Designing spaces that evoke warm memories

HBA Manila Design Office creates another space to awe, transport and inspire. There is nothing quite like a whiff of a familiar scent that can take you back to some place or time that meant something to you. Same goes with flavors, flashes of color, design details and space.

The connection of something sensory to significant and memorable times and people, milestones and experiences, somehow brings so much comfort and a range of emotions. This is what food can do for many, and while a lot of dining and events venues have attempted to match what the scents, tastes, sounds, or visuals can evoke, there is just something that a complete sensory experience can do, especially in creating even more memories and celebrating new milestones and occasions.

Memories of home. That was the goal of Resorts World Manila when they developed the unique concept of Casa Buenas, a Filipino-themed restaurant, and in deciding to work with Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) Manila Design Office, they got exactly that—the firm’s signature of a total guest experience that transports one to a special place and time.

The top global hospitality design firm’s Manila Principal Norman Agleron shared, “Working on the design brief with the owner and the operations team, we developed the interiors of a destination restaurant that we hoped to redefine the Filipino style.” He adds that they took their inspiration for the main dining hall from the azotea, which is that part of a traditional Filipino ancestral house first built in the Spanish colonial era or a bahay-na-bato.

Building from the bones. What would complete any design concept are the details, which if overlooked, could spoil the overall effect of what could be an indelible experience. “The part of the Okura Hotel building’s shell where Casa Buenas gave us an amazing opportunity to carve it into an immersive and functional space. An integral part of the design, which is less apparent than the decorative elements of the interiors, is the way the restaurant is laid out. As a designer, I firmly believe that the soul is in the planning,” Agleron said.

The restaurant’s prominent corner location provides the space plenty of natural light reminiscent of the azotea, which is a semi-outdoor space. The lush gardens encapsulate the restaurant, providing a refreshing tropical backdrop while creating a barrier from the driveway outside. Tall sliding lattice screens filter any harsh sunlight during the day. The double-volume height ceiling gives a sense of grandeur balanced by the scale and proportion of the elaborate and bespoke chandeliers.

Details matter. “If the soul is in the planning, then God is in the details,” he stressed, as he enumerates those essential touches that could make or break a total experience.

Visible from the outside are the ventanillas—the top panels above the double-height sliding screens along the exterior glazing that are a modern iteration of the traditional capiz shell windows. The screens are adorned with diamond-shaped capiz accent panels.

The palissandro stone-cladded walls and columns are reminiscent of the bahay-na-bato, invoking the same warmth of a home. Adding to these subtle references are the hand-carved wood flooring with intricate wood inlays and the machuca tiles with wood borders.

The iconic ceiling with the swooping curved timber beams and painted wooden planks, the fabric paneling with arched and floral frames and the double-height draperies were all actually designed as acoustic treatments for the expansive space, so no modern-day clink, whirring, chatter, or merriment can detract from the overall feel of the place.

The lighting design of the restaurant adds to the drama that the space evokes in the evening.

The HBA stamp. HBA Manila Design Group’s design was aimed to capture the feeling of being home. The relaxed, warm feel of the interiors is inviting and conducive for both festive get-togethers and intimate conversations.

Leaving a truly HBA mark is not what is tangible and visible, but the collaboration with this particular client in ensuring that what was initially a concept had become the space where the carefully-planned and prepared fare, the warm service, and the music will all work together to allow their guests to recall wonderful moments and create new ones.

This he attributed to what has become their signature stamp on every project—connectivity, equilibrium, balance, collaboration and creative synergy. “It’s an internal discipline that they bring into the relationship with their clients, for every project we undertake.” Casa Buenas is now open for dine in Tuesdays to Sundays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., they are also open for takeout and deliveries.

Image credits: HBA Manila


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