The Good Life: Ed and Mirella Gallego

Rockwell Land finally ventures outside of Metro Manila with 32 Sanson, collaborating with Ed and Mirella Gallego to create a sophisticated tropical escape that fosters a true sense of community.

The unassuming Sanson Road sits just off one of the city’s busier corners— just one street down from where Cebu Veterans Drive, Salinas Drive and Gorordo Avenue intersect. Pulling into the quiet street is a quick respite from the bustle of the main road, with houses sitting alongside it, before it comes to an end in from of a black metal gate attached to fences covered in climbing plants. It’s immediately a sophisticated standout, further exemplified by the subtle signage that reads 32 Sanson.

As Rockwell Land’s first venture outside of Metro Manila, the excitement for the development is understandably palpable. The developer is best known for the Power Plant complex in Makati, where the high-end mall’s designer brands and world-class restaurants are complemented by the blocks of high-rise residential condominiums that have become some of the most prestigious addresses in the capital. Since then, they have expanded to The Grove by Rockwell in Pasig City, transforming the once quiet enclave into a destination with renowned dining outlets and luxurious residences.

Now with billboards announcing the developer’s arrival in Cebu and the city’s real estate-inclined all abuzz with the news, 32 Sanson is easily becoming one of the most anticipated residential projects on the island. “Rockwell’s expansion outside of Manila was a natural step,” says Valerie Soliven, the company’s senior vice-president for sales and marketing. “After the positive reception we received in Ortigas, Quezon City and San Juan, we were truly eager to venture out regionally. The vibrant city of Cebu has always been attractive to Rockwell. Its booming economy, relaxed lifestyle and lively personality was something the company sought to participate in.”

Rockwell Land wanted to create a property that would appeal to the distinct Cebuano lifestyle that drew them to develop in the city in the first place, yet somehow maintain the developer’s trademark penchant for high-end community living with integrated outdoor spaces. To achieve this, the company tapped into the talents of Ed Gallego and Gallego architects—a Cebu based design practice that has created beautiful spaces around the country and in Southeast Asia. With the impressive roster of projects under their belt, Gallego Achitects and its principal architect have become respected names in the industry for pushing the design envelope by taking global architectural trends and adapting it into the local sensibilities. With all that experience, though, Ed insists that they haven’t fallen into one certain template. “We don’t have a signature style, because I think that’s quite boring—to be rubberstamped as a ‘Gallego design.’ I would rather say that all our designs are livable, where people can be comfortable and relaxed. That’s really what we want to be known for.”

That kind of philosophy, then, seems like a good fit for the kind of lifestyle Rockwell is going for, although being a Cebuano team might have helped too. “We wanted a Cebuano architect, someone who had a true understanding of the Cebuano aesthetic and lifestyle, and therefore could design a project that would harmonize with the city and its people,” Valerie explained. “Gallego Architects’ designs are timeless, and marry both form and function.”

On Ed’s part, there was also a sense of excitement over working with Rockwell. “If you’re familiar with the way Rockwell’s developments in Manila are put together, I think that’s what opened my eyes to a different lifestyle that I believe would suit the Cebuano mindset,” he shares. “Also, we like to take on challenges, and this is an amazing one for us—to come up with something different for Cebu, as opposed to what’s being offered right now.”

Aside from the opportunity to redefine the Cebuano residential landscape, the project is also close to home—being one of the first big ones Ed is doing with daughter Mirella, who joined the firm to take care of the administrative work in 2012, after graduating from the University of New South Wales. “I think we found a good working style, and it’s been working out well for us in the last two years,” Mirella answered when asked about what it’s like to work with her renowned father. On a more serious note, she acknowledges that being awarded the project was an amazing experience for her and the rest of the firm. “We really worked hard on the concept. It’s been a real challenge, because this project is a big deal,” she admits. “It’s their first one outside of Manila, and we’re a Cebuano firm doing this for such a prestigious development. It’s been very exciting for us, and for everyone in the office. I think it’s definitely given everyone a sense of accomplishment.”

The 3.2-hectare property used to be the site of the Mehitabel factory, in itself a significant part of Cebuano design history. Founded in 1947 through  the partnership of Maria Aboitiz and US officer Major Clarence Gushurst, Mehitabel Furniture was the company to pioneer the now iconic rattan furniture. It’s since been passed on to generations— the company was under Maria Aboitiz’s daughter Josephine Booth in the 70s, and later Josephine’s son Robert—and has been expanded their reach beyond Philippine borders, exportin to the USA, Japan, Europe and Australia.

Now it’s a private enclave that is a sanctuary in the heart of Cebu, enjoying an atmosphere of being slightly hidden from the busier parts of the city, although all that is just a short distance away. “When you walk around the property, you won’t feel like you’re in Cebu City,” says Mirella. “Hopefully when it’s finished, we accomplish the feel of being tucked away from the city but still being a part of it. At the end of the day, it’s going to be very laidback and casual—which is very Cebuano—but it’s uplifted casual. It’s chic casual.”

