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Casa Borbon: A Brutalist Style Retreat Blends Beautifully with Tropical Landscapes

Casa Borbon: A Brutalist Style Retreat Blends Beautifully with Tropical Landscapes

/ Batangas, the Philippines /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Jar Concengco | Design Will Save the World /

Characterized by charm, good looks stripped down to the bare essentials, a two-story mountain retreat embraces the beauty of imperfection of brutalist architecture. From a distance, the rough appearance of raw concrete enhances the building’s exterior and façade rising above terraced contours that follow the natural descent towards the lush green landscape below.

Thanks to trees creating a camouflage privacy screen, a brutalist style mountain retreat merges harmoniously into the dark green of a wooded hillside outside Batangas City, the Philippines.

Located in Batangas, a city two hours by car to the south of Manila, the quiet vacation getaway named “Casa Borbon” is the brainchild of Cali Architects, an architectural practice based in Baguio City. It offers 77 square meters of living space nestled among trees and wooded hills. It was a difficult job, but the design team led by Amon Cali was able to create a home that merged into the countryside, a place advocating thoughtful use of the landscape and keeping the environment exactly like they found it.

A drawing of the master plan shows the positioning of a brutalist style home built into the hillside, hemmed in by trees that have been jealously preserved. / Courtesy of Cali Architects
A longitudinal view of the house plan in cross section shows the positioning of living, functional and utility spaces in relation to elements of nature in the surroundings. / Courtesy of Cali Architects

Made for cozy simple living, the brutalist style home boasts generous wall openings that admit plenty of natural daylight and cool breezes into the interior. As the architect intended, it exudes an air of raw, vibrant personality evidenced by what appears to be bare concrete surfaces and stark geometric shapes. By emphasizing honesty and natural materials, it blurs the boundaries between indoors and outdoors; meanwhile, treating functionality as more important than architectural embellishments.

Stark geometric shapes paired with the exterior devoid of embellishments create a unique look that gives the home warmth and a touch of nature.

But there is more to it than meets the eye. Where appropriate, polystyrene wall cladding is installed. It’s a lightweight material that’s resistant to water and moisture, plus it’s able to withstand a wide range of extremes of the seasons. Because it’s easy to install, the builders were able to complete the project in just eight months.

Taking everything into account, the house plan embraces minimalist interior design. On the ground floor, the dining room at the center gives an impression of the positive energy of family life. Nearby, tall glass walls separate the living room from a small dipping pool with poolside deck furniture. The second floor holds a more private area consisting of a sitting room and two bedrooms with balconies overlooking breathtaking landscapes.

A plunge pool and deck area with furniture lie between growing plants and the living room enclosed by glass walls.
A simple poolside chair blends seamlessly with the minimalist outdoor environment.
Generous openings on the second floor balcony allow air to flow in and out freely, creating the perfect chill-out zone with a view of the surrounding landscape.

From architectural viewpoints, Casa Borbon is unique in that the second floor can be accessed via stairs located both inside and outside of the house. Indoors, a spiral staircase built of steel connects downstairs to upstairs. Outdoors, another set of stairs leads to the second floor and continues to the rooftop deck hemmed in by planter boxes for gardening.

For privacy reasons, an outdoor set of stairs provides direct access to the second floor without passing through the interior of the first floor.
An indoor spiral staircase crafted of steel gives access to the second floor. Designed to safe floor space, it blends beautifully with warm minimalist interior design.
The rooftop deck is open to the sun, hemmed in by planter boxes for gardening.

In a few words, it’s well-thought-out home that conveys a great deal about brutalist architecture, one showcasing the rawness of materials fit to perform in the Tropical climate prevailing in Southeast Asia.

The lush appearance of plants growing vigorously makes the house entryway warm and welcoming in contrast to the rigidness of bare concrete walls.

Architects: Cali Architects

Principal Architect: Amon Cali

Contractor: EBK Builders OPC (

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Amber Kampot: A Luxury Resort Captures the Beauty of Cambodia’s Shorelines

Amber Kampot: A Luxury Resort Captures the Beauty of Cambodia’s Shorelines

/ Kampot, Cambodia /

/ Story: Kangsadan K. / English version: Bob Pitakwong /

/ Photographs: Hiroyuki Oki, Robert Kleiner /

Like the opening scene of a movie, a luxury resort named Amber Kampot nestles warmly amidst lush mangrove forests and tidal ponds straddling the boundary between land and sea in southern Cambodia. Embracing the charm of rural life, it offers a wonderful panorama of the Kampot River lined with picturesque fishing villages. Needless to say, the region is widely regarded as a treasure trove of culture, history and beautiful coastlines.

