National Museum of Natural History

 

 

NATMUSEUM

 

Earlier in 2018, I started hosting a new TV show called CREATE. It aired in Colours channel carried through the Cignal cable subscription, and continues to air in ONE News. The show is about profiles of creative people. One episode focuses on one subject. Our first season ran well, we are now about to produce our second season. We took a break because I went on a 10 week vacation in our Toronto home. I thought it was more than appropriate to end our first season with a profile on Dominic Galicia, an architect I respect so much.

I have come to know Dominic’s work in the two decades I’ve lived in the Philippines first through the churches he’s built, and the many houses I’ve featured in Urban Zone. I love what he has done in the National Museum of Natural History.

The original neoclassical building was built in 1930 by Antonio Toledo as the Agriculture and Commerce. It had been used as the offices of the Senate of the Philippines for some time, until the National Museum started to integrate the three buildings into a museum complex – including the National Museum of Anthropology and Fine Arts. The pitch of Dominic Galicia Architects and Periquet Galicia interior architects won the bid for the restoration of the National Museum of Natural History and construction started in 2013. It took five years to complete.

The visual focal point of the new National Museum, of course, is the Tree of Life that stands in middle of the atrium.

 

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The architect, Dominic Galicia, explains to me the metaphor of the “Tree of Life” – it is both biblical, mythological, and philosophical.

 

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One of the requirements of the project was to make use of the central space created in the inner courtyard. It once was open and exposed to the elements. Dominic and his team though of creating a central structure like the tree with its canopy covering the space. It is interesting to note that the original structure of the museum does not bear any of the weight of this new structure. It is fully supported by the trunk of the “tree.”

 

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The edges of the canopy of the Tree of Life do not rest directly on the roof and walls of the old building. The weight is completely supported by the trunk of the tree which houses an elevator inside. The Tree of Life is not only symbolic, it is also functional.

 

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A current highlight when visiting the National Museum now is the taxidermies body of Lolong, the world’s largest crocodile caught and placed in captivity, who has now become the iconic “superstar” of the museum. He was caught in Agusan del Sur in September 2011 and unfortunately died while in captivity in February 2013.

 

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This is the taxidermied body of Lolong, displayed in the main atrium.

 

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Lolong’s tail

 

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The walls and windows surrounding the museum were lined with translucent prints of wildlife indigenous to the Philippines. This is the tarsier.

 

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View from upper ramp

 

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I was led to the base of the Tree of Life, where Dominic Galicia showed me the entrance to the elevator.

 

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The elevator shaft in the middle of the trunk is encased in glass.

 

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View from inside the elevator, looking up.

 

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Once you are on the top of the Tree of Life, the elevator opens to this walkway that leads to the galleries. The view from here is quite spectacular.

 

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We continued our interview here.

 

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I asked Dominic to show me the gallery where the 700,000 year old rhino bone was. Since we shot on a Monday, while the museum was closed, the gallery was locked. The actual bones of Lolong is prominently displayed, hung from the ceiling.

 

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This corner gallery is a very impressive space. It used to hold two floors. The project’s interior architect Tina Periquet removed the second floor. The tall arched windows give the larger space a unified feel. Notice the hexagon patterns repeating itself on the mosaic floor and the coffered ceiling? Not only is it visually appealing, it is also symbolic of the shape of DNA, which is the foundation of all the fossils and artefacts displayed in the Natural History museum.

 

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The display cabinet of the 700,000-year-old rhinoceros bone and hacking tool was empty.

 

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Looked like some final touches were being done in the display case. The 700,000 year old rhino bone was on the table. Note that the room was locked. None of us entered.

 

I think the rhino bone should be the star of the museum more than Lolong, the crocodile. But that can be debatable.

This find is so significant not just to the Filipinos but to the rest of the world. A bit of a background, the artifacts (bone and tool) were found in an a river flood plain in Luzon beside a butchered carcass of a rhinoceros. “The ancient toolmakers were clearly angling for a meal. Two of the rhino’s limb bones are smashed in, as if someone was trying to harvest and eat the marrow inside. Cut marks left behind by stone blades crisscross the rhino’s ribs and ankle, a clear sign that someone used tools to strip the carcass of meat.” (Source, National Geographic linked below).

