An Open Sanctuary: A Modern Filipino Home Design by BUDJI+ ROYAL Architecture + Design
For many city-dwellers, the ideal getaway involves leaving the big city for some rest and recreation at an idyllic provincial resort, particularly one set amidst lush greenery and calm, peaceful environs.
But for the residents of one particular house in the northern suburbs there is no need to go anywhere: their home in Quezon City’s exclusive La Vista community is an exquisite private sanctuary that can easily rival the comforts of many a provincial retreat—and one that plays up the very essence of Modern Filipino design, thanks to BUDJI+ROYAL Architecture + Design.
“It is multi-layered as opposed to a split level-type,” Designer Budji Layug says of the house which was built right into the hillside. “It plays with the contour of the land as we were trying not to alter the natural environment. In fact, this project was quite interesting given the rolling terrain; and it does have a very panoramic vantage point with its views of the Rizal mountain range.”
The sloping lot upon which the house was built measures 1,500sqm, of which the L-shaped main living structure occupies 1,000sqm. Those coming in from the road outside take a few steps in and enter a rather interesting foyer for receiving guests as it opens onto a reception area with a bar where a small waterfall cascades down into a pool. Nearby, a short stairway leads to the next level of the house: the two-storey main living structure composed of living, dining, and kitchen areas on the first storey; bedrooms in the one above.
“When you come to think of it, there is no front door,” Layug adds. “You enter directly into a garden and into the main living space.”
According to Architect Royal Pineda, the terrain pretty much dictated the overall design for the house. “As it was on an elevated location, we layered the design,” he explains, further reiterating how they wanted to keep the environment as unchanged as possible. “We only cut a few portions off the back ar ea to give us a light-well. There is a garden out front and another garden up on a higher level towards the back.”
Indeed, the house gives the impression of being one with nature. Built facing east to catch the morning sun, it not onl y offers residents and their guests a magnificent view of the landscape outside but also lets in an ample amount of ambient light, thus minimising the need for electrical lighting in the daytime.
The ground floor of the main living structure is built in such a way that there is barely any distinction between the indoors and outdoors. Sliding glass panels take the place of conventional doors, further expanding the space. Another element that binds the indoor-outdoor aesthetic together is the open staircase in the middle of the ground floor which is surrounded by a small, Zen-inspired rock garden that blends almost seamlessly with the grounds outside. As for privacy, clumps of trees and shrubs growing around the house serve as a natural screen and windbreak, barring the need to build high walls around the perimeter.
One can certainly breathe easier with such an abundance of natural greenery both outside and within, but the house also has the advantage of having high ceilings and wide entryways that allow for maximum air circulation, an aspect that ensures that it stays cool with minimal need for air-conditioning save for the hottest days of the dry season.
Considering that the house looms five storeys above street level, it never gives the impression of immensity nor is it a chore to get around as foot traffic seems to flow easily from one level to another. The main living area opens out onto the swimming pool in an almost straight line, while the open kitchen flows smoothly into the dining zone—certainly a plus for gatherings with family and friends.
“It’s a family with several grown-up children,” Pineda adds. “The space allows them to entertain, to enjoy themselves with friends without having to go outside for fun and entertainment. It’s a very Filipino way of thinking.”
Given its clean, straightforward lines, along with the inclusion of d ecorative water features, the house certainly has a very contemporary look and feel that would draw comparisons to an iconic structure like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house in Pennsylvania. But Layug and Pineda are quick to point out that their design is rooted in sound principles of traditional Filipino home construction.
“The essence of the bahay kubo is something that we keep celebrating in our design,” Layug says, citing the airy yet cosy nature of the traditional nipa hut. The sense of openness that somehow unites a house with the natural environment around it has been integral to the firm’s thrust towards sustainable architecture, along with its drive towards energy efficiency through ambient natural lighting and non-energy dependent ways of staying cool despite the tropical heat.
“In terms of a distinct message, we want to present it as an example of Modern Filipino sensibilities,” Pineda chimes in. “In a way, the thing that makes it Filipino is something we addressed based on its location and building into the landscape. It was also a manifestation of what the client wanted: the clean simplicity of our architecture and overall aesthetic. In terms of design, if you want to relate it to something more visual, it has elements of the classic bahay na bato [stone/adobe houses built during the late Spanish Colonial period] with its solid base and a second floor with a lighter, airier feel.”
All things considered, with its airy openness and its strong connection to the natural world outside its four walls, it is a house that goes beyond being just tasteful or simply well-designed. Rather, it reflects a Modern Filipino aesthetic that is authentic and faithful to its roots but refined to meet the structural and environmental challenges of contemporary living.
Photography by Marc Henrich Go | Words: Marga Manlapig