»I don’t mistrust reality of which I hardly know anything. I just mistrust the picture of it that our senses deliver.«

Gerhard Richter

Blog Building of the Week

Into the Void

House and Gallery by Adi Purnomo in Jakarta

  • Studi-O Cahaya’s name is derived from a phrase meaning “study-of-light”. (All photos: Paul Kadarisman, courtesy DAM) 1 / 19  Studi-O Cahaya’s name is derived from a phrase meaning “study-of-light”. (All photos: Paul Kadarisman, courtesy DAM)
  • It is a private house-cum–gallery. 2 / 19  It is a private house-cum–gallery.
  • The entrance courtyard to the urban plot in Jakarta. 3 / 19  The entrance courtyard to the urban plot in Jakarta.
  • Entrance and kitchen. 4 / 19  Entrance and kitchen.
  • Dining table flooded with light from above. 5 / 19  Dining table flooded with light from above.
  • Tea-time amidst the complex series of angled walls. 6 / 19  Tea-time amidst the complex series of angled walls.
  • Light falling on the surfaces at the bottom of the central void space. 7 / 19  Light falling on the surfaces at the bottom of the central void space.
  • Staircase. 8 / 19  Staircase.
  • Part of the owners’ extensive art collection. 9 / 19  Part of the owners’ extensive art collection.
  • Views out. 10 / 19  Views out.
  • Bedroom. 11 / 19  Bedroom.
  • Into the void. 12 / 19  Into the void.
  • Sun-screen protecting the interior from the full tropical glare. 13 / 19  Sun-screen protecting the interior from the full tropical glare.
  • Roof garden. 14 / 19  Roof garden.
  • Views out across West Jakarta. 15 / 19  Views out across West Jakarta.
  • Awkward clashing geometries above. 16 / 19  Awkward clashing geometries above.
  • Calm domestic life below. 17 / 19  Calm domestic life below.
  • Which way up? 18 / 19  Which way up?
  • One of Adi Purnomo’s meticulous light studies, informing how to sculpt the interior volume. (Courtesy mm 19 / 19  One of Adi Purnomo’s meticulous light studies, informing how to sculpt the interior volume. (Courtesy mm

The challenge of maximising light whilst minimising solar gain in a house and gallery on a tightly packed urban plot in the tropical climate of West Jakarta, Indonesia, inspired the architect Adi Purnomo to make an intensive study of the annual and daily path of the sun across the site to generate its design. What he came up with is an interior that feels more like sculpting with light and shadow, report Setiadi Sopandi and Robin Hartanto, in the first of three 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.

Studi-O Cahaya is a private house-cum–gallery owned by a couple, Laurentius Lau and Evie Miranda. Photographers, Lau and Evie are avid art collectors, always happy to welcome visitors to their home to see their private collection and talk about art and architecture.

They got to know architect Adi Purnomo in 2002, thus ending their long search for the right person to design them a house and gallery. In 2004 they started to initially talk to him about the project: a place to live and work as well as to keep and exhibit their private art collection, before finally securing in 2006, a 375 square metre plot of land in Puri Indah, West Jakarta.

Over the past decade, the area of Puri Indah in West Jakarta, has enjoyed a property boom with massive housing and commercial development in the area. Plots have been filling up quickly with buildings and Purnomo predicted that the area surrounding the plot would soon be densely built up around three sides of the plot, which is 15 metres wide and 25 metres deep, with left, right, and back perimeter edged by walls, typically up to three storeys or 10 metres high. Taking time to develop his ideas from the building and the site, he became particularly preoccupied with ideas of the physical presence of light, approaching the brief by starting from how natural light could contribute primarily to the making of the architecture – and as a key element too in the idea of an art gallery.

Gathering all the technical information about the sun’s annual path at that particular latitude and longitude, he translated the figures – the bearing and the angle of the sun– into sectional graphs, simulating sun path and shadows across the site in order to determine sun shading and openings. While this is common practice in architecture, Purnomo went further, doing meticulous studies of how to sculpt the interior volume to appear the most dramatic, and dividing it up with two angles, generated by the angle of the sun at 11am and at 1pm, which together create a gap, a void which divides the volume into two. This creates a series of angled and sloped surfaces, across which there is an intense play of sunlight in the interior, producing complex light and shadow play. This is the major animating statement of the project, and even the name, Studi-0 Cahaya derives from the phrase meaning “study-of-light”.

It is a private house-cum–gallery.

The next challenge for Purnomo was to find a structural module to fit into this awkwardly sculpted interior, as well as resolving circulation. The west side, expected to be hotter, is reserved for services: laundry, storage and utilities, while the east side is the main circulation spine with the staircase. The ground is occupied by living room, kitchen and dining room, guest bedroom, and work space. An extensive pond has been added on the ground floor to help cool down the temperatures, although as predicted by Purnomo’s sectional diagrams, direct sunlight will only briefly touch the ground floor each day, for no more than an hour. Above, the first floor is for the bedrooms and a personal office, while the second floor, flooded with even light, serves as studios and galleries. The roof level is a garden intended to act as a buffer against the solar radiation. While the bedrooms, the office and the galleries are sealed and air conditioned, the rest – the common area, corridors, staircases, mezzanines – remain naturally ventilated.

Apart from its function as a house, Purnomo poured enormous attention into the element of the void itself, clearly intending the light play there to be almost like an art project. He admits that he took the opportunity offered by the clients to experiment with light and shadows, studying as well how the skylight would bring or filter light in the void, testing this through using cut-out paper patterns and studying how the light is filtered and lands on surfaces.

As an architect, Purnomo is well-known for putting an enormous amount of attention to detail in every commission he takes on, which is why he is extremely selective in choosing his projects. Working mostly alone, he spends extensive amounts of time studying sites, and their surroundings, including a thorough ananlysis not just of the clients’ briefs, but their lifestyles too. Above all, he has long been concerned with how the poorly-designed homes and buildings of Indonesian cities, are contributing to wasting energy and serious environmental problems in the country, and is constantly looking at ways to improve this. As such he has long been determined to create site-specific solutions helping small compact urban houses to remain cool without being dependent on mechanical air conditioning. More recently, with bigger commissions, he has employed huge amounts of potted plants, climbers and grass roofs, whilst parallelling his interest in energy saving approaches and environmental concerns, other projects have explored the possibilities of utilising locally-made non-industrial materials, such as fired bricks and reclaimed timber planks for building projects too.

Setiadi Sopandi and Robin Hartanto. Setiadi Sopandi is an architect, lecturer, and architectural historian. He works as a principal for Indra Tata Adilaras – an architecture studio based in Bogor - since 2002, and teaching architectural theory and history in Universitas Pelita Harapan since 2010. He co-curated the Indonesia Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014. 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.

A longer 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.

Adi Purnomo (*1968)  – or Mamo ­– established his own practice in Jakarta in 2000, and in general works alone without a permanent assistant, doing most of the drawings and site supervision himself. In 2002, Purnomo was given an award by the Indonesian Institute of Architects for a series of small- to medium-sized houses he designed, and in 2004 he was named  “Architect of the Year” by Tempo magazine. In 2009 he decided to set up an office – Mamostudio – in Bogor, working on larger scale projects.


Tropicality Revisited: Recent Approaches by Indonesian Architects
until January 3, 2016

DAM / Deutsches Architecturmuseum
Schaumainkai 43
60596 Frankfurt am Main



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