Words and Images Gabrielle de la Cruz and Italian Design Day 2023
One hundred countries dedicated their time and selected spaces to be one in celebrating the seventh edition of Italian Design Day. This year’s theme is “The quality that illuminates the energy of design for the people and the environment.” It centers on the idea that “design is the most suitable tool to ensure, through objects and services, a proper transition to ethical and economic use of energy.”
Joining in for the first time, the Philippines held its celebration on March 9, 2023, at the showroom of Italian luxury furniture store Home Studio in San Juan City, Metro Manila. The event was spearheaded by The Embassy of Italy in Manila together with Home Studio Inc. and in collaboration with the Philippine Italian Association. Masterclasses on Interior Design, Product Design, Architecture, and Fashion were held from morning to afternoon, with the event culminating with a cocktail and an awards ceremony recognizing Filipino designers in the evening.
The masterclass speakers for Interior/Product Design, Fashion, and Architecture were Ilaria Bianchi, Founder of product, furniture, and interior design studio Ilaria Bianchi; Christine Cheryl Benet, former associate dean at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde School of Design and Arts; and Romolo V. Nati, Italian architect and Executive Chairman and CEO of Italpinas Development Corporation.
A total of twenty-three design professionals, including the guest speakers, were recognized by The Embassy of Italy in Manila. During his speech, Italian ambassador Marco Clemente shared that these awards are given to recognize the “invaluable contributions of the design professionals to their respective industries.”
What follows is a list of the twenty Filipino architects and designers who were awarded across seven categories, along with a few exciting soundbites from the awardees themselves. Congratulations to all our awardees!
The 2023 Italian Design Day Awardees
Education awardees: Racquel Florendo, President of the Council of Interior Design Educators, and Chona Ponce, Head of the Philippines Schools of Architecture Association
Florendo, Ponce, and Higgins were all recognized for their dedication to “nurturing, facilitating growth and development, and setting and upholding high standards for students in preparation for the future design movers in the Fields of Interior Design, Architecture, and Fashion” respectively.
Ponce underlined that her current hope for architecture education is a change in the curriculum, as institutions are still utilizing the old curriculum. She stated that “transformation begins with the students” and that a change in the system means “building a better foundation” through better education.
Filipino Architecture awardees: Royal Pineda, Principal architect of Royal Pineda+ and Jason Buensalido, Principal Architect and Chief Design Ambassador of Buensalido Architects
As leading advocates of Modern Filipino Architecture, Pineda and Buensalido were both awarded for their architectural and design efforts to “capture the Filipino culture and identity.” Pineda underscored that the pursuit of Modern Filipino Architecture continues, saying that among his upcoming projects is a development that will highlight Filipino island living. “This is part of what I’ve always been dreaming of…to showcase that the Filipino island lifestyle is for everyone.”
Buensalido also shared that they are currently moving towards more nation-building projects. He is currently working with a district that aims to standardize their barangay halls, hoping that this will “create a ripple effect” and allow different neighborhoods to showcase their identity through their spaces. The architect added that they are relaunching their firm, with a new name and identity on the works. “This is to show that a practice is not just personality-based; any endeavor is always collective.”
Urban and Landscape Planning awardees: Dan Lichauco, Principal of Archion Architects; Paulo Alcazaren, Principal of PGAA Creative Design; and William Ti Jr., Principal architect of WTA Architecture and Design Studio
Prior to calling Lichauco, Alcazaren, and Ti on stage, the Embassy of Italy in Manila and Home Studio cited that the Urban and Landscape Planning award is given to “avid advocates of planning communities and spaces aimed at improving people’s quality of life, respecting the environment, as well as preserving heritage.” Lichauco was commended for his commitment to applying the principles of green architecture in his buildings, while Alcazaren was praised for his consistently sharing his ideas in planning better Philippine cities. Ti was recognized for his progressive master plans such as the 2022 World Architecture Festival shortlisted project, Batangas Forest City.
Heritage awardees: Dominic Galicia, Principal architect of Dominic Galicia Architects; Joel Rico, President of Archeology+Heritage Co; and Gerard Lico, Principal of Arch Lico
Architects Galicia, Rico, and Lico were all presented with the Heritage award. The crowd cheered for Galicia when his outstanding work on the National Museum of Natural History was mentioned.
In an exclusive chat with Kanto, Rico shared that one of the projects he is most excited to work on is the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City. “Being the lead architect of this project is a privilege. The project is envisioned to have mausoleums, structures, and design elements that showcase the Filipino culture. It will also house a museum that will depict various burial rites and traditions in the Philippines. “
Industrial and Product Design awardees: Rita Nazareno, Founder of Zacarias1925 and Co-Founder of Nazareno Lichauco; Gab Lichauco, Founder of Nazareno Lichauco; Milo Naval, Founder of Evolve Designs Inc. and OMO Furniture; and Leeroy New, Contemporary art designer
Nazareno, Lichauco, Naval, and New were all recognized for their “transformative approach” to industrial and product design. Nazareno mentioned that Zacarias1925 recently partnered with Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter. “We worked with them for the North Star Project, where all proceeds go to formerly incarcerated black women.” She added that “Nazareno Lichauco continues to work with O.B Montessori to show education and creativity in a different light…” they are looking at the “histories of every branch, what aspects are inherent to their areas, and using those as references” for their designs.
New, on the other hand, has a major art commission in Toronto. “The Bentway in Toronto is a multi-purpose creative space underneath an expressway. They invited me to do a large-scale installation for them this year and I’m very excited about it.”
Fashion awardees: Reese Fernandez Ruiz, Founder of Rags2Riches; Rio Cuervo, Founder of RIOTaso Clothing; and Prince Ventura, Chief Executive Officer of Wear Forward
“The works of this group of awardees transcend beyond the aesthetics of fashion,” read the Embassy of Italy in Manila in presenting the Fashion award to Ruiz, Cuervo, and Ventura. “At the forefront of their endeavors are sustainability and people empowerment,” the Embassy continued.
Industry Associations awardees: Theresa Arigo, Country Coordinator of Fashion Revolution Philippines; Richard Garcia, President of The United Architects of the Philippines; and Ivy Almario, President of Philippine Institute of Interior Designers
The last set of awards was dedicated to various industry associations to encourage design professionals to unite. Recognized in this category are Arigo, Garcia, and Almario from the fashion, architecture, and interior design industries respectively. The event ended with left and right conversations, a wonderful display of how design can inspire people to come together and look forward to a better design future. •
Thank you Judith, and Kanto magazine! so honored to be in your magazine
Love this article. I wish there’s a magazine that showcases their works. I would buy one! That would be one awesome magazine. Congratulations to these talents and achievers. Thank you for this piece.