Architects’ tend to try out a whole host of idiosyncratic ideas when it comes to designing their own houses. This house in a Jakarta suburb is no exception, combining classic Corbusian elements, such as a ramped promenade architectural and inhabitable grass roof, with cabin-like bedrooms reminiscent of Japanese capsule hotels, cages for cats and an unusual openness of its main living spaces to the extremes of the local Indonesian climate: hot sun, torrential rain and humidity. But somehow it all works, as Setiadi Sopandi and Robin Hartanto report in the third and final of our Buildings of the Week from Indonesia, part of the exhibition Tropicality Revisited: Recent Approaches by Indonesian Architects, on show at the DAM/Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt until January 3, 2016.
Andra Matin started constructing a house for himself, his wife Dite, and their three teenage children in 2008, a decade after he had left Grahacipta Hadiprana, one of Indonesia’s leading corporate architecture and interior design firms, to set up his own practice.
The house is situated on a trapezoid corner plot in the residential neighbourhood of Bintaro, South Jakarta. The 320 square metre plot faces north, towards a small community park, an uncommon feature in residential areas of Jakarta, providing the unusual benefit of open space for the surrounding houses.
However, with only a relatively narrow frontage to its trapezoidal-shaped plot, it was quite a challenge for Matin to engage the park effectively as a benefit. Fortunately, one of the main preoccupations in Matin’s work is to generate spatial qualities and possibilities by blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces. He often “bravely” choses to ignore the perceived problems of the hot, tropical sun and torrential rain to explore new possibilities of building “with the elements”. Thus here for example, Matin poetically stages the sunlight filtering through battens falling into the spaces of his house, filling them with garden views and breeze.
The functional programme of Matin’s house was developed like the layers of a sandwich linked together by a classic Corbusian promenade architectural that snakes up through the building. Services and semi-public functions are on the ground floor which leads up to a space for shared family activities on the first and then to more private spaces on the second floor. Above, there is an accessible and spacious grass-covered roof with extensive views out over the city. All of these are linked by a “cinematic journey” that runs through each space in the house, allowing its occupants to move smoothly up and pass through its ramps, planes and volumes.
Rather than having a front yard on the ground floor, Matin devised an expansive – and partially sheltered – deck on the first floor, covering almost half of the plot with recycled ironwood planks. Gaps between the planks allow slits of light and breeze to filter down to the ground floor which primarily consists of a timber-clad box containing the maid’s quarters and various utility spaces as well as a library, several built-in cages for cats, a garage, and a ramp rising over a pond with koi carp, leading up to the first floor.
The first floor deck serves as the living and dining area, along with a kitchen, and also a swimming pool, with unobstructed views to the neighbourhood park across the street. The living, dining and kitchen area sits under the “canopy” of a thin concrete box supported by eight slender columns, which primarily contains a shared room for the children.
With the main living space open to the elements on all sides it could become unpleasantly humid and still when there is no wind, if not for the electric ceiling fans, although here Matin was only able to put them above the ramps since the concrete box sits so low over the deck.
This concrete box has a corridor linking the common space to a shared bathroom/ toilet. The children’s bedrooms, which come off the common space, are not exactly “rooms”, more akin to closets – similar in scale to Japanese capsule hotels. Almost entirely isolated for air conditioning, this space has a horizontal slit along the front façade for fresh air.
The master bedroom is placed at the sharp corner point of the plot, occupying a relatively narrow area, and separated from the main building by a green space. The bedroom is connected to the main house only by an uncovered ramp, so that getting there is more like visiting a cabin.
The bedroom itself is on a mezzanine floor with just enough space for a kingsize mattress and access down a small spiral stair to the bathroom below. The bathroom area also acts as a dressing room and wardrobe, and is half buried in the landscape – a tree grows up out of the tip of the space’s sharp corner. While open to the sky at this end tip, the entire area is air conditioned. To help reduce the extra humidity caused by its subterranean position, Matin has installed an additional mechanical dehumidifier under the sink.
Overall Matin has compressed the bedroom areas and restricted the volume of the air conditioning needed to a minimum. By placing the common activities on the first floor deck, he focussed almost all the family’s activities into outdoor spaces. The timber ramps and the timber-paved platforms are fluidly interconnected without defining clear boundaries between sheltered and unsheltered areas, while the timber planks provide bare feet with a warm and textured surface to walk comfortably on around the house.
This idiosyncratic house feels like a project that Matin waited for just the right moment to realise: a very personal thing on a very particular site.
– Setiadi Sopandi and Robin Hartanto. Setiadi Sopandi is an architect, lecturer, and architectural historian. He has worked as a principal for Indra Tata Adilaras – an architecture studio based in Bogor - since 2002, and taught architectural theory and history in Universitas Pelita Harapan since 2010. Robin Hartanto graduated from the Department of Architecture at the University of Indonesia in 2012. He works at Avianti Armand Studio and is currently teaching at the University of Pelita Harapan.
An earlier version of this text appears in the catalogue to the exhibition: “Tropicality Revisited: Recent Approaches by Indonesian Architects”, curated by Avianti Armand, Setiadi Sopandi and Peter Cachola Schmal, currently at the DAM Frankfurt.
– Isandra Matin Ahmad (*1962) – known as Andra Matin – studied architecture in Universitas Katolik Parahyangan in 1981. He worked for Grahacipta Hadiprana from 1990 to 1998, before starting his own practice. His built work has ranged from residential, religious and commercial buildings to monuments, clubhouses, public markets, restaurants, and tall office towers. andramatin.com
Tropicality Revisited: Recent Approaches by Indonesian Architects
until January 3, 2016
DAM / Deutsches Architecturmuseum
60596 Frankfurt am Main