Wonder women of Philippine design

In Photo: Ivy Almario is Atelier Almario’s president and founder and one of the leading interior designers in the country. One of the AcroGroup’s architectural designs for a retail development in Cebu.

THE Philippines is at an advantage. We, as a society, are luc y enough to have so many strong and empowering women in our history to look up to. From the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s headstrong persona that defined her long, distinguished political career to Iris Josef-Mediano who helped preserve the preeminence of the Makati Central Business District  through the “Make It Happen, Make It Makati” campaign, Filipinos are in no shortage of female inspiration.

As I have written recently, I have discovered that within the traditionally male-dominated real-estate industry are female leaders who excel in their field. While I have always known that there were plenty of women in this industry, it was only after meeting with some of them that I realized that many of the companies charged with developing the incredible structures we see around us are handled by women.

With women being known for their intuitiveness and their attention to detail, it comes as no surprise that they excel in the real-estate industry. It is this realization of abilities that makes me want to share more of women’s role in architecture and interior design, as one cannot truly survive without the other.

Cathy Saldana, managing director of the AcroGroup and coowner of PDP Architects, proves that architectural beauty can also mean that of the architect.

A multihat affair

Many of us have this age-old image of what architects look like and it is usually of well-dressed men wearing hard hats at construction sites. However, if you meet Cathy Saldana, you will surely realize that this stereotypical image of architects is far from being precise.

Cathy is known among her employees and her colleagues for the many figurative hats and their corresponding literal outfits, which she wears throughout the day. In her own words, she said, “My typical day goes like this: I wake up early and—wearing jeans, a comfortable shirt and a hard hat—I manage a toolbox meeting for a construction project. I talk to all the men in the construction area. Then, I rush off to a more corporate setting, so I throw on a nice jacket and change into nicer shoes. And if I have an event in the evening, I change into the appropriate attire, which I usually have ready in my car or office.”

It is her ability to multitask that has her peers impressed. Because aside from being the managing director of the AcroGroup—an architect-led organization that provides architects, designers, project managers and builders to property development projects—she is also the co-owner of PDP Architects—a collective that provides architects, project managers and interior designers. These have, in turn, got the attention of the Professional Regulations Commission which just awarded her with its highest honor; specifically for her active participation in the advancement of the profession and its social responsibility through meaningful contribution in socio-related activities.

The beauty from within

While Cathy ensures the structures we see are aesthetically pleasing, Atelier Almario President and Founder Ivy Almario makes sure that these structures have beautiful interiors.

“Any design, to be effective, has to tell a story, capture the heart of the concept and communicate,” Ivy shared.

According to her, women are naturally nurturing and intuitive, which is important in interior design. “Women will pick up what is not said more than what is said and incorporate this in the design,” Ivy stressed. “In amazing interior design, the intuitive touches are what make your design different, and that’s where women succeed better than men.”

For young women who want to enter the field of interior design, this is what Ivy has to say: “You really have to believe in yourself, first and foremost. Interior design is as much art as it is a science. What we deliver, we have to deliver with precision. Luxury is calibrated in meters and inches. As such, interior design is an exact science that can be learned,” she explained.

“Flair, however, is a gift,” she continued. “But even though it is a gift, you can train yourself for this by analyzing designs that work. Ask yourself, why does this design work? What pleases me? What displeases me? Why am I comfortable? Just learn from your environment,” she asserted.

It was Sir Francis Bacon who once said that knowledge is power. Clearly, knowledge, not only of their fields but also of their worth, is Ivy’s and Cathy’s source of power and that which makes them rise above their peers in interior and architectural design. More important, Cathy and Ivy, and many successful ladies like them, have become symbols of what women can achieve in a world that is becoming less and less patriarchal as years go by.