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Artinformal Brings Its Homey Aesthetic To Makati

The brief was simple: to bring the homey vibe of its original incarnation, the residence turned art gallery Artinformal in Greenhills, into what was once a dance studio and placement agency in the Karrivin hub of Pasong Tamo Extension. And it looks like Sonny Sunga and Arnold Austria, the two maverick designers and architects of Jagnus Design Studio, nailed the brief on the head. Yet the duo couldn’t somehow believe they achieved what gallery owner Tina Fernandez asked them to do. “It’s odd but during the opening night Arnold and I got four feedbacks from several guests that they like the space and can see themselves living in it,” says Sunga. “It’s a strange compliment for a gallery design and one that we did not expect.”


Sonny Sunga and Arnold Austria



Opening on the eve of the Chinese New Year—Fernandez was in a festive red dress to match the occasion—the second Artinformal space was launched with the shows of Christina Dy, Brisa Amir and Tosha Albor. If the Connecticut Street original had a hidden kitchen at its center and a garden at the back where guests can mingle and have drinks, the new gallery has an exposed bar and a lounge area. The combined first and second floor spaces add up to a total 412 square meters: 153 on the ground and 259 sqm on the main exhibit level, allowing for several galleries, an office and other support spaces. “We intended to use a lot of the big mirrors and wood flooring we found during the initial site visit but unfortunately most were damaged during the removal,” Sonny adds.



That minor accident hardly became a setback. Sunga and Austria went on to accomplish the task. To achieve the home-like feel on the job order, the two programmed the space to progress from small to big. “We proportioned the galleries to the allowable ceiling height and tried to divide them seamlessly into zones—semi-public to private zones,” explains Sunga. “Doors and openings are wide and full-height so that transition from one area to the next is somewhat blurred. We also made use of expanded metal sheets on the facade as cladding, similar to our San Juan Artinformal renovation.”



The lighting design by Mark Wilson of We Design helps focus the attention to the art, which is really what this space is about. “His playful use of scones in the corridors tempered the starkness of the white walls,” says Sunga. Restraint was key in the overall atmosphere, a marked quality in the Jagnus aesthetic despite their known playfulness in their approach to architecture (think Ronac Center in Ortigas, Sunga and Austria’s office address). “There were a lot of back and forth with the staircase design as Tina's artists do not want it to be too noticeable as it would distract from their works.”


Of course, the gallery can’t be as literally homey as its predecessor—whose shell quickly betrays its mid century residential origin—but with Artinformal Makati’s open spaces and white walls, the bar and adjoining lounge area, home is more implied here than spelled out. “We believe the design here is more felt than seen,” adds Sunga. “The art takes precedence over the space.” Too bad Panaderya Toyo next door has a great exhaust system. “It would be nice to smell bread from time to time,” says Fernandez.

Then maybe we can all move in.