Cobonpue named Pratt ‘Legend’ | Philstar.com
The Philippine Star
November 11, 2023 | 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — Internationally acclaimed Filipino furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue received the Pratt Legends of 2023 award last Thursday night (Friday morning Manila time) in New York.
Pratt Institute is among the world’s top 10 art and design schools. Cobonpue graduated from Pratt in 1991, summa cum laude.
Cobonpue, whom Pratt called the “design rockstar,” is the first Asian Pratt Legend “recognized for his significant contributions to the global furniture and design industry.”
“Be passionate about what you do and make it better while remaining true to yourself. Never stop learning,” the designer said as he “continues to pave his legacy as the beacon of inspiration to aspiring designers.”
Other 2023 awardees are architect Edward Maria and artist Kay Walkingstick. Pratt has honored 73 Legends since 1999, including fashion designers Tommy Hilfiger and Marc Jacobs, photographer Bruce Weber, chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud, architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, commercial industrial designer Karim Rashid.
“I wanted my designs to bring out the child in other people,” said Cobonpue. His designs that draw inspiration from human experiences make his pieces feel genuine and warmly connect with people. His captivating pieces have earned him worldwide recognition – chosen as the first “Maison et Objet Asian Designer of the Year” and styled by TIME Magazine as “Rattan’s First Great Virtuoso.”
Seeking to make a difference in the world of design, Cobonpue “started to experiment with different materials and simple structures.” The use of natural materials has always been part of his brand DNA, creating works that are both durable and sustainable. “I have been making sustainable furniture even before I really understood what sustainable meant,” he said.
His bamboo car concept “Phoenix” highlighted alternative, sustainable designs for transportation and challenged the conventional by sourcing renewable materials, and building it by hand with minimal tools and energy.
He fuses natural materials with the traditional crafting techniques of skilled artisans to give each piece its quality and durability. “High-level craftsmanship is required to make every piece, and its striking simplicity brings it closer to art,” the Cebu-based designer said.
He is committed to sustaining century-old crafting techniques – a tradition that lives on through craftsmen imbued with a mastery of the art-forming craft. His workshop has trained dozens of people to master the crafts of weaving, wood working, metal works and upholstery.
Committed to education and mentorship, Cobonpue founded the Industrial Design Program in the University of the Philippines-Cebu and became the chairman of the Department of Industrial Design at De La Salle-College of Benilde. He has personally mentored more than 30 designers, and hopes to continue doing so. “I’d like to see a whole generation of designers add to our design vocabulary so that we have something that’s truly unique and powerful in the world,” he said.
The Pratt Legends Awards celebrate “distinguished individuals and corporations in the world of art and design whose notable works and accomplishments resonate with the values and principles upheld by Pratt Institute of New York.”