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Buck Sia: Facets of Geometry

A young visionary in the field of architecture plays with modern design and geometry. The result is an arresting interplay of shapes, space and form.

A young visionary in the field of architecture plays with modern design and geometry. The result is an arresting interplay of shapes, space and form.

As kids, we would tag along with our older sisters as they played house. Today, twenty years later, I am standing beside the same kid I used to play with, but now we are discussing something we both share in common: a passion for architecture and interior design.


Architect Buck Richnold Sia, a young player in the field of architecture, speaks about modern design with a passion way beyond his years.   After his BS architecture at the University of San Carlos in 2002 and a ninth-place in the 2003 architecture board examination, he went to work for four years for the famed Cebuano modern architect, Alex Medalla, before establishing his own practice. Zubu Design Associates put together a team of architects and designers who share his zeal for modern architecture and design.

One fine Saturday morning, Buck took me on a tour of one of his latest creations, a three-level house for a single doctor in her forties, perched on an eight-meter-high property in one of the gated communities in Cebu City.  The total lot area was only 250 square meters, with a frontage of only ten meters.  The lay of the land dictated his design to go vertical.

“The site was a welcome challenge for me,” says Buck, “With the difference of elevation of eight meters, a split level was obvious. I hate cutting,I really want to maintain the natural terrain. However, due to the garage, I had no choice but to cut the portion at the front of the site. It was minimal cutting, just enough for circulation and garage spaces. This way we saved on construction costs and, most importantly, I got a superb view from constructing at the topmost elevation.”

Given the space limitations, Buck managed to create a house with a total floor area of 250 square meters that fits in comfortably three bedrooms and 2.5 baths, plus a service area and a two-car garage with a good-sized storeroom on the side.

Buck describes his design model as follows: Massing, continuous band, faceted geometry.The rectangular plot of land has a difference of elevation of about eight meters, with the entry at the bottom of the lot. This left us no choice but to cut a portion of the lot to accommodate the garage and entry. Bedrooms are stacked one upon another.  Social spaces rest on the original elevation in the back portion of the lot. The atrium with a courtyard holds the main circulation space of the house; this binds the social spaces and the private spaces.

Massing and the Continuous Band: There are three levels on the massing of the house—the garage and main entry (negative space), the lower ground floor, which is treated with dark grey vertical grooves, and clerestory windows to create an illusion of floating of the third massing. The third massing is the social space interconnected with the masters bedroom. This interconnection is created by the continuous band through the canopies and walls. This strip may be skewed to counter the difference of canopy depth and/or the change of elevation. This feature is inherently seen on the west wall.

Faceted Geometry: There is an attempt to create a different approach of the traditional hipped roof. This roof is tilted from the front to the back and from the west to the east. This roof created four main triangular geometries with a skylight pierced in between two triangles. The piercing is just above the main circulatory space of the house. There is also a connection from the roof to the east wall.

The construction of the house was carefully executed by KG Design Builders in a span of one year.  The entrance to the house is an over-sized single door, a very simple design, made of wood, painted white with grooves.  It opens up to the massive retaining wall of the house showing just how high the elevation of the lot was, but Buck turned this structural piece into an architectural highlight by creating a checkered pattern of different depths of the solid concrete.

A small rock garden with potted plants softens the otherwise cold concrete wall.  To the left is a cantilevered spiral staircase that leads to the main house above.  Buck uses porcelain tiles with aluminum formable tile in nosing on the steps.  The risers are made slightly shorter than standard to make it a pleasant climb.  A bright apple green color is slathered on one part of the solid concrete banister, with a circular wooden handrail in dark wood stain.

The first level of the house leads to the two guest rooms with a shared bath.  Each of the rooms enjoys a good view from the natural elevation above.  In true avant-garde fashion, Buck puts the hallway lights on the bottom part of the wall instead of the usual location on the ceiling.

Another flight of stairs leads to the open-planned living and dining room, showcasing a playful mix of modern furniture pieces from different designers and furniture exporters in Cebu.  The sectional sofa with upholstered back and seat outlined by a linear wooden frame in wood-stain finish was designed by rising and well-acclaimed furniture designer Vito Selma.  A red yoda chair by Kenneth Cobonpue sits on a corner serving as a stark accent piece amidst the black and white pieces that dominate the room.  The dining set for six is part of the slim-line collection from Dedon.  A special high chair was created for the doctor’s young nieces and nephews who come visiting every now and then.

