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Carlo Calma creates an awesome destination lifestylistas are talking about

Inspired by Taal volcano, giving free rein to a maverick's rich imagination, it is architecture, art, food, lifestyle—its Asador equipped to roast 100 'cochinillos' at a time

Asador Alfonso, a rotisserie flanked by private villas, conceptualized and designed by Carlo Calma Consultancy

Carlo Calma with Boston

Two white migratory birds swooped down on the sparkling 25-m swimming pool, their wings beating a rhythm against the chirping of unseen birds hidden in the canopy of trees. Sightings such as these are common at Lava Rock Project, a 9.5-ha haven in Alfonso, Cavite, where sprawling lawns meet an informal farm. A majestic volcano-shaped, albeit sculptural building, the Asador Alfonso, a Spanish rotisserie flanked by private villas, stands out in the landscape.

“This has become a place for birds, not just for humans,” design maverick Carlo Calma says with a chuckle while supervising a photo shoot of his new restaurant, Asador (“to roast” in Spanish).  The birds sleep in the restaurant’s lighting coves.

Cantilevered triangles evoking tectonic plates provide shade from the sun.

In both the main bulding and private villas, concrete triangles cast geometric shadows.

The discovery exemplifies his design philosophy: to create spaces where people feel very relaxed—and animals, too.

In the past decade, Alfonso in Cavite has become a haven for affluent second homeowners seeking an idyllic escape. Fresh air, spring water, and homes hidden among trees create a peaceful, rural atmosphere. It’s also an accessible destination.

Designed by Carlo Calma Consultancy architecture firm, the Lava Rock Project began as a family retreat for Carlo’s father, Pablo, one of the country’s leading contractors.

A true foodie at heart (evident in the partnership with Spanish chefs Chele Gonzalez and Rodrigo Ossorio, and the best kitchen equipment ventures), Carlo suggested to his father to add a restaurant to the project as an amenity for guests and the family.

Carlo’s unbridled imagination has led him to produce fascinating structures, inspired by natural or biomorphic forms

Carlo’s unbridled imagination has led him to produce fascinating structures. His Expressionist design is marked by massing and volume, inspired by natural or biomorphic forms, playful structural elements, and eye-catching façade.

His structures not only reflect his forward-looking aesthetics, but also require innovative engineering. The foremost distinguishing element in this structure is the series of poured concrete cantilevered triangles,  looking like oversized canopies that gracefully bend to protect the building from sun and rain. Each one spanning six to eight meters, the cantilevers are not flat surfaces, but subtly concave planes that create a soft effect. The visual peg: tectonic plates, those massive slabs of rock ripped after a volcanic eruption.

Meanwhile, the residential villas are defined by rounded triangular contours of the bay windows.

The estate’s name and the sprawling 1,200 sqm weekend getaway/restaurant pay homage to Taal Volcano, the geographic landmark that dominates Tagaytay and Alfonso. The design unfolds like a story, beginning with the northwest wing, where the owner and his brother’s villas are. Their cantilevered canopy dips towards the ground, mimicking a volcanic slope rising from the earth itself. “It feels as if you’re enveloped by a colossal rock,” Carlo describes the effect.

On the opposite wing, facing southwest, the villas of the guests and Carlo’s parents offer countryside views. These areas are specifically oriented towards the wishing well, adorned with Carlo’s graphic mural dedicated to his father.

A captivating roofscape unifies the five structures, culminating at  Asador, a four-story, 842 sqm abstraction of a volcanic cone. The rooftop embodies the power and form of tectonic plates, the earth’s crustal movements that generate volcanic activity.

Stepping inside the Asador’s ground floor, one sees a calming, near 360-degree vista unfold

Stepping inside the Asador’s ground floor, one sees a calming, near 360-degree vista unfold. Sunlight floods the U-shaped open kitchen, highlighting the luxurious Brazilian marble countertop and the gleaming high-end Spanish charcoal oven. The kitchen can roast 100 cochinillos at a time, although Asador’s specialty is lamb. (If you’re vegan, the in-house chef, Rodrigo, can customize your meal.)

Overhead, it’s as if the ceiling comes alive with a mesmerizing rhythm of curvilinear slices of wood. Crafted from ribbon-grain wood, this embellishment evokes the rippling surface of flowing lava, adding a touch of nature’s drama to the space

Carlo designed the spacious main dining area to seat 50 to 100 guests comfortably. Its warm wood tones and neutral color palette create a cheery atmosphere. Likewise, his vision takes center stage in the furniture, angular solid oak chairs featuring elegant cane weaving. These chairs perfectly complement the sturdy oak top tables, each one boasting a unique stone cast base.

The kitchen can roast 100 ‘cochinillos’ at a time, although Asador’s specialty is lamb. (If you’re vegan, the in-house chef, Rodrigo, can customize your meal)

The diners  can enjoy the views of the pool and the farm, further blurring the lines between the interior and the exterior.

Dining area is now open to guests.

A large, asymmetrical chicken coop adds a touch of whimsy, while a jacuzzi and private dining area nestled under a coconut tree-inspired roof offer a quiet escape. A nearby artists’ studio completes the picture, with goats providing a touch of rural charm.

The ascent in the glass elevator here is like journeying up a volcano’s vent, emerging into the summit. The lower level’s walls are clad in local rock, grounding the space in its volcanic context. Instead of a crater at the top of the place, there’s a massive plant holder; that’s Carlo’s naughty humor.

Ascend to the second floor, which Asador has transformed into a dramatic showcase of architecture. Designed for larger groups, this dining space boasts a soaring two-story ceiling that amplifies the design’s impact.

Here, Carlo creates an abstract wall of underlit triangles, a captivating representation of pyroclasts—fragments of rock spewed during volcanic eruptions. The wall further echoes the volcano’s topography with its curvilinear lines, a subtle yet powerful reminder of the building’s inspiration.

Supporting the soaring ceiling is a series of portal frames that transcend their functional purpose, transforming into dramatic architectural features. The ceiling itself is a canvas, meticulously etched with a network of undulating lines that mirror the surrounding topography

The higher you go, the more intimate the feel of Asador. The third floor could be used as a private dining area, with a cantilevered lounge furnished with inviting banquettes. On the fourth floor, a pitched ceiling defines a flexible space designed to meet the Calma family’s needs. And finally, the top level beckons with a breathtaking bird’s-eye view of the entire restaurant and its surrounding landscape.

“The design is a trajectory upward,” explains Carlo, a symbolic allusion to the dynamism of a volcanic eruption.

Ultimately, Carlo envisions the Lava Rock Project as a vibrant hub for creativity, a destination that offers more than a restaurant. “We can come up with other new experiences,” he drops a hint, leaving room for exciting possibilities to unfold.

About author

Articles

She is a veteran journalist who’s covered the gamut of lifestyle subjects. Since this pandemic she has been giving free raja yoga meditation online.

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