New book on tropical home design in Indonesia.
The private residences featured in 25 Tropical Houses in Indonesia by Amir Sidharta depict dreams that startle and awe, and their existence seems somewhat unbelievable against the typical urban sprawl of modern Indonesia.
Published by Periplus Editions and filled with images by award-winning photographer Masano Kawana, "25 Tropical Houses in Indonesia" was launched recently at the Kemang Icon in South Jakarta.
Curator/director of the Pelita Harapan University Museum and head of Sidharta Auctioneers, Sidharta has degrees in art history and museology, and is a trained architect himself. He has previously written several books on art - including a recent title on his favorite artist Sardjono, whom he considers a "father of modern Indonesian art", as well as on Balinese gardens and archeology, and has also written on architecture and the arts in newspapers.
Initially, I wanted to do a book on current Indonesian architecture, because some current books (on the subject) only focus less than 20 percent (of the book) on Indonesian architects
he said, underlining that this coffee-table book features "100 percent Indonesian architects".
But in the process, it turned into a 'house' book instead of on architecture.
While the final product might present page after glossy page of residences that look slightly out-of-this-world, the accompanying text provides a detailed breakdown of each design, from materials to structure, from layout to construction, and from texture to color, and how all elements combine in defining the architectural esthetics of a particular house.
Cover of "25 Tropical Houses in Indonesia" by Amir Sidharta.
I hope the book offers interesting ideas and designs, not only to show what current Indonesian architecture has to offer.
said Sidharta. And for general readers, he hoped it would be a kind of guide on "building materials and settings to be created" through architecture.
Regarding public appreciation for architecture, he commented:
There's a totally different attitude now from the late 1980s... It was only in the mid-'90s that people started to appreciate architecture, although there was still a preference for prominent architects in established firms.
People appreciate style (now), and architects today are more sophisticated in design and more knowledgeable about building materials.
Of the 22 architects featured in 25 Tropical Gardens, however, only five work at major architectural firms; the others are independent.
The field has expanded a lot.
A long-time member of the Young Architects Association (AMI), established in the late 1990s by Yuri Antar and 17 founding members, Sidharta researched the residences through the "architects network", which includes the Indonesian Architects Association (IAI).
While the houses of 25 Tropical Houses in Indonesia obviously depict leading architectural designs, they have a tendency to start blending into one another after repeated viewings. The current trend appears to be one that balances wood, stone, steel and glass, with some visage of water on the site, all in a minimalist composition that reminds of abstract art with a touch of Zen, color accents against a white backdrop, or black-on-white with spots of color.
So what makes for a uniquely Indonesian design?
A self-professed supporter of "unique and interesting ideas", Sidharta believes that creative development toward an Indonesian architectural identity is an ongoing process.
What it is now, I can't define yet. It's my hope that the book will challenge Indonesian architects into thinking what that is without trying to establish a visual identity, which happened from the '50s to the '80s.
In particular, he would like to see designs that address architectural issues particular to Indonesia, such as climate, security, environment and culture.
Meanwhile, the two main features of the designs incorporated in the book are that several address the climate issue, while others are "expressions of theoretical ideas".
In speaking of design and architecture, it may become easy to lose sight of the fact that these structures are not merely "houses", and are meant to be "homes".
Asked about his ideal home design, Sidharta, who lives with his parents in the house that was being built when he was born, replied:
I'm a museum person, so I most enjoy houses that develop, that have a history. Some projects have new designs that evoke a sense of historicism to create a 'lived-in' house.
But houses are not shells. It has a life of its own. Even in a completely new home, you will be bringing your own history to it.
Some of the designs he particularly likes in the book are: the Steel House (p. 124), for its compact design that met the client's desires and budgetary constraints; the Jane House (p. 194), which retained the brick wall of a neighboring plot; and the cover house, Budi House, for its sculptural design.
With the recent earthquake in Yogyakarta and the devastation wreaked upon poorly constructed houses, Sidharta believes that traditional construction, which typically uses joints and pegs in the frame, "needs to be rethought".
For all the achievements, esthetic and structural, of modern architecture, however, one particular architect and his work stand out for Sidharta: that of the late Yusuf Bilyarta Mangunwijaya, a Catholic priest who reconstructed a riverside slum area in Yogyakarta.
He explored a lot of craftsmanship, (and) developed individual methods of construction based on traditional local architecture. (The kampong) is not about style, but about trying to develop an area.
He used to say that houses need to be decorated so that people understood these weren't just shacks or shanty houses, but that 'people' live here... To have pride for their environment.