At the top of her career as project manager in the Philippines, Alumna Cecil Ravelas is drawn to the capital of Design, Milan, to further develop her skills and knowledge. Following the market trends and demand in her home country, Cecil attends Istituto Marangoni’s Boutique Hotel Design course. In this brief interview, she tells about how her course project at Istituto Marangoni later turned into one of the most exciting boutique hotels in Palawan, Philippines, recently featured in Forbes magazine.
What brought you to Milan from the Philippines?
In recent years we have experienced a growing interest in casino and hotel development in the Philippines. I have been personally involved in multi-projects as project director/manager for most owners; experience which brought my attention to focus on design, particularly on Luxury and Hospitality design. During these projects, I often visited Milan for material sourcing and found myself deeply fascinated by its culture which, inevitably, influenced my aesthetic sensibility. Hence, when I thought of pursuing further learning to better cater my clients, it was but natural for me to choose Milan and its dynamic environment. Therefore I enrolled in the Boutique Hotel course at Istituto Marangoni.
How was like to study in the heart of design?
What was interesting about studying in Milan was that everything there was to see – such as materials, sites etc – is just a few feet away from the premises of the school! It is not something that you just read about in books or see in catalogues. I think Milan being at the centre of design presents a great opportunity for learners with its rich history, wealth of culture and materials. Its learning from the source itself.
What’s the added value of studying in an Italian institute like Istituto Marangoni?
During the course, I was further immersed in contemporary, luxury and sophisticated design. My tutor and mentor, Ester Manitto, brought me and my fellow colleagues out of the classroom and walked us into the city highlights as an observer of excellent design. The exercise gave me the opportunity to gain an in depth learning of how beautiful things were made. We were exposed to a variety of materials available to us from stones, textile, ceramic, etc. We went to see the works of the great designers of the time from Patricia Urquiola, Antonio Citterio, Giorgio Armani, Claudio Silvestrin. Ester made us see things through the eyes of Bruno Munari, Achille Castiglioni and AG Fronzoni. It was such a short period of time but it was enough for me to see things differently again. As a designer today, I would say my works come from a more distilled experience, from a lot of introspection and a lot of research.
How was your project for the Lagun Boutique Hotel born?
In the course of our study, we were tasked to develop a project that represents our country. Interestingly enough, I was in the middle of a commission to do a resort in El Nido, Palawan. Palawan has been constantly voted as the no.1 travel destination worldwide. Hence, it was the perfect material for my course requirement. During the case exercise, Ester would always remind us that our boutique hotel needed to tell the unique story of the place. She kept emphasising that the research process is important, that our material selection should be based on the design concept or framework that we have set. So we were to look for the right materials that would perfectly translate our concept. The research is everything, if you want to tell a story that people will be willing to believe.
This is how the initial work and the concept of The Nest was born, within Istituto Marangoni’s walls. As the name of the project suggest, I heavily drew inspiration from the town’s name El Nido, translated ‘the nest’. Nido is the Spanish word for the nest of the swiftlets which are found in the limestone crevices of the town. The nest harvesting in El Nido, Palawan has been recorded as far back as pre-Spanish colonisation time. Thus, it is the primary story to tell.
What was the initial idea like for The Nest?
The material board and images I presented then during the course work presentation was a luxury villa resort rendered in beige limestone floorings by Salvatori Stone and Dedar fabrics. The palette was quite neutral with beige stones similar to the beach sand and accent dark stones similar to the limestone cave found in El Nido. Stylized texture of the nest was already adapted for ceiling accent details.
How did the project evolve after graduating from Istituto Marangoni?
The project evolved further when taking into deep consideration the type of guests the hotel would cater for. In this case, I knew it was going to be the millennial market and therefore the hotel needed to feature a young and fun character, something instagram worthy. With the need to create a strong visual experience for the guest, The Nest slowly shaped into the Lagun Hotel. The nest as a visual handle was maintained in the Lagun hotel design development. In nature, nests are built in different shapes and forms in various materials depending on what’s available to the bird. Similarly, I asked myself: if humans were to build a nest, how would it look like? All throughout the hotel one would find a nest – various forms of lamp and furniture pieces in wire, metal or rattan skin.
And what about the story…?
Also the story evolved…Palawan is known for its marine diversity hence its part of the story that we wanted to tell the guests of the hotel.To create a visual variation in each areas we introduced bright accent colours derived from the undersea palette that one experiences during snorkelling. This was applied in the dining area and one of the guest room. In some rooms we introduced the bright yellow and turquoise colour and pattern of the Palawan peacock. It was adapted in a graphic accent wall covering. Another guest room is rendered in shades of red, purple and orange. These colours depict the woven mats found in Palawan and is also reminiscent of the town’s fiesta banderitas. The idea behind all this was to reintroduce to the guest the adventure they experienced in Palawan by triggering their memory through the use of colours and patterns they find inside the hotel.
Going back to nesting, we know that it’s also a process of assembling found materials. In Lagun’s case, the weary travellers come for refuge here and with them they bring a collection of memories and experiences which can all be woven into one happy memory to be shared with other guests of the hotel.