What happens when you develop a deep connection with a client? Well, if you’re architect Manuel Villanueva and designer Oro del Negro, you decide to go into business together. These two creative minds first met in Mallorca 20 years ago when Oro came to Manuel with an architectural project. Ever since, the pair have led architectural and design firm Moredesign towards an evolving portfolio of high-end residential and commercial projects. Based in Mallorca, with an office in Ibiza and projects emerging all over the world, Moredesign is where the soul of Mediterranean style meets a global outlook.
Growing up in a creative family, Oro studied fine art – first in Barcelona and then in London. By the time he left art school, he had already partnered with his mother on several renovation projects and had an excellent grasp of design and architectural principles. Just months after Manuel graduated from architecture school in Madrid, Oro approached him about a renovation project. The project was a success but before a continuing partnership became a reality, the two men embarked on their own careers.
The company started in Mallorca, however the Ibiza office has become the hub from which countless international Moredesign projects have been launched.
Oro pursued art and design while Manuel cut his teeth as an architect for well-known firms such as Jean Nouvel followed by OMI Architects in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Herzog & de Meuron in Basel, Switzerland. “After a while, I decided to take some time off and reassess,” Manuel remembers. “I was just about to go back to work when Oro contacted me and said he had another project in Mallorca and asked me to join him.” From that one small job came a never-ending stream of commissions and Moredesign was born.
Right from the start, the pair had a very clear vision of what Moredesign would be. “It all happened quite fast,” says Manuel. “I already had experience in establishing offices and knew what sort of business I wanted while Oro had a very defined approach to Mediterranean architecture and design.” The Balearics are deeply embedded in both men. Madrid-born Manuel spent his childhood holidays in the picturesque hilltop town of Deyá on Mallorca’s west coast. Oro was born to an American father and German mother who established themselves in the Mallorcan hippie communities of the 1960s. Their combined love of the Balearics and Mediterranean design is evident in their collaborative projects.
Anyone who has spent time in Mallorca and Ibiza will notice the difference in architectural styles. The divergent historical references are a source of inspiration for the Moredesign team. “On both islands, the architecture comes from what local resources are available,” explains Oro. “So, the style in Mallorca is different to Menorca, which is different to Ibiza, but the approach to the space is always similar. There’s an organic feel to the buildings because the homes grew as the family did.”
Historical context is important in the Moredesign process. “I think that the last 30 years of architecture has not given us great examples of good design,” Oro continues. “Even at the high-end, there was a lack of reference to the past. We like to go back to the roots and celebrate the local architecture.” This detail is noticeable in Moredesign’s work, along with the incorporation of modern methods and materials. “We thread the vernacular into a contemporary approach to the use of space,” says Manuel. “For example, kitchens used to be separated at the back of the house, nowadays they are a central piece in our designs because the kitchen is where family life radiates. It’s a space for connection.”
The same goes for the landscape, especially in Ibiza where Manuel sees a strong cultural relationship to the land. “Connection to the outside is essential,” he says. “We decided from the beginning that we would treat each project as a complete concept. We don’t divide architecture from interior design from landscaping. It is all one organism.” It was this basic principle that led to the creation of Moredecor, an offshoot of Moredesign that focuses on decoration, furniture and art. “It’s all the things that would fall out if you turned the house upside down,” jokes Manuel. Moredecor is a reflection of the Moredesign philosophy, fusing the basic ethos and passion for craftsmanship with beautiful objects that impart character as well as practicality to the spaces.
Manuel has always carried profound respect for the world of the craftsman, something that has been lost in many modern approaches and forms one of the foundations of Moredesign. “We pay a lot of attention to craft,” he says. “We collaborate with people that work with wood, clay, iron and natural fibres. All of these details connect our designs to a greater vernacular and deeper historical reference. It’s not just locally either – we keep an eye on what’s happening across the whole Mediterranean where there are similar architectural roots. We are always connecting these common threads.”
Since partnering with local architect Carlos Higinio to establish an office in Ibiza, the team of 20 professionals at Moredesign have created spaces that will no doubt become iconic in years to come. Casa Jondal, the ‘it restaurant’ of the moment in Ibiza, situated on the pristine shores of Cala Jondal, is a prime example of the Moredesign culture. The assortment of textures plays beautifully against the beachy backdrop. The landscaping appears to be wild and unruly but is intentionally balanced to create a natural and organic ambience. “A lot happens outdoors at Casa Jondal,” Carlos explains. “We wanted the same tones as the sun and the sea but softened.”
The recently opened boutique hotel Casa Pacha in Formentera enjoys a similar treatment but differs in tone. “At Casa Pacha, we wanted to connect to the feel of Formentera’s beaches,” he continues. The tone is a bit darker than Casa Jondal and more textured. We wanted the light to be lower because as a hotel, its purpose is different. Colour for us is always an evolution.” This is most obvious in the earthy tones in another of Ibiza’s current ‘it restaurants’, El Silencio on Cala Molí on the west coast – another jewel in the Moredesign crown.
One of the things that attracts the Moredesign team to Ibiza is the diversity of the client base. “There are so many different cultures in Ibiza,” Oro says. “And there is a strong awareness of tradition and environmental concerns. They don’t want a design that’s unrelated to what’s around them. There’s a humility and a real passion for sustainability.” Even though the company started in Mallorca, the Ibiza office has become the hub from which countless international Moredesign projects have been launched – which the team attribute to the island’s cosmopolitanism and global appeal. With a slew of private and commercial projects in Ibiza already under their belt, Moredesign will no doubt leave an indelible mark on the architectural culture of the island.