Researches estimate the age of the remains to be 709,000 years old. The earliest evidence of Philippine hominins were found in Callao Cave, and dated to only 67,000 years ago. This rhino bone and tool suggests that the Philippines was occupied before the known origin of our species, homo sapiens. One of the questions is how did early hominins get to the Philippines in the first place. Read more in this National Geographic article, published in May 2018 here.

 

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The ramp to be experienced going down.

 

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A big treat was getting to walk in the private halls and offices of the museum. My imagination was working full force. What could be inside these cabinets?

 

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Interesting artifacts and fossils

 

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I did not touch

 

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Still in progress when we visited in May 2018.

 

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With the production team of CREATE. Exclusively shown in Cignal’s Colours and ONENews channels.

 

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Dominic Galicia, architect.

 

Watch the full episode here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PICC

 

 

PICC

 

I was invited by the management of the PICC – Philippine International Convention Center to spend an afternoon touring the facility. It may appear like the most random invite. The PICC isn’t your typical tourist place. Since I have publicly declared that the PICC is my favourite building in Manila, being invited there isn’t so random in my books.

I used to sneak in to the PICC and pretend to be scouting locations for events just to marvel at the massive concrete slabs, clean lines, smooth curves, and dramatic lights of the public spaces and private meeting halls. For most Filipinos, the PICC is the site of their graduation or professional convention. For me, it was neither of those, but I considered it an architectural gem, a reminder of a period in our history that is so intertwined with my personal family history.

Some facts: The Philippine International Convention Center is Asia’s first convention facility built specifically for a world event. It opened in 1976 by former President Ferdinand Marcos for the 1976 IMF-World Bank Meeting. It was built and completed in 23 months on land reclaimed from Manila Bay. The PICC was designed by National Artist for Architecture Leandro V. Locsin. The architectural style of the PICC complements the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ brutalist style. The PICC is managed separately as a government-owned and controlled corporation ultimately under the ownership of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

 

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The PICC’s Main Lobby’s grand staircase and 3,000+ drop lights hanging from the ceiling.

 

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An enormous painting by National Artist José T. Joya painting in the lobby. It is entitled “Ang Pagdiriwang,” and measures 5m x 8m.

 

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An HR Ocampo triptych at the management office of PICC. The art collection housed at the PICC belong to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

 

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Another large work by Jose T. Joya, a sculpture in wood. This is almost as tall as me.

 

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The sculpture garden was recently decorated with sculpture gifts from APEC member countries that participated in the 1996 conference in Manila. *

 

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Appreciating the lines and curves of these office stairs. *

 

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Another staircase, this time surrounded by original wood parkay flooring from 1976 . *

 

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One of the reception halls, prepared for an event later that day. The PICC can host meetings, conferences, birthday parties, and weddings. Big or small. *

 

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Original chandeliers at Reception Hall. *

 

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Loving the chandeliers. Photo by PIAA.

 

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The same red carpet staircase where St Mother Teresa and St Pope John Paul passed through. *

 

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Everytime I visit the PICC during an event, I always stop to admire this walkway leading to the Plenary Hall.

 

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The Garden. *

 

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The path leading to the garden is inspired by the painting of Joya. *

 

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Sculpture by Arturo Luz. *

 

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I will always appreciate the clean lines and minimalism of this building. *

 

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The Amorsolo restaurant on the second floor of the PICC Secretariat Building is open daily from Mondays to Fridays at 11:00 am to 2:00 p.m. It is operated by the Via Mare Corporation.

 

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One of the meeting halls has a small theatre. *

 

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One of the things I love to gush over, and is most often unappreciated, is the detailing of the wall panels. *

 

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Carved in wood, these panels surround the interior of the theatre and meeting halls for the purposes of controlling sound and reducing noise. *

 

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These benches are designed and carved by  by National Artist for sculpture, Napoleon Abueva. *

 

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The exterior deck of the Summit Halls has a view of the Manila Bay and may be used for outdoor events.

 

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Lunch w the founder of Via Mare Glenda Barretto and PICC’s GM Renato Padilla. Via Mare is the exclusive caterer of PICC.

 

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A special setting for me. I was totally surprised by this.

