Vanessa Gaston: Design is Storytelling. Storytelling is Design.
April 5, 2021
Written by Shan Arcega
Photos Courtesy of Vanessa Gaston
Architecture and design have specific styles. For Vanessa Gaston, the compelling story is the design.
When the news of Andi Eigenmann’s Siargao home blasted through the net, we had to find out exactly who to praise for creating such a simple but beautiful and functional design for the two-story residence. After a little research and a volley of emails, we were able to talk to Vanessa Gaston and found out a little more about her and her studio where stories are the foundation of its beautiful designs. Vanessa Gaston is currently an architect practicing interiors and product design after graduating from UP Diliman with a bachelor of science degree in architecture. Shortly after graduation, she dove straight into corporate architecture but diverted from the practice after some grueling time in the industry.
“The process is very mechanical,” says architect Vanessa. The corporate architecture industry sounded like a great challenge but being a place that was more tied to tradition and translating typical knowledge into spaces, it wasn’t the best place for a growing creative. “I was more interested in discovery and making something new.” After the disheartening experience in corporate architecture, Gaston tried to find opportunities with something more artistic: furniture design. It was a year and a half until Gaston’s mentor, Filipino designer Vito Selma pointed out her talent in the practice.
“It was a year and a half until Vito encouraged me to pursue furniture design since I was showing potential. But before anything else, my dad pushed me to get an architecture license,” she states. This talent is most clear from the recognition showered by Manila Fame over the studio’s furniture products. One of its chairs was nominated for best in product design while one of its lamps was recognized by the Philippines International Furniture Show for material innovation. Though studying architecture took a few more years, this time was more than enough to rekindle her passion for architecture. Soon enough, Gaston went to get her dual master’s in furniture design and interior design and practiced this alongside architecture.
Today, Vanessa Gaston owns her own multidisciplinary design studio filled with architects and designers who are not only connected with various other artists, carpenters, metalworkers, and builders, but also passionately carry the studio’s motto of designing with purpose.
“We try to veer away from styles. We are more of a concept-driven studio. We’re not really a match for commercial spaces or townhouses. Our forte is very much storytelling for the conceptual.” architect Vanessa points out, “Right now, we see that our niche is specialized residential. And we come to realize that we have a bit of art clientele.”
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Among the studio’s most notable works is a contemporary art gallery in Cebu. Dubbed the 856 G Gallery, it was a project that required interior design work.
“What’s so intriguing about the project is that we used ‘urban street’ materials such as jeepney metal (as seen in the main entrance feature) and jalousie windows to communicate the opposite concept of elegance or high art. It was that experience that taught us that the rules are imaginary, and we are constantly creating our own language in design.”
Among a number of architects in the world, Vanessa Gaston mentions that one of her favorites is Frank Lloyd Wright who is Famous for projects like Falling Water where he built a fireplace through an existing rock that served as the center of the home’s living room.
“Design is supposed to be responsive. Not just an expression of style on the end of the designers. It doesn’t mean just functionality but to the goals of the user, responsiveness can also be in the social aspects or emotional aspects. Design can be responsive in very different ways…”