his work is poetry in 3D

Campana Brothers - for their original and distinct expression

Movement 8 - the group of Filipino designers who were able to break through the international design scene and paved the way for younger designers like myself

What’s a dream project-either real or imaginary? 

Designing my live/work space in a lush tropical landscape overlooking the sea (or the city, at least).

What’s in the pipeline, what are you working on now?

A sculptural piece for a hotel restaurant, new lighting and home product design for the upcoming Manila FAME show and an exhibition in New York, among others.

Shangri-La Manila

An impressive roster of designers has come together to create the long-awaited third Shangri-La outpost in Manila. Situated in the heart of the Fort Bonafacio area of metro Manila, the large mixed-use complex includes the multi-level Kerry Sports and a sizeable retail component. The hotel itself has more than 500 rooms, designed by award-winning hospitality design firm HBA, and several dining outlets designed by the likes of Hong Kong-based Steve Leung and New York-based Rockwell Group and AvroKO.

State of Design

Manila, over the last decade, has re-established itself as a global gateway, a central design hub with a collection of new shops, studios and galleries opening up. Design Anthology sat down with two of Manila’s best-known design practitioners, furniture designer Ito Kish and industrial designer Stanley Ruiz, to discuss the state of design in the Philippines and how it is gaining greater currency on the global scene.  

Design Anthology: How would the two of you define your work in a single phrase?


Stanley Ruiz: Industrial craftsmanship is the essence of my work, in terms of the procedure and materiality, and trans-cultural due to my influences.

Ito Kish: My work’s language is distinctly Filipino, yet something that comfortably belongs in any part of the world.

How would you describe the current state of design in Manila today?


IK: It’s an exciting time for Philippine design. In a way, all this excitement can be attributed to a healthy local economy, which opens the possibility for more creative talents to get excited. The Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, a government arm of the Department of Trade and Industry, for the first time decided to push for presence in the world’s major trade shows such as Maison&Objet, Salone del Mobile and the ICFF NYC to name a few, as a collective group under the moniker Design Philippines.


It’s been over twelve years since there was a strong presence of Filipino creativity and craftsmanship in those shows. Now there’s a rediscovery that the Philippines has some of the best design talents and can produce pieces that are of artisanal quality. A new wave of designers, which includes Stanley, Daniel Latorre, Lilianna Manahan, Leeroy New to name a few, are making waves. Some of them used to be based abroad and have since returned home to practice. SR: Filipino design companies are showing abroad. It used to be that Kenneth Cobonpue was the only one who displayed, but now we’ve got other brands like Industria Home, Schema, Kish and other companies which are starting to brand themselves. In that sense, I can see a more elevated design aesthetic. There are also more opportunities for designers to show work at trade shows and some off-site venues. That said, the design culture still needs to be developed locally to continue increasing this awareness. Outside of convention centres, we need to have more galleries and smaller venues.

Tell us more about success and liability as a Manila Designer.


SR: As a designer, I have the opportunity to contribute and shape this environment. It’s a big task. Once I have made some kind of design and it is showcased, I feel like I have made a stamp in the city. But at the same time as a designer, I have to be careful about what I’m putting out there, because I might be liable to the contribution of more visual confusion. If you walk or drive around Manila, it’s not a cohesive environment to be in. It’s completely fragmented. As designers we have the opportunity to shape our culture, but there is always a danger to adding to the mess.


What or who do you look to as your local design heroes or inspiration?


SR: In my early days, I looked up to Val Padilla and Milo Naval. Naval has a store at the LRI (Luzon Rattan Industries) Design Plaza too, and he was part of the Filipino regional ‘Movement 8’. His proportions are European but interpreted with local materials, which I also do with my work, where I combine natural materials with industrial ones. It’s my way to elevate the products, mixing industry with artisanal methods. Movement 8 highlighted Philippine design via a representation of the ideal Asian lifestyle.

IK: Years ago I went to Lake Sebu and met the indigenous people, the T’boli, and I was amazed by their traditional design processes. Everything was made by hand and can be traced from nature, their environment and the old tradition, which is truly original. For local designers, Budji Layug is one designer who I discovered growing up and still admire. From within the new breed of designers, I like the aesthetics of Stanley.