 

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The menu, carefully prepared for me. I always associated PICC with big events, but it also makes for a quaint little venue for small events. Ask about the small dining rooms and meeting halls.

 

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My lunch.

 

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Lunch company.

 

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Crepes for dessert.

 

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With Via Mare’s Mrs Glenda Barretto. *

 

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Renato B. Padilla, PICC’s General Manager. *

 

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An untitled Arturo Luz sculpture. *

 

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With PICC’s Dinah Gonzalez and Portia Cabiad. *

 

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Outfit: I wore a white shirt and black skirt, both from Uniqlo. And kitten heel pumps from French Sole.

 

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Thank you, PICC.

 

 

Photos marked with “*” are taken by Marty Ilagan. With additional photos from my phone.

 

 

Series 7 Project Manila

 

 

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I hosted the launch of the exhibit of Fritz Hansen’s collaboration with esteemed Filipino architects and designers at Studio Dimensione at BGC.

It is the 60th anniversary of the Series 7 chair by Arne Jacobsen whose collaboration with Fritz Hansen dates back to 1934. The Series 7™ was designed in 1955 and is by far the most sold chair in the history of Fritz Hansen and perhaps also in furniture history. It is made of pressure moulded veneer with four stackable legs.

Each of the Filipino architects and designers were given the task to re-interpret the timeless and classic Series 7 Chair by Arne Jacobsen. It was a celebration, of not just the chair, but also of the local Filipino architecture and design ingenuity. It is taking a design made way back in 1950s and showing how it is still relevant to us. The classic silhouette of the Series 7 transcends time and space.

 

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From left to right, Dean Yupangco, Ed Calma, Carlo Calma, Andy Locsin of Leandro V. Locsin Partners, Fritz Hansen’s Dario Reichl, Ben Chan, Gil Coscolluela, and Bong Recio.

 

 

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I hosted the official opening of the exhibit which will run until March 31st at Studio Dimensione. (I wore a K&Company dress.)

 

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Dario Reicherl, VP for Asia Pacific for Fritz Hansen, gave a brief talk about the history and relevance of the Series 7 chair.

 

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Gil Coscoluella wrapped the Series 7 in purple calfskin leather.

 

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Ed Calma kept the Series 7 form but added different colours and layers of wood veneer.

 

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Architect Juan Carlo Calma worked with three Series 7 chairs, superimposing them creating layers that represented a grotto.

 

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Andy Locsin of Leandro V Locsin Partners paid homage not just to Arne Jacobsen, but to his own father Leandro V. Locsin, by creating a mold of the Series 7 in poured concrete.

 

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I asked Andy if I could sit on the chair.

 

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Dean Joey Yupangco dressed up Series 7 in “leggings”.

 

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Bong Recio worked on a fusion of the Series 7 and the Filipino “batibot” chair.

 

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Suyen Corp’s Miguel Pastor and Nenita Lim.

 

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With fashion designer Joey Samson.

 

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The event was followed by a lovely dinner at Blackbird Restaurant.

 

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Seated, Lucy Torres Gomez, Ben Chan, Bong Recio. Standing, Robert Mananquil, Carlo Calma, Millet Mananquil and Dario Reicherl.

 

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With Dario.

 

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With old friend Keren Pascual and the Mananquils.

 

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Barbie and John Rey Tiangco.

 

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Suyen Corporations’ Noel Manapat and Keren Pascual.

 

The Series 7 Project Manila exhibit runs til March 31, 2016 at Republic of Fritz Hansen in Studio Dimensione, One Parkade, BGC. Photos by Miguel Pastor.

&nsbp;

 

SM Seaside City Cebu

 

 

1 SM Seaside City Cebu
SM Seaside City Cebu. A New Lifestyle Mall Above All Else*

 

SM Seaside City Cebu is the newest architectural landmark that is set to become the mark of a phenomenal experience in Cebu. Inspired by a nautilus design, SM Seaside City Cebu is a visually dynamic yet functional concept, adapting the spiral shell with a pale pearly partition including a series of expanding, concentric arcs.

SM Seaside City Cebu is a state-of-the-art, environmentally sustainable urban center on the waterfront of the new South Road Properties development in Cebu, the Philippines’ second largest city and a major tourism hub in the country.

