Kenneth Cobonpue Yoda Chair Showcase in APEC 2015

Filipino Kenneth Cobonpue Chair Design Showcase in APEC 2015.

Kenneth Cobonpue is a perfect example of the global Filipino. Born and raised in Cebu, he left the country at a young age to study industrial design in New York, subsequently taking up apprenticeships and further studies in Italy and Germany. Now a regular at design shows and entrepreneurial talks, Kenneth travels all over the world to exhibit new work, speak about Southeast Asian design, and find new inspiration.

 One important source of his creativity is nature. This is evident from his furniture designs, which despite their variety bear similar attributes that together make up his signature style. Simple, light, and natural, Kenneth’s work is the result of innovative combinations between locally sourced materials and handmade production processes.

With such a strongly rooted yet global background, it is fitting that Kenneth is serving as creative director for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Welcome Dinner. His role includes handling the set design for the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena, where the dinner will be held, as well as designing souvenir tokens and special chairs for the 21 Economic Leaders.
 Kenneth shared that rice terraces inspired his vision for the set design. “I wanted to transform the whole space into a huge outdoor garden,” he says. “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.” To help achieve this effect, a grassy circular stage will be set up in the middle of the arena, and colorful anahaw leaf-inspired designs will be hung from the ceiling.

The Leaders’ chairs will also contribute to this garden-like atmosphere, as they are based on Kenneth’s Yoda chair design, which is inspired by blades of grass. Probably his most iconic and well-known piece, the original Yoda chair does not have armrests or wheels. The ones to be used by the Economic Leaders, however, will have both. “I designed [this] Yoda chair to swivel because the program was going to happen 360 degrees,” Kenneth said. “It was important for the Leaders to be able to swivel their chair so that they could…follow the program.” Speaking about comfort, he added, “The beauty about that chair is you lean back on the rattan reeds, and the natural tensile strength of the rattan supports your back.”

Kenneth calls the souvenir tokens to be given to the Economic Leaders sama-sama, which means together. A visual narrative of the APEC community’s cultural, social, and political diversity, the sculptures represent unity, partnership, and cooperation among the member economies.

Kenneth shared that the main challenge was to project the image of a 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 added, “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.”

It was a fun and satisfying project overall, Kenneth affirmed. “I’m very proud of the outcome,” he said. “How I wish everybody could be in that space, because it’s really unique and wonderful.”

*All photos featured above with watermarks are courtesy of Kenneth Cobonpue.Published under Press releasesTagged AELM, APEC 2015, APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, APEC Philippines 2015, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

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