The waterfront resort is aglow under the lights as the night unfolds. Seen from a distance, the building façade built of heavy timber framing is stained to a dark shade that perfectly blends into the wider landscape of southern Cambodia.

Characterized by rectangular precision, the waterfront vacation getaway consists of a principal building that includes foyers, service facilities and the entrance to villas for guest accommodations. The luxurious country villas come in three types, each offering a spacious veranda overlooking a meticulously manicured lawn and gardens bursting with curb appeal.

Amber Kampot boasts 6,000 square meters of indoor and outdoor living space designed for travelers seeking luxury accommodations in a peaceful environment. The overall effect is impressive. To the West, the misty mountain peaks of Bokor National Park are visible from miles around, while the tidal mouth of the Kampot River creates unforgettable hotel experiences.

A drawing of the floor plan of Villa Type 1A. / Courtesy of Bloom Architecture
A drawing of the floor plan of Villa Type 1B. / Courtesy of Bloom Architecture
A drawing of the floor plan of Villa Type 2. / Courtesy of Bloom Architecture
A drawing of the floor plan of the principal building and nearby swimming pool overlooking the Kampot River. / Courtesy of Bloom Architecture
A charcoal sketch of the master plan illustrates the positioning of the principal building, the riverfront pier and villas for guest accommodations disposed around tidal pools and pristine mangrove forests at the estuary of the Kampot River, southern Cambodia. / Courtesy of Bloom Architecture

Apart from nature’s most unspoiled landscapes, fresh air and sunshine, vernacular style homes stand as a testament to the fishing community’s rich cultural heritage. Together, they provide the Phnom Penh-based firm Bloom Architecture with valuable inspiration. And the result of all this is a hideaway luxury resort warmly cocooned among the trees, green foliage and tidal pools.

From a design point of view, the principal building and villas for guest accommodations are built strong, thanks to heavy timber framing stained to a dark shade that blends with the natural surroundings. Quality stains penetrate the wood grain, preventing moisture damage. Plus, they merge with growing plants and bodies of water in the background, creating a verdant oasis perfect for relaxation.

A diverse array of foliage plants adds privacy screen protection to a villa for guest accommodations.

Amber Kampot offers three types of accommodation, including detached and semi-detached houses known as Villa Type 1A, Villa Type 1B, and Villa Type 2. They vary in size depending on the number of guests staying and share one outstanding feature – an off-the-grid getaway where privacy takes priority. Each villa has a roofed platform along the outside that connects with nature, creating a perfect blend of cozy indoors and beautiful outdoors.

Step into the room, and you find the interiors painted a cool-toned white alternating with spots lacking embellishment intended to showcase the rawness of wood and concrete surfaces. Together they speak volumes for the beauty of vernacular culture – the forms and the crafts of carpentry unique to skilled builders in this part of Cambodia. Their signature lies in the perfect blend between traditional woodworking, an emphasis on natural lighting and the floors covered in sandstone pavers.

Plants with colorful foliage permeate through the living spaces at Amber Kampot, blurring the boundaries between indoors and outdoors.

Minimalist vessel sinks paired with greenery give off good vibes.
A glass wall hung with pleated curtains opens and shuts as needed to regulate the amounts of light streaming into the room. It visually connects with a lush lawn hemmed in by trees and the understory of colorful shrubbery.

Outside, gray stone paver patios, foot bridges and garden pathways give access to all the villas. Each one of them is enclosed by a fence of wooden stakes that doubles as privacy screen protection within hotel premises. Nearby, trees and the understory of shrubs and hanging vines thrive luxuriantly keeping the villas cool in summer.

A garden bridge gives access to all the villas on the resort set amidst pristine mangrove forests at the tidal mouth of the Kampot River, southern Cambodia.

Back on the waterfront, the principal building contains a restaurant offering fusion cuisine bringing together ingredients from different cultures and recipes. As to be expected, there’s also a spa for health and beauty treatment as well as a gym and a swimming pool. Nearby, a riverfront esplanade provides ample space where people may walk for pleasure.

Fresh air and sunshine! The riverfront resort is silhouetted against mangrove forests with the misty peaks of Kampot Mountain visible from miles around.

Briefly, Amber Kampot is a marriage of rural charm and well-thought-out design, a translation of complex ideas into a form easily understood by everyone. Unequivocally, the design team at Bloom Architecture has succeeded in creating a romantic villa getaway ensconced in nature. Swing by Amber Kampot on your next country sojourn.

Architect: Bloom Architecture

Designer Team: Antoine Meinnel, Cristina Toran, Robin Leonard, Ith Sovannarith, Ny Kechseang, Khoan Pengly and Patel Saniya

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