The 470,486.31 square-meter mall is SM Prime Holdings’ 56th mall and the third in the Queen City of the South, after SM City Cebu and SM City Consolacion.

SM Seaside City Cebu is one of the first developments in the master plan of SM Prime Holdings for their 30-hectare space at the South Road Properties (SRP), a prime property development project on reclaimed land located a few meters from Cebu’s central business district.

Designed by Arquitectonica, an international architecture, interior design, and planning firm from Miami Florida, the development will be a benchmark in the region, and when completed, the complex will include residential towers, hotels, a convention and exhibition center, a school, hospital, and a world-class marine theme park.
With a harmonious perspective of creating an environment, which unifies fashion, dining, Cebuano culture, leisure and entertainment, SM Seaside City Cebu is truly above all else.

 

15 The Mall
The Mall. SM Seaside City Cebu will house local and international known retailers such as The SM Store, and global retail brands H&M, Uniqlo, Forever 21 and Sfera.

 

2 The Cube
The Cube. SM Seaside City Cebu’s iconic landmark is The Cube, a stainless steel 21 by 21 meter sculptural piece that is a symbol of strength and stability. It is a tribute to the resilience of the Cebuanos in particular and the Filipino people in general.

 

The Skypark
This green park, with several intimate amphitheaters, will provide a welcome break from the bustle of city life, featuring diverse dining outlets situated among greenery and soothing water features. The 1500-seater Sky Hall can accommodate large functions, corporate events and concerts. A children’s park, designed by renowned Cebuano designer Kenneth Cobonpue, will delight kids and their families when completed.

Seaside Tower
Considered a focal point of SM Seaside City Cebu is a 148-meter tower, to be completed in 2016, that has a viewing deck, a bar and a restaurant with an awe-inspiring panoramic view of the city and its surroundings

 

4 Cinema
The SM Cinemas gives you the choice to watch your movies the way you want to with its newest Large Screen Cinema powered by Christie’s that has a 30% bigger screen. There are 2 Director’s Club Cinemas with the most intimate cushy recliners, a 350-seater Large Screen Cinema with state-of-the-art laser projection system and 4 regular sized cinemas with PWD-friendly features

 

5 Cyberzone
Cyberzone, the popular tech hub of the SM Supermalls open its 40th branch at SM Seaside City Cebu with a full range of shops and service centers, for the latest gadgets and electronics to suit today’s digital lifestyle.

 

3 Chapel
The Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod was the first structure built in the complex. This is reminiscent of Spanish times when towns were built around a Church.

 

16 Bowling
SM Seaside City Cebu will have an Olympic size ice skating rink perfect for all aspiring Olympians in Cebu and a 16-lane Bowling and Amusement Center with 3 KTV rooms, a billiards area and a snack bar.

 

6 Foodcourt
The well-appointed Food Court on the third level has an unparalleled view of the Seaside Tower and a host of international and local fare sure to please friends and family

 

14 STT and Mitch So
Mitch So, Andreas Johansson (H&M Expansion Director), Steven Tan, SCMC SVP

 

12 Ribbon cutting with priest
Hans T. Sy, Mayor Mike Rama, Gov. Hilario Davide III, Archbishop Jose Palma, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Bishop Antonio Ranola, Mrs. Felicidad Sy, Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, Vice Mayor Edgar Labella, Herbert T. Sy

 

13 SM Supermarket ribbon cutting
Jojo Tagbo (Savemore President), Ashwini Nagpal (Kimberly Clark Philippines Managing Director), Jeff Go (J &J Philippines Managing Director), Robert Kwee (SM Hypermarket President), Fabricio Ponce (Coca-Cola Philippines Country Manager) Rohit Jawa (Unilever CEO), Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III, Evelyn Lao (Benby CEO), Archbishop Jose Palma, Mrs. Felicidad Sy, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Jacques Reber(Nestle Philippines CEO), Stephen Lao (Colgate Philippines GM), Shankar Viwanathan( P&G GM), Jerome Ong (Foodsphere CEO), Carla Valderrama (Ms. Earth Fire 2015) Herbert Sy (Vice Chair SM Retail), Joey Mendoza (SM Supermarket President).

