It is a weird, amazing, thrilling and depressive feeling to encounter the office towers that the architect Paul Rudolph [1918-1997] has constructed in Jakarta and in Surabaya. Weird, amazing and thrilling, because one can see a glimpse of an architectural future where tropicalist thinking meets megastructural modernity; depressive because they seem to be largely neglected by today’s architectural debate on sustainable structures. An introduction and a tale of two towers.
Wisma Dharmala [completed in 1997] in Surabaya and the Intiland Tower [finished in 1986 and formerly knows as Wisma Dharmala Sakti office tower] in Jakarta are both owned by Intiland, one of Indonesia’s leading real-estate developers. In “Towards Indonesia Sustainable Future through Sustainable Building and Construction” (pdf alert!) the Jakarta building is poignantly analyzed “as the antithesis to the anonymous air-conditioned box constructed all around the world.” Further on, following analysis of the Intiland Tower is being made:
One of Paul Rudolph’s building, Wisma Dharmala has been considered as one of the best sustainable building in Jakarta, Indonesia. In addition, the government cited it to be an example of how other buildings should be design to preserve local environment. Its highly complex geometrical pieces was designed to meet more than just the esthetic merit, but also to gain a better natural air flow and lighting in order to greatly reduce the need for air conditioner and artificial lightings. Rudolph said, “Indonesian traditional architecture offers a wide variety of solution to the problem of a hot and humid climate. The unifying element in this rich diversity is the roof (Rudolph, 2009). […] The passage of air was achieved by raising structures above the ground, breezeways, venture openings in walls and roofs, controlled windows openings, manipulation of shade, shadow and light modulated in breathtaking array of roofs.
Both buildings in Jakarta and Surabaya “bear the slogan “Health of the Future,” a catchphrase that was conceived by Paul Rudolph to represent a building that cares for the physical as well as the mental health of its occupants” [source: Dharmala Neighbors Say “Back At You!”]. Another text worth reading is “The Architect as Urbanist” by architectural historian Robert Bruegmann. He writes about the Intiland Tower in Jakarta as “a First World monument grafted onto the building stock of a Third World city” and continues:
A final building in Southeast Asia, the Dharmala Headquarters, in Jakarta, in many ways brings into sharp focus a number of longstanding issues in the work of Paul Rudolph. […] The complex contains some of the same elements seen in his other buildings in Southeast Asia, indeed in almost every large Rudolph complex since the 1960s, but the elements are all more elaborated. […] Because the Dharmala Building pushes so far along a number of paths Rudolph had been exploring since the ’60s, it raised interesting questions. One concerns the obvious objection that forms like thatched roofs, appropriate in small-scale frame architecture, are hardly appropriate for an air-conditioned high-rise office. Rudolph would counter by saying that the form of Indonesian roofs only served as a point of departure.
It’s high time to rethink and re-explore the work of Paul Rudolph.
Intiland Tower | Jakarta
Intiland Tower | Surabaya
Pictures by movingcities.org