Julius and Tintin fondly calls their home “Casa Uccello” (Uccello is Italian for bird) as it reminds them of a bird in flight, which they fondly relate to the Holy Spirit, a symbol of peace.
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The inspired architecture of Julius and Tintin Babao's bird-shaped home

“It was just recently that I found out that the Babaos had a deep affinity with birds and animals in the house. They didn’t even tell us to design something that’s bird-like,” says the young architect Jason Buensalido.
Mooke Katigbak-Lacuesta | Nov 28 2018

The home of Julius Babao and Christine “Tintin” Bersola-Babao is situated on a wide street in a gated village in Quezon City. Today it’s steeped in Monday sunshine, and the cold climate trees hardly move when an easy breeze sets in. White kalachuchi flowers catch the light while the boughs stay fixed to their spot. The only thing that looks poised for flight in this street is this beautiful home designed by architect Jason Buensalido. It’s shaped like an origami bird, and unfolds in just as many ways. “It was just recently that I found out that [the Babaos] had a deep affinity with birds and animals in the house. They didn’t even tell us to design something that’s bird-like,” he says, “it just naturally came about, as far as form-finding was concerned, and then they approved it right away because they saw that it actually looked like something that’s in flight—something that looks like a bird.” The form of the house also appealed to the Babaos’ spiritual life,  reflecting as it did the mystical body.

The design of the house was a collaboration between Architect Jason Buensalido, his firm Buensalido + Architects, and Julius Babao, the man of the house and a well-respected figure in the Philippine Art Scene.

Christened Casa Uccello, the home was named for the Italian word for bird, and reflects the many stages of flight. The home began as a renovation project. From its original cubic shape, the couple were able to make the house grow organically after they purchased two adjacent properties over time. The new home is a reflection of its growth—its flight from original conception to its present-day form. “The house was really a search for a language that would bridge two disparate elements. So something new and something old. Something that’s free versus something that’s very boxed in,” Buensalido says. 

Bird-inspired forms abound within the house such as this drop lamp from Moooi called “Perch”, acting as a conversation piece floating in the midst of an undulating steel ceiling that engulfs the entirety of the dining room.

The previous house, which was rectilinear and almost very sparse didn’t really reflect the kind of people they were, the young architect adds. “The couple are very creative, very free, very expressive; and they wanted a house that’s very unique, right? So that’s what they asked us to do.” Buensalido combined those elements by creating what he calls a “language of transitions.”

“We used a lot of fragments, a lot of folds to basically negotiate the solid nature of the old house to the open nature of the new extension. From something old, something new, something that is boxed in, to something that’s free. And then we developed that language and then we made it wrap around the existing house.”

The heart of the house is the living area that showcases a unique mix of mid-century and contemporary furniture and art pieces. Shown here is a luxurious sofa from Poliform, a customised centre table from Vito Selma, a whimsical Horse Lamp from Moooi, the iconic Egg Chair from Arne Jacobsen, and the Spun Chair by Thomas Heatherwick, among many others. The walls are adorned by work from a host of sought-after local and international contemporary artists such as Jose Santos III, Ronald Ventura, and Elmer Borlongan, Jeff Koons, and Austrian artist Gottfried Helnwein.

Buensalido created the space to reflect the personalities of the couple—the interiors are warm and gracious despite the minimalism of its exteriors. “It’s all them,” Jason says, meaning the character of the house. “The moment you walk inside, you’ll see them because it’s filled with the artwork that they’ve collected over time, and each piece is actually a reflection of themselves. So more than the architecture, I think it’s the interior space that reflects their personality. So they feel really at home here.”

The home also showcases the Babaos’ extensive art collection, which counts in  the hundreds—works from local masters to a few choice pieces from international art superstars. Parts of the house were built around the works of art—and there was a lot of negotiation between the couple and Buensalido. The architect wanted to fill the space with natural light but the couple needed wall space for the paintings. The result was a good compromise between natural elements and wide hanging space.

The “Volada”. Traditionally defined as a “flying gallery” in Bahay-Na-Batos from the Spanish era, it acts as a hallway in Casa Uccello, doubling up as a space to showcase the owners’ art collection from the street.

From architectural jargon, Buensalido turns warm, thinking about the couples’ deep appreciation for their home. “It’s really heartwarming when I see them post [on social media] about it because they’re really enjoying the space,” he says. “I mean they didn’t have such a huge house before but now they have a lot of space. So you know, they have a lot of friends over who share their passions also with other people now that they have the space.”

True enough, when you enter the house, there is a warm vibe that you immediately feel. Despite the masterpieces hanging on the walls and various sculptures standing afoot—some life-sized—in this or that nook and cranny, it’s not a house that feels like a museum; it’s equal parts home and art haven. Just as you enter the door, there’s Julius Babao waiting for you before you reach the living room. He’s asking you if you’d like some coffee—to which you say yes, and for which he turns to what looks to be a restaurant-grade coffee maker. He’s making you a cup of coffee, and a few minutes later, there’s your flat white with a little art on the microfoam, courtesy of Mr. Babao himself. 


Photographs by Joseph Pascual 


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