LOOK: Kenneth Cobonpue designs venue for APEC welcome dinner

LOOK: Kenneth Cobonpue designs venue for APEC welcome dinner
Kenneth Cobonpue transforms MOA Arena to reflect the 'global Filipino'

MANILA, Philippines – APEC week is in full swing, and economic leaders or their nation’s representative are expected to attend the APEC Economic Leaders’ Welcome Dinner on Wednesday, November 18. (READ: APEC what? An explainer on Manila’s high-profile week)

Renowned designer Kenneth Cobonpue is the event’s creative director, and when it comes to the venue, he said that he wanted to project the image of the “Global Filipino.”

“What I always find challenging… [is] to still use natural materials and natural themes, and to make it sophisticated – to show that we are rooted in the past, but we are [also] right in the 21st century,” he said in a release.

KENNETH COBONPUE. The designer draws inspiration from rice terraces for his design of the APEC Economic Leaders' Welcome Dinner venue. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson

As such, Kenneth drew inspiration from rice terraces for his designs.

“I wanted to transform the whole space into a huge outdoor garden,” he said. “Part of the challenge was how to transform the coldness and immensity of the arena and turn it into something that’s warm and cozy.”

A grassy circular stage will be set in the middle of the MOA Arena for the dinner, while colorful anahaw leaf designs will hang from the ceiling.

OUTDOOR GARDEN. A grassy stage is set at the APEC Economic Leaders' Welcome Dinner at the MOA Arean. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Cobonpue

The chairs that the 21 ecomonic leaders will sit on were based on Kenneth’s Yoda chair design, which was inspired by blades of grass. Kenneth made some adjustments to his design though, to suit the needs of the leaders at the event.

FUNCTION AND COMFORT. Kenneth Cobonpue added armrests and wheels to his Yoda chair design, and turned it into a swivel chair. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Cobonpue

For one thing, he added armrests and wheels. For another, he made them turn. “I designed [this] Yoda chair to swivel because the program was going to happen 360 degrees. It was important for the leaders to be able to swivel their chair so that they could…follow the program.”

“The beauty about that chair is you lean back on the rattan reeds, and the natural tensile strength of the rattan supports your back,” he said, assuring that the leaders will be comfortable too.

Kenneth also designed the limited edition sculptures that will be given out as souvenirs for the event. Called “Sama-sama” (together), these are supposed to represent the unity, partnership, and cooperation among the member economies.

The delicate sculptures features linked figures grouped around islands. These figures ascent upward, “towards the heavens.”

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Cobonpue

To symbolize different races, the scultures are made of brass, finished in yellow gold, pale silver, and warm copper. On the other hand, the island formations are made from laser-cut metal sheets and wood veneer.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Cobonpue

Each glass-covered token is housed in a hand-woven metal and buri (palm spine) carrying case with brass handles and clasp. 

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Cobonpue

“I think it’s really important…to showcase the best of who we are and what we are – and we do that with the program, and all the little details that make up the whole welcome dinner,” Kenneth said.

On his work, he commented, “I’m very proud of the outcome. How I wish everybody could be in that space, because it’s really unique and wonderful.”

APEC is the most influential economic forum in the Asia-Pacific. Twenty world leaders are expected to join Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, including US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

What do you think of Kenneth’s designs? Tell us in the comments below! – Rappler.com

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