Architect toy designer Arnold Austria

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Meet Architect and Toy Designer Arnold Austria

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Artful buildings and designer toys each begin as a design challenge and end (ideally) with a solution that their users enjoy. When Manila-based architect and toy collector Arnold Austria thought up a local spin on a foreign concept, Bototoy, the wooden robot was born. Bototoy is the first Filipino designer platform toy, and it’s Pinoy from moniker to medium. Austria chose to make Bototoy out of Gmelina wood due to its sustainability and ideal properties for customization. Bototoy is a lightweight, squared-off robot that’s simple to carve, takes paint easily, and has detachable parts. Thanks to this, Bototoy has become a favorite canvas among local artists and designers. Since debuting in March, Bototoy has been drawn on, painted over, sanded down, and sculpted up. Avant-garde fashion designer Jerome Lorico even charred his Bototoy with a blowtorch, turning it into a robotshaped charcoal home for a wild orchid.

Austria was born to a family of artisan goldsmiths in Bulacan, and he grew up witnessing the pleasure of imagination actualized. In love with the creative process from an early age, he studied architecture and co-founded Jagnus Design Studio with Sonny Sunga and John Cruz. The studio has applied its designs to projects ranging from residential and commercial to sports and furniture. To date, their proudest accomplishment is the Ronac Art Center, a remarkable multiuse building erected for the 40th anniversary of Filipino mattress company Uratex.

“The brief called for a gallery to showcase their mattresses, an art/toy shop for the owner’s son, a basketball court, and a few commercial spaces to attract foot traffic,” explains Austria. The designers envisioned a façade made to resemble foam with haphazard holes, but they “couldn’t stand randomness in design.” The solution came while listening to Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” No longer slapdash, Ronac Art Center’s windows now spell out “Work it harder, make it better, do it faster, makes us stronger” in Morse code! Aside from design, toys, music, and food, Austria’s passion is directed at affordable housing in the Philippines. “Low cost doesn’t have to sacrifice good design,” he says. He and his Jagnus Design Studio partners formed W3C and are currently developing homes in the countryside. “The Filipinos are an extremely proud and talented people,” says Austria. “Being third world is no longer an acceptable excuse for mediocrity. We are ready for the world.”

Bototoy is manufactured by Detalle Furniture in the Philippines. It comes in two sizes: Medium (14”) and Large (18”) and features seven articulations and detachable/interchangeable parts. Bototoy is available at SecretFresh Gallery in Manila and online.

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