Mind The Edges: Valentina Audrito, Architect

Published 31 March 2011   

A battle is raging in Bali as aesthetics challenge government and traditionalists fight modernists, and, seemingly against the odds, while they continue to fight, Bali soaks up creative influences like a proverbial sponge while maintaining its essential cultural character.

One Bali-based architect, Valentina Audrito, co-owner of Word Of Mouth, feels that all architecture that employs quality and intelligence and is built according to sound design principles of space, light and sensitivity to environmental factors, has a place. “This is a place where there are no urban regulations, which allows for an element of freedom. In some cases people choose to be their own architect and there is good and bad in that. It is great that people have the freedom of creative expression and this can lead to interesting ideas but sometimes, it is just bad,” she says seriously.

Defying classification and reluctant to apply labels to her own designs, there are elements which make her spaces recognisable. Fresh, modern, softened with round edges and applying colour creatively, there is a kind of industrial edge to her architectural spaces, often characterised by soaring ceilings and cement floors. Her signature, which she claims she really can’t explain, is the egg, one of nature’s most perfect creations. Her dream was to become a ballerina and although she quit to study architecture in Italy and Barcelona, the discipline has carried over into her work. “I like to think that I am a minimalist in my exteriors and a maximalist in my interiors,” she laughs.

Her own house, which she shares with her partner in life and business, Abhishake (Abhi) Kumbhat is a wonderful representation of their work and a very personal project. Their on-site office, which has been designed by the Word of Mouth team also points to a definitive style. Word Of Mouth is abbreviated to WOM by the couple who have put their stamp on their unusual café cum bar cum shop cum design showroom. With a sleight of hand it could easily read WOW!

The unexpected and playful attitude to design belies a much more serious commitment, passion and understanding of the fundamentals of good design. The showroom is a work in progress and flirts with retro objects, their own designs, Valentina’s concept of space and the yin and yang created by their different approaches. While Valentina likes to soften a space with rounded edges, Abhi favours sharp edges and triangular designs, creating a playful juxtaposition in their work.

Valentina has been coming to Bali since she was ten years old. Her father is also an architect in Turin where she grew up. Ten years ago she was offered her first commission in Bali and she has been here ever since. She met Abhi at Kudeta, she recalls, a smile playing on her face. When I ask him about it he almost chokes, “She told you that?” he gasps. They now have two children and work closely together.

“Valentina approaches everything she does with great intelligence,” he explains, “We share a great passion for design and we only produce things that we both feel really committed to. The thing I most admire about her is her use of space, she has a real talent in her understanding of how to balance spaces,” he continues.

The most outstanding feature of Valentina’s work, apart from her soaring ceilings and brilliant use of space, is the way she combines natural and ma-made elements in her work. Industrial warehouse-like spaces are softened with bamboo and hand-painted tiles, natural wood and shell. Often white, a play of colour is also represented in her work, blue is a favourite and is often seen.

Her team at Word of Mouth includes five architects and two designers. She sometimes creates the entire project from the design to the interiors; at other times just parts of the job. So far she has completed seven commissions from start to finish but her many other projects including furniture and fashion design and consulting on retail, residential and commercial spaces fill her days.

Projects she has done, like the funky Kiss Hotel in Seminyak, the compact Lovelli residence, the spacious and elegant beach front Tantangan residence in Nyanyi Beach, all sparkle with personality. Word of Mouth in Jalan Kunti, their own private home and the office space of Word of Mouth are all brilliant examples of the personal design principles of this team.

When asked about her influences she is thoughtful indicating that there are elements she admires in the work of others without being directly influenced. However, she sites Oscar Niemeyer, one of the world’s most famous architects, noted for his designs which employ straight and rounded shapes to create innovative architectural masterpieces, as one of her heroes. He designed the city of Brasilia, the country’s capital.

Word of Mouth has shown their furniture pieces at some of the most exclusive furniture fairs in Milan and Paris and now sell around the world. In their own business Abhi and Valentina are working towards another Word of Mouth venue on the Bukit, which may be decades away, jokes Abhi. Funky, contemporary and full of quirky personality, Valentina says she is sensitive to the fact that her architecture will leave a lasting impression and that is a weight she is conscious of. “What I love about architecture is its ability to move people. The greatest architecture ever from the wall of China to the pyramids to The Louvre will inspire people to travel. Nature can do this also.”

Only time will tell what mark Valentina will leave on Bali, a place that she loves. Famous for incorporating new ideas and playing with creative concepts the landscape of Bali is without doubt going to be more colourful for the influence of Valentina and Word of Mouth.

Word of Mouth
Jl Kunti, Kunti Arcade, Shop 10 Seminyak, Bali
PH: +62 361 847 5797

1 Comment

  1. LOVE it!!! We need you in Bavaria too ;)

    Posted by Niki Graf Sandizell on 16 January 19 at 10:56pm [Comment]

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