by Thij Demeulemeester, De Tidj
Can prefab finally shake off its bad reputation, thanks to Helena Christensen and Jean Nouvel? Philippine company Revolution Precrafted delivers affordable ‘designer homes’ to your door within three months. “My logo must be as famous as Apple’s.”
Fancy an upside-down Viking ship in your garden? Also signed by top model Helena Christensen? Thanks to Revolution Precrafted, that doesn’t have to be a distant dream anymore. The Philippine real estate company offers complete prefabricated homes and ready-designed pavilions, signed by the top names in the world of design, architecture and fashion. “Apart from a Viking boat, I was also inspired by the flight of swallows,” says Christensen, who designed the Scandinavian log cabin. Shipped and built, the wooden ‘Swallow Cabin’ can cost $ 228,000. The delivery time is between 60 and 90 days, and construction can be done in a month.
The log cabin may be the first sidestep towards architecture for the Danish top model, but it is not the first time that she colors outside the fashion lines. Christensen has never been the model sitting at home in New York or Copenhagen waiting for the phone to ring for another shoot. Although she graced the cover of international fashion magazines more than 600 times, she always had side projects. In 1999 she was co-founder and creative director of the edgy Nylon Magazine. Together with childhood friend Leif Sigersen, she opened the Butik concept store in New York. The supermodel has also designed lingerie for Triumph and furniture for Habitat.
With Strangelove she founded a perfume company of which she is also creative director. Another hidden talent is photography: her raw, sensual images made it into prestigious magazines as much as the fashion shoots in which she participates as a model.
Armani, Versace and Trump
She collaborates with Revolution Precrafted with (fashion) designer Camilla Staerk, with whom she runs a multidisciplinary studio for photography, fashion, design, architecture and film. Staerk and Christensen have known each other since 2000, when the former just graduated from college and the latter traveled the world as a supermodel, often with colleagues such as Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Elle Macpherson.
Revolution Precrafted is the latest project from serial entrepreneur Robbie Antonio. The New York-based Filipino founded Antonio Development, a company with 3,500 employees currently developing 63 major real estate projects around the world. He earned his spurs at Century Properties, his father José’s Philippine real estate company. They are responsible, among other things, for the Trump Tower in Manila. Although they have also worked with the luxury brands Armani, Missoni and Versace for ‘branded’ real estate projects.
In 2009, Robbie Antonio developed the first family real estate project outside of Asia, the Centurion Tower in Manhattan, New York. The architect was an Asian: IM Pei, known for the Louvre pyramid and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.
Meanwhile, the 41-year-old Antonio is used to working with such top players. The project counter stands at thirteen ‘Pritzker Prize’ winners. Among them Rem Koolhaas and his Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), who drew his private residence in Manila. According to Vanity Fair magazine, that villa, called ‘Stealth’, has the air of a private museum. In addition to modern and contemporary art, there are also dozens of portraits made of Antonio by top artists such as Takashi Murakami, Julian Schnabel and Zhang Huan. Koolhaas came out as the winner from a circle of top architects, who each drew a housing design for the Filipino: Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid and Thom Mayne.
That address book will now also come in handy in his new adventure: Revolution Precrafted. That company – feel free to call it the Deliveroo of architecture – is already counted among the ‘unicorns’: young companies with a virtual market value above 1 billion dollars. According to the market research firm CBInsights, there are currently 282 such companies worldwide. Mainly technology start-ups, of course, only four of them are real estate developers. “We are the fastest unicorn in Southeast Asia,” he says. “My ambition is clear: I want to make the Revolution Precrafted logo as ubiquitous as Apple’s.”
Antonio finds traditional bricks-and-mortar construction companies something of the last century. ‘I didn’t invent prefab. But I can take the idea into the 21st century. I want to run a company that can offer luxurious living in quality architecture for an affordable price.’
He says he now has worldwide exclusivity on about eighty designs by top architects and designers. Clappers such as Jean Nouvel, Christian de Portzamparc, Sou Fujimoto, Ron Arad, Tom Dixon, Marcel Wanders, Daniel Libeskind, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Kengo Kuma or the late Zaha Hadid. A strange name at first glance among that architectural and designer violence is Lenny Kravitz. However, connoisseurs may know that the rock musician has been quietly active as an interior designer for some time now.
And Christensen is also part of the designer range. Antonio met her through a mutual acquaintance. ‘I had first called in Helena and Camilla to come up with an interior, but they suggested drawing a complete house. I was immediately impressed by their design.’
To keep his top homes affordable, Antonio mainly counts on scale. ‘We not only sell to private individuals, but also to project developers and large landowners, who can suddenly order large quantities of homes from us. At the moment, 35,000 houses have already been ordered for eleven countries. In time, I want to become the largest housing supplier in the world.’
With Revolution Precrafted, Antonio is mainly concerned with the combination of art, architecture and design. ‘But in affordable form,’ he says. ‘I’m aiming for around $100,000 per house, depending on the number of bedrooms and the size. I call it: living in a house that looks twice as expensive.’
The Filipino entrepreneur himself categorically refuses to use the word ‘prefab’. He prefers ‘precrafted’ to emphasize the quality difference, because his ‘prefab’ has ‘Pritzker Prize’ ambition. He sees it as anything but small. In a first phase, he mainly wants to deliver pavilions and homes. He already got off to a good start in Asia and the Middle East. Europe is Antonio’s next field of action, who already has contact(r)acts in Portugal and Spain. He himself dreams aloud of prefab retail projects, hotels, restaurants, glamping sites and even residential parks with art.
He even tries to get the British magazine Wallpaper on board with his disruptive real estate adventure: the magazine is co-curating a collection of ‘architectural homes’ for Revolution Precrafted, with creations by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, AFGH (Andreas Fuhrimann and Gabrielle Hächler) and J. Mayer H. “Prefab has become a way to build in advance what might be impossible on site,” said Tony Chambers, Wallpaper’s brand & content director. ‘You would never buy a car built in a field, would you? Then why a house?’
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