EXCLUSIVE POST: JJ Acuna’s Visual Journal
Manila, my second home, was very hot and balmy this past weekend. Hong Kong where I am this week is not too far off, but for sure I think Spring is almost over and Summer is just around the corner. The changing of the seasons made me think about how quickly the world continuously transforms all around us, but perhaps we’re just too busy or too focused to stop and appreciate the passage of time. I think about the past 12 months, the concept of transformation, and how I feel like I’ve only just finished living out last Spring, when I left my old life in the corporate world to established my own Architectural and Interior Design studio in Asia.
Now one year later, I’ve been fortunate enough to appear as a guest writer for the Club Monaco blog, so perhaps this is an opportunity for me to take an immediate pause to reflect on some of the amazing things i’ve seen and captured in my travels since starting this studio. I see this as a way to appreciate not only the passage of time, but as a chance to give gratitude to the creative process and all the inspirational things we see everyday which feed into it. Having gone through hundreds, if not thousands of my own photographs, I narrowed it down to 10 images of some really cool things I’ve seen and experienced this past year. Please enjoy, and if you can, you should to take the time to visit some of these sites as well.
10. The Urban Temples of Hong Kong - I took this shot on my way from one morning meeting to another. Some Hong Kong people fear that the old world is slowly being consumed by the new, but thanks to religious culture, gorgeous neighborhood temples like these are preserved and untouched by development.
9. A Weekend At Our Cafe - This photo of our cafe project was taken right after we finished its construction. Elephant Grounds Coffee on Star Street is the Hong Kong coffee brand’s first big cafe and restaurant and our design studio’s first project. They started out as a small coffee bar on Gough Street.
8. Up On The Green Peak - When people think of Hong Kong, they only think of the crowded streets and the tall towers, however on weekends we all take a break to hike up and down the city’s heavily preserved hills and mountains. This photo was taken on a slow walk down the iconic Peak in Central.
7. An Adopted Family - If you’re truly lucky, you’ll find a family, even in a big city like Hong Kong. This photo was taken during a friend’s Easter Sunday Brunch all made up of like minded and amazing creative individuals who live in this city. Hong Kong is so transient, but everyone has similar experiences coming from abroad and setting up a home here- and these experiences is what bring us all closer together.
6. An Island Called Home - The island of Panay has had a very long history as a major trading stop in Southeast Asia for thousands of years. Today the island is a slightly sleepier and more subdued locale in the Philippines. It’s also where my family comes from. I come back to this beach to reset. It’s a bit out of the way, but it’s all worth it after a week of doing nothing.
5. Architectural Detective - Whenever I travel I always aim to visit some kind of Architectural site, whether it’s contemporary or historic it really doesn’t matter. The City of Iloilo in the Philippines was once a major trading port in the late 1800s and early 1900s due to sugar. However these days the old part of the city is a collection of empty mansions from different Architectural eras in the country’s rich history. I took a sneak peak in some of these homes through a local historian’s tour. Homes like this one are left untouched and are absolutely breathtaking as they are haunting.
4. A Japanese Experience in Cowboyland - The photograph below was taken at The Modern museum in Fort Worth, Texas designed by the iconic Japanese Architect, Tadao Ando. The building is made of steel, glass, and concrete, and sits floating in a man-made meditation pool. The Texan trees in the Autumn are a great backdrop to the building and its cavernous art spaces within.
3. Documenting Art - Part of the things I love most is supporting young art talents where and when I can. Filipino artist, Zean Cabangis, recently sold all his works at the recent Art Basel in Hong Kong this past March. His work is slightly architectural and bold in color, pattern, and form. This was a shot of a page in his most recent book of prints.
2. Imperial and Imperfect - I recently made a visit to the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto. My first visit of this villa was when I was an Architectural student more than a decade ago. Kyoto architecture is unique in that it is defined more by its willingness for subtleties over ostentatious design. Palaces and Temples in Kyoto revel in the art of Wabi, or “imperfect” and asymmetrical approaches to Architectural and material composition. But look at it, its seems so perfect. It’s one of the most highly regarded buildings in the world of all time, and modern architects take much of their cue from studying this palace.
1. Against All Odds - The Oculus at the World Trade Center in New York City by celebrated Spanish Architect, Santiago Calatrava is a masterpiece of building engineering and civic will. From the ashes of 9/11 rises a collection of iconic architecture on that same site including this one, a mixed use Transportation hub, that is also a public passage and a retail destination. The project was late and over budget and look at it now. When I visited it just recently opened and it’s a great example of what can happen when everyone comes together to make something beautiful for future citizens and visitors of that great City, while also being able to honor its past.
Text and photos by James JJ Acuna.
About JJ Acuna
Architecture designer, entrepreneur and blogger behind theWanderlister+