 

10 ASG with General Luna
John Arcilla, Annie Garcia (SCMC President), Carole Sy

 

7 Guests
(L-R) SM Women: Andrea Aldeguer, Meannie Alcordo-Solomon, Amparito Lhuillier, Quennie Amman, Alice Woolbright

 

Scheduled for launch in 2017, the 1-hectare Cebu Ocean Park will be the first educational, interactive and experiential oceanarium in the VisMin region. It will feature a 360-degree tunnel aquarium, sea lions, an exotic Birds of Paradise show and a Penguin Park.

*Source: SM Seaside City Cebu

 

 

Neri & Hu

 

 

 

I first met Lyndon Neri in mid-2014 in Cebu. We had both been invited by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce to participate in their Design Week celebration and Salon Talks. Lyndon spoke about his work as an architect, Professor Dan Boyarski of Carnegie Mellon spoke about design, and I moderated the discussions.

Lyndon is one half of the extremely talented and celebrated Shanghai-based architectural firm Neri & Hu, together with his wife Rossana Hu. Born in the Philippines, educated in the United States, and now living and working out of China, Lyndon considers himself a citizen of the world. He is of Chinese ethnicity and his family’s roots are in Cebu, where his parents still reside. He was actually born in Ozamis.

Lyndon received his Master of Architecture at Harvard University and his Bachelor of Architecture at UC Berkeley. Rossana received her Master of Architecture and Urban Planning at Princeton University and her Bachelor of Arts in Architecture at UC Berkeley. They are also designing products for brands including BD Barcelona Design, Classicon, Gandia Blasco, JIA, LEMA, Meritalia, MOOOI, Parachilna, Stellar Works, and neri&hu.

 


At Maison et Objet Asia 2015, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu were one of the keynote speakers and were awarded 2015 Designer of the Year.

 


Lyndon and Rossana talked about their work as architect and designers based in Shanghai. They draw inspiration from everyday life on the streets of Shanghai, “We like to stroll, observe and examine objects, furniture and buildings. We are sensitive to the crossing of different design disciplines.”

 


Our paths crossed again this year at Maison et Objet Asia in Singapore last March. Neri & Hu Design and Research Office was awarded 2015 Designer of the Year. “In our quest for the Maison&Objet Asia Designer of the Year, we seek out designers who represent the essence of Asian culture, Asian roots and with an international approach to their works. Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu have distinguished themselves through their work and also with numerous international accolades. They exemplify the very qualities we seek,” said Mr Philippe Brocart, Managing Director, Maison&Objet.

 

Here is my conversation with Lyndon and Rossana of Neri & Hu. We talked about restoring buildings, being an Asian designer, working with your spouse, having Filipino roots, and Lyndon’s deep sense of spirituality.

DAPHNE: Congratulations on winning Designer of the Year. How significant is that to you both?

LYNDON NERI: I think all awards, no matter where it’s coming from is definitely an honour. It’s a humbling experience. We didn’t expect it. Some people thought that maybe we would have predicted this given that we were inducted into the hall of fame and that we won the Wallpaper Designer of the Year, but to be honest with you Rossana and I never really look into all the award categories and say, “This year, I think we’re going to win this or not,” I think we spend a lot of time focusing on our projects. So it was a pleasant surprise, but more importantly definitely a humbling experience for the two of us.

 

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The ZISHA tea project “We removed the traditional dragons and snakes from the Chinese teacup to magnify its original natural material: purple clay from the Jiangsu Province.”

 

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The MING COLLECTION and UTILITY COLLECTION for Stellar Works. The Ming Chair is a play around the iconic chair. The design was tweaked to make it stackable and painted it imperial red, whereas traditionally the wood is left dark. The Utility Collection is a combination of “old style” leather and simple metal curves. This line of chairs is an ode to the industrial boom of the 1920’s, a transitional era that saw decorative furniture take on a more utilitarian aesthetic.

 

DAPHNE: A lot of Asian designers, and I’m sure Western designers as well, look up to you as the new breed of designers. How does it feel to sort of set the standard for the new direction of design?

