The Oriental Legazpi sits atop a hill, surrounded with lush greenery, with the Mayon Volcano an imposing totem on its skyline.
With all the inherent advantages of its environment, The Oriental Legazpi capitalizes by skirting conventions and expectations. For one, The Oriental's design is anything but oriental.
WTA took on the redesign job for The Oriental, formerly the Mayon Imperial Hotel, after the hotel was bought by the LKY Development Corp. William T. Ti, Jr., WTA Principal Architect, described the design program as “ultra modern contemporary.”
An ambitious modernist design amid a thoroughly rural context may bear the fine print of ill-advised ambition, what better to displace and alienate the environment. But The Oriental Legazpi manages to pull it off: it glimmers and defines itself without competing over the setting.
The Oriental Legazpi manages to be sleek and edgy sans unnecessary embellishments as WTA employed a very straightforward design approach with a clean finish.
"The idea was to create by respecting and making only positive interventions and additions," Ti said.
The front-door tessellated ivory toned canopy, which stretches the sloping skylight of the lobby, immediately projects an air of studied luxury. To make it unobtrusive, spider connectors were used to form the panels. Big structural members were also hidden from plain sight. Each triangular piece of glass was individually cut to achieve the desired symmetry. The seamless grandeur and flawless symmetry is a well-crafted reference to Mount Mayon.
Consistent in WTA's pursuit of an ultra modernist agenda, the lobby is awashed in varying shades of white, a stark departure from the earthy tones of a tropical-oriental atmosphere. Even countertops, which are usually in granite, came in white glass. It's a bold contrarian statement, as "white hotels" is most often a rarity mainly due to the maintenance issues of color preservation. To complement the immaculate color textures, glass and light fabric materials were also utilized in lockstep harmony. The design details are restrained yet clearly defined.
“What we aimed was a clear design. It’s just the details that really carried it,” Royce Nicdao, WTA design director, said.
Porosity is also a pronounced gesture in the lobby with the generous accommodation of light and space through full-height glass doors framed in white-powder-coated aluminum trimmings. Complementing this is the spacious floor space with a soaring ceiling, a ménage a trios of light, space, and air. It’s an almost innate and intimate extension and expression of the surrounding nature.
“We just wanted to make it light, as the old hotel had a heavy look,” Nicdao said.
Nicdao explained that they have tried to add more depth and character to The Oriental through a careful attention to details, the minutiae that otherwise escapes notice to the casual and naked eye.
"The railings, the lights, the beachboard, the handles, covelights, drop ceiling-- all of these were considered," Nicdao said.
"It may not be noticed much, but these details actually matter," Nicdao said.
The grand ballroom, which could easily accommodate an entire clan, projects an air of both plush modernity and grandeur. The rooms, on the other hand, feature the creature comforts of a home away from home, along with idyllic window view of the looming Mayon Volcano and the blue waters of the Guly of Albay. To keep everything in line with WTA's design vision, every furniture from dining to bedrooms were also custom designed, with nary a piece bought off the shelf.
The second floor deck area and events place offers the whole nine yards of the ultra modern experience within a localized context. The infinity pool, easily the floor’s centerpiece, gives the opportunity to soak and pamper oneself in rustic indulgence with the Mayon Volcano towering at the backdrop, water and fire in a seemingly long-distance love affair.
A few details, however, may seem off such to some such as bathroom doors sans a lock. But taken amid the context of WTA's design philosophy, this may yet be another stab at challenging pre-existing norms.
Over the exquisite care for details, the overall conceptual framework of WTA's redesign job was also a bold reimagining of conventions, a spirited theoretical challenge to the implied notions of what is actually "oriental."
"What oriental usually means is exotic. So what that means is exotic for us, in our setting, so it became more modern because the look is Western," Nicdao said.
"We did not draw meaning from the vernacular, which would steer us toward the traditional meaning," Nicdao said.
In effect, the Oriental became oriental in the local perspective, in that a Western design is more exotic in the local setting than the traditional tropical look. It is in keeping with how the scholar Edward Said noted that neither the term oriental nor Western has fixed worldwide meaning, stating that "neither the term Orient nor the concept of the West has any ontological stability; each is made up of human effort, partly affirmation, partly identification of the Other."
Almost similar to the Mayon, which somehow stands at an illusory mirror-length image to the hotel, the Oriental also identifies with it, both in terms of restrained intensity and symmetrical majesty.
(Article published in Shelter Architecture and Design Magazine Vol. 01 4Q 2013)