Alex Medalla ditches CAD and BIM in designing an apartment annex
“Just sketch away.” This was the client’s instruction to the principal of Arkinamix Design, Alex Medalla, my father. Initially, the client just wanted a ground floor extension of one of his office buildings in a one-hectare compound in a private subdivision in Cebu. Midway through construction, he asked for an extension to the extension—two additional floors of apartment units and a penthouse his senior officers at the company could rent. Having designed the other buildings in the compound in the early 2000s, Medalla had free rein over the project design.
The architect took the instruction to heart, ditching CAD and BIM. All architectural drawings were drawn by hand and used as contract documents. “Like painting on a canvas,” was how he described the highly improvisational and hands-on approach to the project. He frequented the site, working closely with the foreman and contractors, testing and executing spontaneous ideas as they came along. One such instance was in the penthouse dining area. Medalla was inspecting the space upon completion, and he had the foreman fashion a cantilevered lighting fixture, and pierce the ceiling with it at an oblique angle.
READ MORE: Visayan Modernism: The Tinderbox by Alex Medalla
The end result is a fluid integration of architecture, interior design and furniture. The first floor eaves of the old office building extend and wrap around the new three-storey apartment annex, becoming the floor of the first level, the wall of the west façade, and the eaves and roof of the third level. The seamless transition between the two buildings make it seem as if the old structure underwent metamorphosis.
A stairwell at the entrance on the ground floor leads to the apartments on the upper floors. The first two apartment units take up 150 square meters, the penthouse 175 square meters. Medalla’s interior design concept sought to “blur the distinctions between floors, walls and ceiling to create a coherent, seamless and continuous whole.” The best manifestation of this is the penthouse’s customized dining table—the ceiling folds down to form the table surface, and in turn delineates the living room from the kitchen. Because of its sculptural form and integration with the architecture, the dining table becomes the apartment’s centerpiece.
In other areas, console tables and desks protrude out of the walls. The same process is applied in the lower apartments. The beds, desks, and cabinets are integral to the interior surfaces, resulting in spaces with a consistently sculpted look. Most of the apartment surfaces and counters are finished with white, solid-surfacing panels, a favorite material of the architect.
READ MORE: Alex Medalla and his Arkinamix team experiment with light
The client’s simple brief and trust afforded Medalla the opportunity to explore spatial, formal and experiential ideas of architecture, and indulge his fascination with form continuity and sculptural consistency. He was able to create an aesthetically coherent whole that can be likened to a finely handcrafted object not lacking in detail or quality—a testament to his proficiency in the craft, a level that I aspire to and am constantly inspired to reach when I establish my own practice.
This article was originally published in BluPrint Volume 5 2015. Edits were made for BluPrint.ph.
Photographed by Ed Simon