ROSSANA HU: We are not quite conscious of how others perceive us. In some ways we almost have to not think about it or not look at it. Like Lyndon said, it’s more important for us that each project is better than the last. And for us, focusing on the project will just be better for our own work and our own growth. What we want to spend time to nurture and focus on is just that the project will hold its own integrity. That we continue to grow as designers. Whether or not the position is good within a larger context, or how people see us, we try our best to pay back through lectures or participating in various events. Particularly there has been a lot of different mentorship that we are participating in like the Lexus Award Mentorship. So these things bring us directly in contact w a lot of young designers And that’s what we like to do.

LYNDON: I’m more stressed out whether the work we are doing now is done well. So often times some of the projects that we are doing now, some people might not understand or people might feel frustrated that we have changed direction. But I think we have to be true to ourselves. If we are trying to do things to please the general public or a particular group or set of designers or set of media thinkers, then if we are not true to ourselves, then eventually it would not be significant.

 


JIAN collection for Gandia Blasco. This hybrid collection of outdoor furniture was inspired by the Chinese character Jian, meaning “in between”. This poetic living space seems to float between time and space.

 


The Camper Showroom, Shanghai. “Drawing inspiration from the surrounding urban condition, the Camper Showroom / Office in Shanghai recalls both the spatial qualities and the vibrant activities characteristic of life in a typical Shanghai alleyway, called a “nong-tang.” The exterior lane extends into the showroom creating a physical sectional cut of the new house and a gathering space used for presentations and talks.” Source: Neri & Hu website

 

DAPHNE: Lyndon, you were born in the Philippines. How Filipino are you?

LYNDON: That’s a very good question. I was born in Ozamis. Then I left when I was five years old for Cebu. For my first 15 years, I was practically a Cebuano. I speak the dialect and I went to a Chinese school. So within that context…. That’s a very good question. When I went to America, after many years, some people ask, “How American are you?” Then we went to China, after 10 years, I’m very much Chinese, obviously, and they ask, “How Chinese are you?” So there’s really no sense of home for me, as much as I like for all of them to be my home. But in many ways, that’s a blessing in disguise. Because I do believe that the problem we are solving today is a global one, and not a national one. However having said that, I then become very sympathetic with things that are very much Spanish or Latin-based just because I’m from the Philippines. And often times people say, “My goodness you are not so Chinese – you know, the way you express yourself it has that La Bamba spirit.” And of course when they find out I’m from the Philippines, they go “I got it. Ok.” And yet when I go to the Philippines sometimes they say, “Why are you so serious? Why do you think too much? Why are you such a conceptual thinker? Too much like an American.” So there’s always that tension. And it depends. Some of my Filipino friends would probably say, “He’s very Pinoy” some of my Chinese friends will say I’m very Chinese. Some of my American friends will say I’m very American. And vice-versa. I don’t know. I think I am who I am. And people will have to judge who I am. I’d like to think I’m a person of the world.

 


With Lyndon at the 2014 Cebu Business Month hosted by Cebu Chamber of Commerce. Lyndon was invited to give a talk by Cebu-based designer Debbie Palao, head of the Creative Industries Committee of Cebu.

 

DAPHNE: Can the Philippines claim you as a “Filipino” designer?

LYNDON: I would hope so. It’s very interesting. I’d  love to work in the Philippines. I’d love to have projects there. But you know there’s a saying that says you’re never loved by your own country until you’ve proven yourself elsewhere. And there’s some truth to that. It’s not just the Philippines, it’s everywhere. The towns that great thinkers are from are often times are ignored until they made something out of themselves.

 


Design RepublicCommune is located in the center of Shanghai. It is  as a design hub, a gathering space for designers and design patrons alike to admire, ponder, exchange, learn, and consume. The building was once the Police Headquarters built by the British in the 1910s. The project took somewhat of a “surgical approach” to renovation. “First, gently removing the decaying wood and plaster, then carefully restoring the still vibrant red brick work, while grafting on skin, joints, and organs onto parts that needed reconstruction. And finally with the attachment of a brand new appendage which, like a prosthetic, enables the existing building to perform new functions, the nearly abandoned building begins its life again.” Photographed by Pedro Pegenaute. Source: Neri & Hu website

 


