Even when buying a townhouse or residential condominium, customers these days expect so much more from a brand. Chief among these expectations, particularly among high-end buyers, is that spaces have a certain unique character they can relate to or a strong “sense of place,” according to Digno “Ding” Asuncion, who, together with wife Isabel, heads Asuncion-Berenguer Inc. (ABI), a leading architectural and interior design firm.
Thus, when ABI drew plans for a boutique 280-unit town house development by Alveo Land in Pasig City, the firm shied away from safe-and-tested design solutions. It chose a contemporary theme focused on the cubiform for the townhomes. For the centerpiece of the community, the clubhouse, Ding designed an irregular L-shaped layout, with window recesses that play on irregular angles.
“Many people believe symmetry is beauty. In Ametta Place, we wanted to show that asymmetry can also be very attractive,” explains the architect, who, after working with international architectural firms in Hong Kong, set up his own design office doing design work in Guangzhou and Shanghai, and in the colony at the height of the construction boom in the ’90s.
Asymmetry is also very evident in a four-level clubhouse for Solinea Condominium Resort in Cebu, also drawn up by ABI. The clubhouse’s layout and facades likewise shy away from right angles.
The architect who paints abstracts in mixed media and creates metal sculptures to destress observes that more and more upper-end real estate clients are traveling these days and getting exposed to unconventional architecture that make a design statement.
Another ABI project that breaks the monotony of traveling on the North Expressway is an all-white Shell Station Food Hub along North Luzon Expressway, with a roof that seems to form a wave. Inside, the structure breaks away from the standard flat ceiling and follows the curves of the roof, allowing the visitor to experience that strong sense of place consistent with the works of ABI.
States Asuncion, who conceptualized that Shell Station design inspired by a handkerchief waving in the wind: “We want people to stop and think when they see our work. We enjoy deconstructing simple shapes and putting them back together in a unique way.”
To keep his creativity flowing, Ding dabbles in the fine arts. He works with mixed media on canvas and has a marked preference for acrylic and charcoal. His garden in the Quezon City home he shares with Isabel and their three children displays his metal sculptures that he leaves to rust—finding beauty in the oxidation process. Nevertheless, he does not exhibit or sell his works as a rule. The rare owner of three of his paintings is an ex-pat, who bought a Belleview flat in Tagaytay Highlands once owned by the couple. The buyer purchased the place on the condition that Ding’s paintings should be part of the package.
A descendant of Justiniano Asuncion or “Kapitan Ting,” one of the leading Filipino painters of the 19th century, Ding was once a University of the Philippines fine arts student. On his second year, he shifted to architecture and moved to the University of Sto. Tomas because it allowed him to “work on a more artistic and purposeful scale beyond that which a visual artist would normally encounter.”
In 2013, another ABI-designed structure in Bonifacio Global City is bound to make passersby pause and think. To maximize visual impact, the mid-rise headquarters of Alveo Land is composed basically of two attached rectangular masses, with one significantly smaller than the other. Its glass wall exteriors boldly display solid diagonal panels which continue beyond the roofline.
“Our client is a prolific developer that embraces green architecture. They continually explore new concepts for their projects and have grown leaps and bounds,” says Ding. He drew inspiration from the bountiful grass that grows in Bonifacio Global City’s open spaces, which are fast disappearing and may in the near future be immortalized only in this prime building beside High Street.