The kitchen cabinets done by RPJ Kitchen Craft in zebrano melamine with white synthetic stone top complement the black and white furniture.

The living and dining space is enclosed by sliding glass doors with aluminum frames on both sides to promote cross ventilation.  Landscaper Jaime Chua lined the walls with bamboo trees to add some green into this modern structure.  A special feature on the sliding doors is the installation of monsoon windows on one side.

“Monsoon windows are inspired by vernacular houses,” explains Buck, “I am sure it is also present in indigenous houses in the Philippines. The monsoon windows are awnings placed above the side glass doors at the left side of the house. This wall looks like it is floating with just glass connecting it.  There is only one monsoon window since I provided vertical grills with screen beside the main entrance. This will still create a cross ventilation in times of harsh rain and wind, when most of the windows will be closed.”

Being an avid collector of books and having to keep up with medical textbooks and references, the doctor particularly requested Buck to provide her with ample bookshelves.  On one side of the living room leading up to the master bedroom, an entire wall is dedicated to bookshelves in cut boxes of white and zebrano melamine.  This playful pattern is also reflected in the exterior of the house, a thing Buck loves to do with his projects: match certain exterior details with the interiors.

A shift of elements from metal and stone to wood can be seen as you enter the master bedroom.  The steps and flooring are made of engineered wood, while wood paneling on the wall also adds warmth to the room.  As you enter the bedroom, there’s a spacious walk-in closet on the right, opposite the shelf wall that stretches from the living hall to the master bedroom.  This also serves as the entrance to the master bath.  The irregular shape of the bathroom is made even more dramatic with the careful placement of mirrors and ledges.  Saloni tiles from Spain with a brown metallic sheen give a light contrast to the white tiles, The floor of the shower area features a shadow drain all around, with a rain shower above.

The architect made it a point to prioritize the view for the private spaces, hence, the master bedroom windows open up to expansive views of the city.   The headboard of the queen-size bed rests on wood paneled walls, but the rest of the area is painted white with soft cove lighting all around.  A cantilevered desk and entertainment area is also done in white melamine.  A complete contrast to the otherwise very modern interior is the client’s collection of paintings from reputable artists like Galan and Celso Pepito.  These paintings are carefully placed in various areas of the house.

Still in his early thirties, Buck has already built quite a number of modern structures. But there is more he wants to achieve.  When asked what his dream project is, he answers, “I don’t believe in dream projects and dream clients, although I have ideas of I want to implement in my projects. My ideas are rooted in modernism—mathematical models, continuity, spatial experience applied into architecture.  Ideal clients are those who listen and trust in ideas set out by architects; constant dialogue and relationship are key as well. What I dream for our built environment are proper cultural facilities and parks and open spaces.  I hope government properties will not just be bid out for business parks and commercial use.”

Buck is part of the progressive movement in Cebu, the same movement that has inspired him to create modern architecture.  He feels honored that his work has also inspired other architects and future architects of Cebu.

by Hannah Lim
photography Genesis Raña

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Filipino graphic designer makes history, joins Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde among genre’s greats

PJ Ong of Inodoro, an internationally renowned graphic designer, is the first Filipino whose work will be part of the permanent collection of Switzerland’s Museum of Avant-garde

CEBU CITY — In a groundbreaking achievement, Cebu-based graphic designer and art director PJ Ong of Inodoro Design Studio, is set to become the first Filipino artist permanently exhibited at Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g) in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Cebu-based graphic designer and art director of Inodoro Design Studio, PJ Ong

Ong’s recognition at MA-g places him among over 250 avant-garde artists, including iconic figures like Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, signifying a profound milestone in museum history.

“Avant-garde,” is a term that refers to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.

“I am extremely honored and humbled. It is a remarkable milestone in my creative journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of such a prominent platform. The acknowledgment, especially considering Switzerland’s exacting standards in art and design, is truly fulfilling,” said Ong.

 

Part of a stellar contemporary collection

Under the museum’s Contemporary Collection, Ong will join global contemporary agencies such as M/M Paris (collaborator of Icelandic singer-songwriter and composer, Björk), WORK Pte Ltd (brainchild of the “Godfather of Singapore Graphic Design,” Theseus Chan), Bedow (Stockholm), BVD Stockholm AB (Stockholm), Socio Design (London) and Milkxhake (Hong Kong), among others.