Both groups decided to take advantage of the property’s natural appeal to create an environment that would marry all the ideals that they individually stood for—Rockwell’s stamp of landscaped spaces, open living and sense of community combined with Gallego Architects’ belief of creating comfortable spaces that retain a sophisticated aesthetic. “We all had to compromise at some point about what’s best for everyone involved—the client, the potential buyers and ourselves as well, as far as the design attributes are concerned,” Ed admits. “But they respected our initial concept. There were a lot of challenges, but luckily we were working with a great team that knows their business. It was an easy process.”

“We synced very well from the beginning,” Mirella adds. “It’s been fun. We learned a lot from them, and I think they’ve also learned from us. It’s nice because it was all a team effort. It wasn’t just the architecture—we’re also working with marketing and the other groups connected to the development. It’s been a very collaborative project.”

The gates of 32 Sanson open up into a curved, brick driveway that leads to the sales office, which will later be converted into one of the development’s two clubhouses. The structure’s façade is covered in wooden planks in mismatched washes, its tall windows punctuated with carved transoms that continue on the tropical feel. Overgrown trees and manicured lawns make up the outdoors, while inside paneled white walls, dark wooden accents and stylish furniture pieces from Vito Selma and Clayton Tugonon create an ambience of easy elegance.

If the office is any indication, 32 Sanson is definitely set on delivering its promise of laidback city living to its potential residents. The slight breeze is already tempting enough, even without the fully landscaped gardens the development will boast of upon completion.

Of course, another selling point that most people will appreciate is the sense of exclusivity that dominates the location. Besides being tucked away in what feels like its own little valley, the entire property will only have a total of 355 units distributed over five buildings that’s interspersed with a lot of open space. “We wanted to introduce the concept of high-end living in a low-rise, and to provide quality spacious and low-density residences,” Valerie explains.

The property’s amenities are spread throughout the space, connected with paths lined with lush foliage. In true communal spirit, pocket gardens and play areas bring residents outside and encourage some neighborly interaction. Amidst these features, 32 Sanson will also have two swimming pools, a gym, game room, function room, multi-purpose court, lawn and children’s play area, and a long jogging path across the verdant surroundings.

“Almost 70% of the land is garden space, and that’s unheard of anywhere in the Philippines—that a developer is willing to give up that much land area,” says Ed. Valerie agrees, “we’ve always placed a premium on landscaping and open space, as seen in developments in Metro Manila.”

That’s certainly a premium for anyone who’s grown weary of city living—after all, the sight of bright green foliage is a calming one after that of concrete streets and buildings. 32 Sanson takes it up a notch though by promising an almost entirely pedestrian street surface. “The property features unique subterranean roads that bring all vehicles to the basement level,” Valerie explains. “This allows the surface of the property to be solely for the use of pedestrians, garden space and amenities.”

The units themselves will be spacious, with the one-bedroom unit at around 65 square meters and the three-bedroom at 144 square meters. Large windows and balconies create an airy space that brings the views of the outdoors in. The truly indulgent can choose to reside in one of the exclusive Garden Units—located on the ground level, these two-bedroom apartments have private pocket gardens that are perfect for lounging on lazy afternoons.

 

“I really think that having a lot of space outdoors is something Cebuanos can appreciate, especially because we don’t really have a lot of parks or places like that,” Mirella observes. “Cebuanos actually do like the outdoors. When you ask people about their plans for the weekend, they’re usually at the beach or they go up to the mountains. In that sense, 32 Sanson syncs with that Cebuano lifestyle—being able to have outdoor spaces that are easy and relaxed.”

Turnover isn’t scheduled until 2016, but already it’s easy to imagine just what kind of lifestyle 32 Sanson will have to offer. As an urban sanctuary that the sophisticated set will be happy to retreat to, it’s a brand new address in the city that’s covetable for the kind of open living that seems to get more and more unattainable with each year. “It’s perfect for someone who appreciates the environment and causal living, but also appreciates style,” Mirella muses. Ed adds, “It’s for someone who likes the relaxed atmosphere of living in a community, someone who enjoys the good life.”

The concept of ‘the good life’ is something that tends to be subjective depending on who’s doing the defining. In the case of 32 Sanson, the good life they’re serving up seems quite simple—a private but airy space that’s all your own, lots of landscaped areas to be alone or seek neighborly interaction al fresco, and all this just a short distance away from the hottest spots in the city. With all that in mind, who wouldn’t want to drive into 32 Sanson’s gates and sigh with the utter satisfaction that this little piece of sanctuary is what you call home?

  • by Shari Quimbo
  • photography Jan Gonzales
  • fashion stylist RENova
  • assistant Lor Yutico
  • hair and makeup Romero Vergara
  • assistant Jessie Egos
Shari Quimbo
Shari Quimbo

Shari Quimbo is the managing editor of Zee Lifestyle. In her spare time, she likes cooking for family and friends, and escaping to the beach on weekends. Follow Shari’s adventures on Instagram at @sharinuh.

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