Xi’an Westin Museum Hotel. “In an ancient capital of China, Neri&Hu Design Research Office’s design of the Westin in Xi’an emerges as a tribute to both the city’s importance as a hub of burgeoning growth in the region, as well as its long standing status as a cradle of Chinese civilization. With 3,100 years of history embedded in the layers of the city, Xi’an is not merely a formidable backdrop to the building itself but has provided the architects with design inspirations that inextricably link its past to its present and future.” Photographed by Pedro Pegenaute. Source: Neri & Hu website

 

DAPHNE: At your talk last year in Cebu, where I moderated, you talked about your involvement in preserving and working with older buildings and preserving the character of the city. I realized that that’s what we need in the Philippines. You were living in Shanghai, a city that was rapidly destroying traces of the past. Currently in Manila that’s been happening and there seems no end to it. And it seems the only conservation that people know is museum-fication. Very little in terms of the way you guys do it — stripping a building but keeping the integrity. How did you, a global architectural firm, influence the mindset of cities, governments and people.

LYNDON: I think the problem is there’s money involved, unfortunately. With everything that deals with projects in general, there’s money involved. The natural instinct to make fast money is to tear down the old and start new and to have greater FAR (floor area ratio), and to build taller buildings, to sell as many. But we know in the long term, that’s not going to do a country justice, nor a city good. Because once you erase part of the history, a lot of what keeps the spirit of that particular city will disappear and we have to think far, instead of be short-sighted about the whole process. How do you convert people? It’s going to be very hard. People need to have a certain conviction. Developers need to understand that in life, it’s not just about making more and more and more. Sure they’re going to be making more and more. But they need to understand that there is meaning in purpose in the short life they live in this world. They have to decide whether they want to give back or they want to continually take. For developers who want to continually take and take, no matter how much we convince them it’s not going to get through to their head. Because to them its all about the P&L (profit and loss), it’s all about that final number. And I’m not even going to try to convince them and say, “If you have good design, you will make more money.” Because in reality, maybe you wont. But what you get back is something that’s intangible. What you get back is something will give people joy and certain happiness that this world can never give.

 


The Waterhouse Boutique Hotel at South Bund in Shanghai, China. “We created this hotel in an abandoned warehouse. Enhancing the natural original materials was our way of emphasising the importance of preserving traces of the past in urban projects.” Photo by Pedro Pegenaute

 

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Lyndon placed a very Filipino antique furniture — a gallinera bench — in the lobby of The Waterhouse. Photo by Pedro Pegenaute

 

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Neri&Hu was also responsible for the design of the hotel’s interior, which is expressed through both a blurring and inversion of the interior and exterior, as well as between the public and private realms, creating a disorienting yet refreshing spatial experience for the hotel guest who longs for an unique five-star hospitality experience. Photo by Pedro Pegenaute. Source: Neri & Hu website

 

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Another example of the blurring and inversion of the interior and exterior, as well as between the public and private realms. Photo by Derryck Menere

 

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The Waterhouse in South Bund, Shanghai. This was once an abandoned warehouse, adaptively re-used as a five-star boutique hotel.  Photo by Pedro Pegenaute

 

DAPHNE: Is there a point where a building is too late to be saved?

ROSSANA: Of course. It’s not like we believe that every building should be saved. If that’s the case, then there’s no progress. I think it’s about balancing what you keep. And even within one building, you don’t necessarily need to keep everything. So being able to accept that life is about fragments and these fragments – some have value some don’t, some are worth saving, worth keeping, some are not. You just have to cut them away and throw them away and put new stuff in it in place of what used to be there. And that fragment of the past are ok in a city. And hopefully we build our future on our past. And that’s why we have to save some because otherwise there’s no memory of what happened in the past for our next generation to see.

LYNDON: But what’s also important, Daphne, is the fact that you just have to do good work. And you have to have a certain conviction in what you do. So you could preserve all you want. If you don’t do it with much conviction it is another form of Disneyfication. That’s what I call it. So it’s just another replica of another past. So it becomes a decorative exercise. Now, there are new buildings that are built by very good designers with good conviction. They add value to the city that we are in today. So I’m not all for progress at all (sic). In fact if there’s the right opportunity you need to build new buildings. However what we’re saying is that there’s a lot of good old buildings that could be re-used and have this new adaptive renaissance within its old structure.

