A Day In The Life Of Architect Arts Serrano

A Glimpse Into What A Day Looks Like For Architect Arts Serrano

Vogue Philippines converses with various personalities to see what a day in their life looks like. From engaging in a variety of morning routines to capping off the day with a session in the gym, here’s a rundown of Arts Serrano’s day as an architect.

When Arts Serrano was in college, he took a character test that identified what animal his personality closely resembled. The result? A beaver. “Beavers like making things and I find it fascinating that an animal can be so driven by harvesting wood and making dams,” he says. Ever since, he embodied this persona, to the point where he resorts to making his own furniture when he gets frustrated at how they are designed.

Design, heritage, and furniture were three things that Serrano was most passionate about while he was growing up. This would soon follow him later in life when, after graduating from college, he set up a design studio called one/zero located in the heart of Escolta—a heritage district. The creation of the studio resulted in an intersection of the causes that Serrano deeply resonated with. “Growing up, I was told that I can’t make a living in this country, or in things I’m passionate about. I end up doing them anyway because I’d rather be doing something I can be proud of than anything else. This stubbornness also translates to how I react when other people put me (or things I am passionate about) in a box—I find ways to bend and break this,” he says. 

While the studio specializes mostly in working on interior spaces of coffee shops, offices, and a few residences, Serrano’s team is also part of a creative community of fashion designers, small businesses, photographers, and heritage advocates that mount different activities in the hopes of reinvigorating downtown Manila.

See below what a typical day looks like for Serrano as he brings you along with him to work:

7-8:15 AM: “A typical workday for me would start at around 7am. Since I live nearby (a 5 minute walk to my workplace from Ongpin/Binondo to Escolta), I don’t get bogged down a lot by getting stuck in long commute hours and traffic. 

I usually brew my own coffee (an espresso for a quick boost + a latte which I drink until a little before lunch) and lounge around for a bit before I actually start work. My rituals normally revolve around watering the plants every Tuesday, reading a chapter in a book I’m trying to finish, or answering emails/work messages.”

9:15 AM: “For this day, I started with signing blueprints for a coffee space in Makati currently being applied for a building permit. Morning office tasks often include quick alignment calls via zoom or brainstorming with the team.” 

10:15 AM: “At around 10:15, the building owners have a tour organized for a small group and we joined in to talk a little bit about our role and approach in fitting out a few of their spaces. As architects based in a heritage building, we are very active in helping out as needed to improve visitor experience in their different spaces. We also find it inspiring to showcase what our heritage could be as we collaborate with the community and the building owners in expanding how we actually use these spaces in the context of the current times.”

11:30 AM: “At around 11:30, we leave to visit an old work from 2021. This creative agency office space was built in the middle of lockdowns and just as our cities are slowly opening up to live with covid and the pandemic. The CEO requested to meet with us to reconnect and discuss how the past two years were for them (they transitioned to full hybrid work setup) and see how we can design their expansion. 

This office project took inspiration in their history of being an international agency transitioning to being Filipino-led, hence the use of honeycomb cardboards to play around with the concept of being “balikbayans” in the industry. These honeycomb cardboards were used as sandwich panels in between tanguile wood studs to act as barriers in-between hot desk spaces and also doubled as acoustic treatment to create a comfortable open-planned work environment.”

1:30 PM: “After the meeting, we went to another recent project in Legazpi Village to grab a quick cup of coffee. Our visits here normally just involve us people watching, seeing people interact with the space we built, and talking to the cafe staff to hear operational issues they’ve encountered.” 

3:00 PM: “The trip from Makati back to Escolta usually takes quicker (around 30-40 minutes) if it isn’t rush hour. So we try to be back in downtown Manila by 15:00 for a late lunch. Walking back to Ongpin we often pass by a few fruit stands so we usually get fresh fruits to bring home. I like eating at this vegetarian turo-turo space called “Vege Select” which has a wide selection of plant-based food (sisig, adobo, etc) and a vegetarian skewer set smothered in spices.” 

4:30 PM: “On the way back to the office, we pass by the Hub Make Lab’s Glorious Dias to look at a few of their new stuff. My boyfriend got this vest from repurposed fabrics which had an interesting pattern on it.”

5 PM: “We wind down the afternoon to the early evening with a bit of sketching and detail work for on-going design projects. Office hours for me usually involve correcting and drafting details our designers developed over the day.” 

7 PM: “I used to stay until late in the office but I try to end work hours at 1900.” 

7:45 PM: “I usually end the day at a nearby gym (an 8-10 minute bike ride from my condo in Ongpin) to do some bodyweight stretches and my kettlebell routine. We join competitive kettlebell events, recently in Hong Kong, and train in three month cycles usually ending with a local/international KB competition. My kettlebell training is usually a great time for me to shut down all work thoughts from my brain to focus on something completely different.”

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