Filipino designer Kenneth Cobonpue has good design in his genes. His mother, Betty Cobonpue, founded a furniture design and manufacturing company in the Phillipines in the early seventies, where she gained a reputation for her innovations in the use of rattan. Kenneth left the islands to go to Pratt Institute for Industrial Design and has been back in his native region for nearly ten years, integrating his traditional design heritage with his industrial training.

Kenneth Cobonpue uses a vast array of native, natural materials in his work, including palms, seagrasses, bamboo, abaca, and rattan. The results reflect his mixed background; certain pieces look like they belong in a thatched hut in the tropics (such as the slightly elfen Voyage Bed below), while others look ready for a starkly minimalist office or modern home (Segovia and Kabuki above, YinYang and SeeU-SeeMe, bottom).

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The Segovia chair was inspired by Dutch designers Rud Thygesen and Johnny Sorensen. It was made for a special exhibition in Manila re-interpreting Danish designs using indigenous and renewable materials. The seat is woven with natural manila hemp (abaca) twisted around fine strands of wire and the structure is made of native mahogany.

Cobonpue has won multiple awards for his wide-ranging designs. He is one of the featured designers in the 2005 Gwangju Design Biennale, which runs from October 18-November 3 in Gwangju, South Korea. The conference aims to “overcome the Western-oriented modern design paradigm and to introduce the creative and diverse culture of Asia to the world by combining East and West,” an objective that is encapsulated elegantly through the combined Eastern and Western expressions in Cobonpue’s work.

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