 

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The Cluny House, a private residence in Singapore, shows Neri & Hu’s modern take on the Chinese courtyard house.

 

DAPHNE: You showed us a lot of your projects. Could you describe your own home?

LYNDON: Our home is constantly under renovation. We’re now on our third stage. We’re in an old house. Old lane house. We didn’t show a lot of images because we made a pact ten years ago that our house will be private. And so our children live in a house that is very much black and white with a lot of paintings and etchings by great masters. (Rossana: Furniture is everywhere.) And initially when they came with their friends, often times their friends always say “Wow the ceiling is so high” or “Wow this is a really strange looking house. And so when they were young, they were really conscious because they feel like their house is so different. Perhaps non-traditional. So they were really concerned. But my youngest son who is 12 now told me the other day in the car, “you know actually all my friends really find our house very interesting. It’s cavernous. It’s very unique so now all of a sudden there is a sense of pride. Is it crazy? A part of it is. And we are continually developing it. This last stage will probably be our last. We are renovating it right now. And it’s probably going to be the craziest addition.

ROSSANA: It’s very much like one of our projects where we took an old house, an old lane house. We sort of gutted the inside. So the interior feeling is quite modern. But you can’t see it from the outside. So it’s like a lot of our projects.

LYNDON: So from the outside it’s this three-storey lanehouse and nextdoor is one and it grows ivy all over it. So in the spring time there is no resemblance of a house. The whole project is dematerialized. It’s this green thing. Absolutely gorgeous but hard to maintain, beyond belief, because there’s a lot of bugs that crawl into the wall. And for a certain conviction there’s a lot of pain. But what we’re trying to do, is now they’ve grown older, so after this last phase we might actually show part of it to the public.

DAPHNE: And who is designing that?

ROSSANA: Whoever has time. That’s why it’s never done because we never have time. And its our last priority. Clients are more important.

LYNDON: We do have time. The little time we have in our house, we argue like mad. We agree on certain things, while other things, it’s hard for us to agree on.

DAPHNE: You work together, you’re a team, you’re collaborators. But who does what and who’s the boss?

LYNDON: Oh she’s the boss. Good question.

ROSSANA: We overlap on many things.

LYNDON: What’s needed at the moment will have to be taken care of. She writes a lot more. Although I also write. Because every project needs to have a definition in order for the core to be done properly. I tend to sketch more maybe. But she does sketch as well. So there’s a lot of – both of us come up with the basic concept. I might be spending more time on the schematic part of a project, she comes in on the design development side of the project. But obviously in the end when we come in and we do the detail, we do it together.

 


Lyndon Neri & Rossana Hu. Photo by Andrew Rowat

 

DAPHNE: Lyndon you seem to be always grateful. There is a spirituality about you that you are not embarrassed to show. What is that all about?

LYNDON: Uhm, what is clear to me is that what is given to us today… I know for a fact that what is given to both of us to day, is from God. Without a question. I was fortunate enough at a young age to be introduced by my father to have a relationship with God. So I read the Bible every day. And that to me is the most important thing in my life. Every thing we do today is not us. (Lyndon’s voice starts to break. He pauses.) Sorry, I’m just a little emotional. But there are a lot more people more talented than we are. There’s a lot more people more connected than we are. There’s a lot more people more educated than we are. But I think Rosanna and I are given a platform. And this platform is a responsibility given to us by God. I think it’s easy for us, in the height of adulation and when we’re given a certain accord to start saying maybe we work very hard, we went to the right school, or maybe we were talented, or we maybe because we made the right strategy. Seriously at the end they all came from Him. And if we don’t acknowledge Him, while these blessings are being poured to us, then we’ve really missed the point. That to me is the end. And it goes without saying I think people often forget this, and when I add that aspect of this story, sometimes people say, “Lyndon you’re always asking, you know. You’ve worked hard enough, you’ve done this.” Well that all is true but there’s also a lot of people who work just as hard. There are people who are also talented or more. People who went to the right school. But Rosanna and I have been given this platform. And we have to remember that this platform is a blessing that has been given to us. And we have to be able to give back. Because if we don’t God will use other people to do it.

 

 

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