IN THE UNIVERSE of Interior Design, particularly the slightly younger, more contained universe that is Interior Design in the Philippines, Benjamin L. Hughes II is a man who needs no introduction. His name alone carries a pedigree that cuts across an entire industry. His peers are unanimous in their exaltation. Benjamin Hughes is a Pioneer. Above and beyond such fundamental qualities of adventurism and prescience and initiative and, of course, a persistence of vision, Pioneer implies a specificity of presence at a particularly critical juncture in history, a sense, if you will, of cosmic timing. Right place, right time, right attitude, right spirit, all that.
Hughes’ first trip to the Philippines was in the late ‘60s. Benny Toda Sr., the founder of Philippine Air Lines and its then-owner, flew him in from the States and tasked him with designing what was then the PAL HQ in Ayala Avenue. His expertise may have been urban planning and environmental design, but Hughes, who studied both Architecture and Sociology, was already starting to blaze a trail in the field of Interior Design and it was crossing over to the other side of the world. Trace his career back, and this first trip to Manila may well be his “critical juncture in history,” that fixed point in time that was primordial to his career and his stature.
The twist was, at that time, the interior design industry in the Philippines was in its infancy. As soon as Hughes moved to the Philippines in 1972, a few years before establishing the Manila office of Steven J. Leach Jr. and Associates, he began to parlay his expertise into laying down the ramparts of the discipline, and subsequently the industry, that he has since helped shepherd into its bloom and boom.
Of course, Hughes, as a designer but more so as a man, knew a thing or two about balance. He may have had an undeniably distinctive presence, but he also had a quietude about him. This particular elegance, this sense of grace almost, is something that is mirrored in the work itself. People close to him make note of his fondness for elephants, a fondness that may well be out of seeing something kindred in how these magnificent colossi conduct themselves with a calm that belies their size.
For someone of his stature, Hughes was refreshingly grounded. Right up to the very end. His loss may have resounding permutations across the industry. But when he passed away a few months ago, it was, true to the nature of the man, with nary a rustle.
Originally posted 2016-05-13 13:20:57.