Ong’s music packaging design for the Filipino harsh noise duo, White Widow, will be featured in the museum. The band’s album “The God Uterus Dissolves” — released under Melt Records — features an unconventional cassette tape packaging incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, elevating it into a unique and bespoke collector’s item.

The museum’s selection process for its Contemporary Collection involved three categories: Graphic Design, Photography, and Illustration. Swiss-Canadian Fritz Gottschalk, a prominent figure in contemporary graphic design, led the Graphic Design category.

“This is profoundly validating for me as a graphic designer. Being part of a museum’s permanent contemporary collection is a lasting testament to my capabilities as an artist,” said Ong.

‘Poetry you can touch’

The graphic designer from Cebu City further defined the album as a “deliberate departure from the ordinary,” stating that it was a testament to the artist’s and band’s dedication to pushing boundaries and offering the audience a unique and immersive experience.

“Careful consideration was given to every detail, including choosing a premium supplier for the cassette tape. Opting for a screen-printed cassette, where design elements were applied directly to the surface, gave it a contemporary and visually striking result, helping us reinforce the design narrative,” said Ong.

“From the cohesive placement of elements to using symbols instead of track titles on the spine and customizing fonts, every aspect was carefully thought out. Rather than opting for the conventional wire mesh treatment on print, I took a bold step by incorporating a hand-crafted wire mesh, adding a unique and sensory dimension to the album — almost like poetry you can touch.”

 

Profound honor

Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio under Ong’s leadership has garnered global acclaim for its bold design philosophy, spanning music, fashion, architecture, culture and technology. In becoming the first Filipino whose work will be on display at the MA-g, Ong stated that it is “particularly humbling.”

“Traditionally, these privileges are given to individuals who have amassed decades of experience, attained mastery in their craft, or even as a posthumous acknowledgment. To be among those selected is a profound and unexpected honor,” he said.

“Museums typically focus on visual artists, and for a graphic designer, especially within the realm of commercial work, recognition can be more elusive. I appreciate the challenges of this less conventional route and I am committed to proving the significance of graphic design in the broader artistic landscape.”

Art enthusiasts can anticipate viewing Ong’s work with “The God Uterus Dissolves” at MA-g, scheduled to open to the general public in 2025.

***

About The Museum of Avant-garde (MA-g)

The Museum of Avant-garde compiles an original body of work from private collections, providing a unique perspective on the cultural and artistic significance of avant-garde movements. These movements, synonymous with transformative ideologies and daring experimentations, played a pivotal role in challenging political and societal conventions. For more information, visit www.ma-g.org.

 

About Inodoro

Inodoro is the creative moniker of graphic designer and art director PJ Ong, a prominent figure in the Philippine design scene. Established in 2003, Inodoro Design Studio, based in Cebu, Philippines, has garnered international recognition for its bold and distinctive design, with a focus on thought-driven imagery and iconic visual language. The studio specializes in identities, custom typography, graphic design and art direction. For more information, visit www.inodoro-design.com.

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Ladies Who Support Ladies

Women’s Circle is an organization composed of Cebuano ladies who are successful entrepreneurs and top executives.  They recently held a fellowship event at the Sheraton Mactan Resort, with special guests from the Women’s Business Council Philippines. Chairperson, Rosemarie Rafael and Council Secretary Cynthia Mamon both flew in from Manila to discuss alliances between the Cebu and Manila groups.

Loot bag from Jo Malone, Sheraton, R&M Chocomanga, gift card from Maayo Clinic, sarong from Ferimar.

The half day event was organized by Perl Jacalan, Gina Atienza and Eva Gullas. Sheraton Resort through its GM Dottie Wugler Cronin supported the event as it is aligned with the hotel’s women initiatives.  The successful event was made more fun with generous give-aways, notably Jo Malone perfumes, Sheraton bags, R&M Chocomanga and sarongs from Ferimar.

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Eight Years of Redefining Hospitality Service

by Allain Dumon Fonte

The person behind the very successful chain of Bayfront Hotel  Cebu is the youngest son of entrepreneur couple, Edgar and Gregoria Cokaliong.  I first met Charlton as a young and dashing gentleman busily working in their textile business.  I am impressed with how he excellently juggled taking care of orders, organizing shipments, arranging deliveries, accounting, and even managing the staff of their textile company.  Charlton is an alumnus of Cebu Eastern College where he finished his primary and secondary education.  He then went to the University of San Carlos and studied accountancy.  He successfully passed the accounting licensure examinations, and worked as a certified public accountant while helping in the family’s textile business; who would have thought that he would venture into hospitality.  

