The Alley at Karrivin beckons for several reasons.
“It’s quiet, feels like down time. Just relaxed,” describes Mara Coson, who runs the chic hub.
While it’s not the easiest to stumble upon—being the innermost passage inside a compound—it has a mix of tenants that will have you going out of your way for a visit.
“I wanted the name to locate it: an alley inside Karrivin”.
Contemporary art gallery, The Drawing Room was the first to open. “When I got things rolling I immediately called Jun Villalon. Turns out he was just about to sign another lease contract along the street that day. I was very glad to have him on board,” Coson recalls.
The Alley at Karrivin is also home to the Manila exhibition space of Bataan-based Bellas Artes Projects, a non-profit foundation which encourages contemporary artists to incorporate Filipino heritage in their work.
Another area for exhibits and what not is 1335 Mabini.
A place with spaces
“This stretch was vacant back in 2015. I took on the challenge of seeing what could be done with it. The Alley is actually simple: a place with spaces. I felt like it would be nice to combine spaces so that it wouldn’t take up hours in traffic to see one exhibit and another and another—especially if there are several openings in one night. Then coffee or dinner after,” Coson explains.
Dining options are Wilde, whose come-on are an ambiance ideal for “me time” and a menu of snacks and premium milk tea; Poison, a coffee and doughnut shop; and the Filipino joint, Toyo Eatery. Just recently, its sister establishment, Panaderya Toyo was launched.
“When we saw The Alley, we just fell in love with it and Mara’s vision for it,” relates May Navarra who, along with her chef husband Jordy, are behind Toyo.
Tina Fernandez, owner of Aphro, which carries all kinds of art, from paintings by various local artists to functional art like chairs, bags, and shoes says that she was attracted to The Alley because “you can feel the cool vibe of the place as soon as you walk through”. She likes it so much that she leased another space for Artinformal.
Also at The Alley are creative studio, Hydra Design Group; and Lanai, which sells flowers, home pieces, and fashion items.
“I didn’t really have a peg except random photos I collected of people sitting in courtyards or next to plants and old houses along Manila with S-cut wood pattern. I just wanted to work with the space, which naturally needed a row of spaces along a hall. Then the spaces in the front of the building opened up so it became a whole building,” Coson says. “Sounds simple but I had never planned spaces before so everything was a learning experience.
Dividing up a pre-existing building, and re-configuring it to become an interesting space that the tenants could work with was challenging. One section was a big space with badminton courts and was 8 meters high. But everything has worked out well,” she continues. A narrow garden stretches along the hall. “A lot of time was spent waiting for plants to grow,” Coson reveals.
Architect Ae Pastrana along with the BDO property management team and engineers provided their services to turn the former warehouse to The Alley. Thomas Williams of Hunt & Co. was behind the brand identity.
“It’s really the tenants who make the space, and The Alley is just the shelf that holds them. The stuff on the shelves are more interesting! They are the ones that have really made it something. The tenants are the ones who’ve done more fun things. Bellas Artes projects uses these hexagonal cement tiles made in Las Casas in Bataan. Tina Fernandez’s Aphro, with Jagnus studio, has made an altar-type space using plywood – but it’s done so nicely,” Coson enthuses.
“We wanted something minimal, but progressive in design. Something warm with a laid back atmosphere where we can call both our home. More importantly, we wanted it to be Filipino. The materials, furniture, artwork, and plates we use are predominantly Filipino made and were designed by Filipinos,” Navarra says about Toyo Eatery’s concept.
The opening of Artinformal this February completes the line up at The Alley. “It’ll just be cozier and there are more things to check out during each visit,” Coson promises while hinting at exciting activities to expect. “We had The Alley party in November, which we hope to do yearly. We’ll also have something in June, but I can’t say yet!”
The Alley at Karrivin is located at 2316 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati. For more information, follow @thealleyatkarrivin on Instagram.
PHOTOS BY JOHN MICAH SEBASTIAN