How has the local government supported your career?


SR: Manila has been very receptive of my work. I’m fortunate to have agencies like CITEM support me now. However, when I started, I didn’t really look for sponsorship or support from the government. It’s still quite tough to be a young designer in Manila, as it took me a few years to get recognition, and to build a network. I definitely did my own legwork. Kenneth or Ito make their own furniture. But for me, I designed for a number of foreign companies abroad before I started Studio Ruiz. I’ve been working in this home furniture industry since I was a student, which is a long time. IK: My first foray into design was via Manila FAME, the biannual trade exposition organised by CITEM. One of my pieces got the Katha Award for product design for furniture and that opened doors, including press coverage, which right away established me as a furniture designer. CITEM decided that it was time Filipino designers return to international trade shows through Design Philippines. Since 2013, we’ve participated in five shows and all were subsidised by CITEM. That’s good support. Our participation gives a way for international buyers to see our products and adds curiosity.


How has the Manila design industry evolved in talent pool and recognition?


IK: The Philippines is very handicraft-based because of the abundance of natural materials. Now people are swaying to authenticity and artisanal products as everyone admits that the Philippines is a place to source for that. Manila FAME is the second oldest trade show next to the Canton Fair, harnessing more than 500 designers and manufacturers to explore, create and design Filipino products based on the abundance of our natural materials. SR: In the early 2000s, I used to work with export companies for the international market. The volume of products that we sold was huge. But it wasn’t available locally. There were no venues for young designers to show their work beyond furniture shows. But now venues like the LRI Design Plaza in Makati and Triboa Bay exist with nice showrooms. But when I started as a design consultant 15 years ago, design knowledge was already flourishing. New design schools were opening and existing schools were adding new design courses. Now in 2015, more design talents are out there, creating, collaborating, exhibiting, discussing, uploading and selling more designs than ever.

Show me Manila!

Over the course of five days, a troop of seven urban sketchers from Singapore permeated Manila to experience the city through unconditioned senses and give visual record to their encounters. The result is showcased in “Show Me Manila!”, a compilation of more than 100 exciting compositions that capture in honest and vivid detail the beautiful and messy juxtapositions that often characterise the capital city. Elegant heritage architecture and Spanish gates abut gritty street scenes. Informal power lines are slung across storefronts, obscuring neo-classical facades. Leafy palms and the trickling fountain of a hotel courtyard offer respite from the clamour and bustle just beyond.

Urban sketchers are artists, social cartographers and anthropologists. ‘What matters most is that we are able to record a city’s flavour, its way of life through some well-used spots linked to locals’ everyday experiences — their markets, fast food joints, streets they live in, meeting points they earmark,’ writes the group. The excerpt that follows, then, is a visual narrative, capturing the spectacle of Manileños in their home environment, brimming with characterful neighbourhoods and captivating energy.

To see even more sketches and photos of the group in action, visit their blog or to order your own copy of "Show Me Manila!", contact Lisa Ansana the group's organiser.

Classic Beauty

Executive Editor of Town&Country Philippines, Alycia Sy writes for us on the joy of designing her own home and the effort that goes into collecting her rather unique assemblage of curios and objet d’art:

‘Our home is populated with things we love, including many vintage and antique pieces. Our idea, however, was never to showcase a collection. We don’t think of ourselves as collectors because we purchase and curate pieces to use and live with. While provenance does become a concern if an antique is offered at a premium price, our choice to purchase is ultimately arrived at out of utility and aesthetic value.’

‘What I enjoy most about our antique pieces is that we can showcase them in a contemporary setting, demonstrating that they are as relevant today as they were during the time of their production. The assemblage of furniture, paintings and accessories from different periods and places across the globe, including the Philippines, India, Europe and China, still works together cohesively throughout, as one space blends comfortably into the next.’

Raging Bull Steakhouse

The new Raging Bull Chophouse & Bar, set to open in March 2016, is yet another masterpiece by New York-based design firm AvroKO. Featuring the modernistic style of the 1960s made highly fashionable again by shows like Mad Men, the 'retro-classic' interiors celebrate the wood and metal craftsmanship of that period throughout its art and detailing.