Charlton Cokaliong (Managing Director of Bayfron Hotel Cebu). Picture taken at the Bayfront Hotel Lobby.

In 2014, he first opened Bayfront Hotel Cebu at the North Reclamation Area.  I even wondered why of all the places that he can start a hotel, he had to choose the North Reclamation Area.  I find the location appalling for a hotel.  What view will the guests see?  I would not want to stay in a room where the views are cranes, machines, and container vans from the sea port.  Yet, Charlton foresaw the future of hospitality service.  He knew that with the recent developments of Cebu City, people will prefer to stay in hotels that are near to the city, and have access to almost everything they need.  The hotel is right across SM City Cebu, 10 minutes from the sea ports, 30 minutes from the airport, and 15 minutes to almost all the tourist destinations in the city and in the hills of Cebu.  Then, he made the hotel packages and event packages reasonably priced; yet, with a 5-star quality of service.  I even questioned, are you not losing for the prices that you have set?  However, since the hotel opened and up to the present, Bayfront Hotel Cebu has always been fully booked and is becoming the primary choice of venue for events and celebrations.  Charlton explained that he foresaw that with the rising economy and the rising population of the metropolitan, people will always prefer to celebrate special occasions; yet, considering the inflation every year, people will also choose to become more practical by spending less  without compromising quality.  And this is what Bayfront Hotel Cebu delivers, an experience of excellent hospitality service at a price that no other can match.

Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol Site.

Because of the continuous demand for their hotel rooms and venues, Charlton opened another Bayfront Hotel Cebu in September 2021.  This time the location is at the heart of the uptown of Cebu in the Capitol Site.  Again, Charlton banked on the great location of the second Bayfront hotel.  I once again questioned him on this; considering the competition in the area because of the many up and coming business hotels that offer the same rates and packages.  Charlton smiled and confidently said that apart from the great location, he also banks on the quality of service that his staff can deliver.  “If you take care of your staff very well, your staff will take good care of your customers”.  I have seen first hand how Charlton handles and manages his staff at their textile store, so I know how he also handles and takes good care of his staff in the hotel.  And I realized that this is his biggest selling point, the hotel’s incomparable service and friendliness.  Even though the hotel opened in the middle of pandemic restrictions, the new hotel is getting countless reservations; most especially that the Capitol Site Bayfront Hotel offers an amazing view of the city skyline at its roofdeck bar and pool area.  The gym , pool , and bar amenities at the hotel’s roof deck with its view are a must to be experienced.

Standard De Luxe Room at the Bayfront Hotel Cebu.

Early of 2022, Charlton also opened the hotel’s in-house dining feature.  For seven years, Bayfront Hotel Cebu was catered by a third party food concessionaire.  But, again, Charlton foresees that the Filipino market will be more critical to food and taste.  I asked, why is this?  Charlton explained that with travel becoming more affordable and accessible, people will get to experience different kinds of food and dine in different restaurants.  Hence, people will now learn to benchmark, not only from local restaurants, but also from their dining experiences around the Philippines and overseas.  Therefore, Bayfront Hotel Cebu needs to step up its game in dining.  With the opening of Caja Kitchen, Bayfront Hotel offers more selections of Asian and Filipino comfort food fusion with international cuisines.  With Caja Kitchen, Charlton turned a Filipino menu into an international dining experience. I asked him how he came up with all these.  Charlton  explained that dedication to make his guests happy and satisfied is the key motivation why he does not stop thinking about innovating and reinventing everyone’s hospitality and dining experience. 

Caja Restaurant: Bayfront Hotel Cebu’s in-house dining facility.

In September of this year, the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in North Reclamation Area is officially celebrating its 8th year of wonderful and excellent hospitality service; while the Bayfront Hotel Cebu in Capitol turns 1!  Great and exciting anniversary promotions and packages await its patrons and guests!  Please visit the social media pages of Bayfront Hotel Cebu to know the amazing anniversary deals!

With my last question, what does he have in mind now.  Charlton just smiled and said, “Well, who knows?  Another Bayfront Hotel Cebu shall rise soon!”.  After this interesting conversation, I can say that Charlton is truly a man who can foresee the future; may it be in business, in the market, with the trends, and with new experiences.  

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