While in Jakarta we grasped the opportunity to catch up with mamo [architect Adi Purnomo], who, along with Andra Matin, is one of Indonesia’s finest architects; and visited with mamo an older, and so-far unpublished, villa-project: the David and Gita House  – in the suburbs of Bogor. A timely moment to have him again on tape and talking.
Delving in our archive to show some older work, we also publish a short Q&A.
The David and Gita House is located in an otherwise rather non-distinct suburban neighborhood of Bogor [which in itself is a one-million inhabitants city located about 40 kilometers South of Jakarta]. The visit prompted a series of questions, but rather than talking about the aesthetics, lay-out and principles behind the design, we ventured out in three other directions: to re-visit design principles behind older work, to inquire on what and how to live in Indonesia, and lastly about the desired direction for Indonesia’s urban development.
These questions – a selection of a longer series of interviews MovingCities has conducted throughout the past years in Indonesia and which are now, slowly, being processed – brought in relation and further explained. Keep an eye here for future updates on this work-in progress.
By now, we have seen and visited quite some houses you have designed and built in Indonesia. For example Rumah Taman Tangkuban Perahu – a whirlwind of materials and nature, provoking an immediate emotional reaction between brick, glass and landscape… Then there is Studi-O Cahaya, which is pure concrete and light, delivering a slanted sensation to users and visitors. Tell us a bit about your design process.
mamo Before choosing the material there is a process of design that leads to the decision to opt for this or that material. In Studi-O Cahaya I only focused on how the light enters and how the house is set in an urban context. So it is not about talking
of the natural resources or something else, but using the easiest material available in an urban context.
We naturally use a lot of concrete in the city. The most important was how the light creates a different situation at each moment of the day. Usually we create a program before laying out the structure or space-form, but that project it is very specific to carve the volume with light. Later we decided upon its function. It is like the first time human kind has shelter, choosing which cave is fit for them. The gallery is on top because the brightness is at its most. The bedroom is in the middle, so it is not too hot but still has a medium brightness. At the lower level it is only the service area and access for the public, so it can open.
It just happens like that.
As architects, we may believe that some of our motivation to build is to materialize and construct a series of personal principles, belief systems and spatial experiences, and see these inhabited, adjusted, used and occupied. Tell us something about your point of view.
mamo For me, this relates to a mixed feeling. The older I get, the more I try to understand this logic but at this moment I realize it is not about logic only. It is about something that belongs to us, which is inside of everybody and for which we need to find equilibrium. I try to relate this to my practice: in Javanese culture we always try to look at other people, to tolerate and understand another people.
I always try to do design by myself, but each time I learn from a build project as well. So I realized that an architect can and should not work by himself. Everything that is build is not just the result of design, it is already a mix of materials, construction workers, site-specific etc… Nowadays I try to understand and approach each project in a different way and try to challenge myself.
What are your current ideas regarding the development of the modern tropical city, do you think such a distinct way of living is possible? Should people live in big cities in this climate? Look at Jakarta, a city with 10 million people with large problems on all fronts. One could almost think that a metropolis suited for this climate should not replicate the ambition to become one of the so-call world cities?
mamo I have a conclusion, at this moment, that in Indonesia the future of the city is in the rural area – as every necessary resource is to be found there: food and wood. Cities are only constructed for augmenting consumption. The question is why don’t we just re-organize ourselves in the proximity of food resources? There must be a new way of doing this, but I do not have yet figured out how this works. Currently I have the feeling that it probably would be more like a sprawling village. We can manage ourselves in smaller groups of people, balancing everything in each group and try to re-balance again within the larger whole. Every place should be unique, but also in the way how we operate them.
I think it is about time to question this. It is not a question about architecture or city anymore, but about power and policy. So I have a big question regarding the future of the Indonesian city. The first problem is that we do not build or design any proper infrastructure. Even this morning when I read the headlines of a newspaper, there was the news that a big bridge collapsed in Borneo. It was probably 100 to 200 meter bridge, and it just broke without any reason. To me this reveals that we are quick to absorb another knowledge, or technology, without thinking.
The second problem is the direction of our civilization, our background. Why don’t we try to learn from that? The reason so, is that it is very hard to find any trace of how our civilization was built long time ago. So for me, the current moment is quite a difficult time, as everything is moving fast without a proper understanding.
The third problem is that every city is copying another city. You can see a lot of this when if you go to Sumatra or Lombok. They all try to look like Jakarta. But this problem, is not only an Indonesian problem though. […]
mamostudio-interview by movingcities.org | Bogor, August 11, 2012
Pictures by movingcities.org