Twenty seventeen was a watershed year for Daliana Suryawinata and Florian Heinzelmann. In May, they won the Jury and Popular Choice categories at the Architizer A+ Awards. By August, they were picked Small Firm of the Year in Sustainable Architecture from the American Architecture Prize. By November, they were in Berlin, Germany, to receive the Smart Cities Prize at the World Architecture Festival (WAF), where they were also nominated for Future Projects – Masterplanning. And finally, in the same month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, they were announced the Silver award recipient at the Lafarge Holcim Awards for Asia Pacific. Heinzelmann has also been invited as a juror for the upcoming FuturArc Prize and FuturArc Green Leadership Award 2018.
The duo co-founded SHAU in 2009 with partner Tobias Hoffman, when they were appointed as sub-curators for the Indonesian section of the 4th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR). After several years in the Netherlands, Suryawinata has worked with MVRDV, OMA, and West 8, and is currently pursuing a PhD at The Why Factory with Winy Maas, while Heinzelmann worked at UNStudios, with the 2012 Solar Decathlon team at TU Delft, and is currently pursuing his PhD at TU Eindhoven with Patrick Teuffel. They are now based in Bandung, Indonesia, with offices in Rotterdam and Munich. FuturArc writer Heather Marshall Banerd caught up with the duo when they were in Singapore recently.
HB: What led you to set up a SHAU office in Indonesia?
DS: We actually got our first projects in Indonesia through exhibitions. After the IABR in 2009, we continued
exhibiting other urban architecture ideas, which got the attention of the Indonesian Diaspora Network. They put
us in touch with several ministers, which led to meeting Joko Widodo, then governor of Jakarta. Indonesia is in
need of development, and several key people are interested in new ideas, so we met them, which led to some
key projects, and that was the beginning.
FH: We were first commissioned to work on a social housing project in Muara Angke, a fishing village in the
north of Jakarta, which led us to set up a branch office in 2012 in Jakarta. After working on that for two and
a half years, Indonesia has become an important market for us, so we decided to base ourselves there from
DS: So that we could be there to nurture the projects, and make sure they are being built according to how we
FH: The Indonesian context is much less formal than Singapore or Europe. It’s much more about negotiation.
Trust is not based on a contract; it’s based on meeting each other, talking with each other, and if the chemistry
is right, you do a project together.
HB: So would you say there is a lot of interest in the Indonesian government in developing sustainably or in recruiting good architects?
DS: Not in either, yet, unfortunately, but I hope it’s coming soon. But the Asia-Pacific region has a lot of
development going on without architects, so architects see it as a chance to also help shape development. Then
when we get to one or two key people who understand our ideas, we can go along with the team to introduce a
new idea or design direction.
FH: Let’s put it this way. For us, there are two things you can talk about with sustainable architecture. One is
regulation based, which is very much happening in Europe and Singapore, and this is technologically driven. In
Indonesia, which is not very regulated at all, it’s much more low-tech or passive. So where you, as an architect,
can have an impact is in terms of designing—better design intelligence, building layout, orientation to get cross
ventilation, green roofs, planted courtyards—basically improving microclimate and liveability without having
any technology-driven approaches. If we’re working on a low- to mid-end apartment project, for example,
as architects we cannot tell the owners they are not allowed to have air-conditioning, but we can design an
intelligent building layout and shading, so that we provide a liveable environment without it.
DS: Referring back to your question on whether there is a centralised desire to go sustainable, the answer is
not yet. The role of the architect is to fulfil market demands, but we are trying to break a bit of that role and
offer something else.
FH: This actually brings us to the core statement of our company—we want to fulfil environmental and social
requirements, even if neither is necessarily requested by the client. For instance, we’re currently working with
a developer on a high-rise residence in Bandung. We have a very specific typology, the H floor plan. Each tower
has a central lift core that opens onto bridges with a great view, leading to a double-loaded corridor on either
side. By using the bridge to break the double-loaded corridor, we hope that people will start engaging with
each other and the corridor becomes a friendlier, more inhabitable space. Then, we have sky gardens or public
balconies on every fifth floor, along with other non-rentable functions, like a day-care centre and so forth. So
that is how we try to bring these societal needs into a building, where it was not in the original brief of the
developer. Of course, we need to sell it to the developer—so we explain that maybe they don’t make money
directly as it’s not a rentable surface, but it makes for a more attractive building, which sells better.
HB: So essentially, you need to frame it differently for difference audiences.
DS: That’s right, and to keep our idealism. We don’t force our idealism onto developers whose target is to make
money, we present it to them as a sales benefit—something unique.
HB: Your projects all have that underlying social dimension, but vary in scale from microlibraries to condos and master plans. How do you translate that social generosity from a smaller project that is really focused on serving a community to a larger, more complex scope?
DS: We try not to fall into a certain typology, and therefore always try to do different types and scales. In terms
of the Green agenda and the social agenda, there’s no difficulty as it is just applied differently in every project.
I would also argue that since we are always thinking about an urban agenda for every project, we are always
doing urban projects, no matter the scale. So the micro library is an example of how a building could serve the
needs of reading, but at the same time be energy efficient while testing new materials. And this is linked to the
greater urban agenda, the idea that cities should have more buildings like that.
HB: Jumping scales a little, let’s talk about your Jakarta master plan, the Green Manhattan (see project profile in this issue), for which you’ve won an award in the Smart Cities category of the World Architecture Festival awards.
FH: Jakarta is essentially sinking, and it floods every rainy season. So, to pump out the water and at the same
time protect the city from flooding, they are proposing to build a giant sea wall. There is a Dutch initiative
bidding to build this sea wall, and to finance it, they are proposing this island with new real estate—that’s where
we came in. Our client is Jesse Kuijper of the Borneo Initiative; he’s always very interested in sustainability and
so he brought us on board with the Jakarta Jaya Foundation.
DS: This project is still in the acquisition phase. It is a reclamation proposal that accompanies a giant sea wall.
Since it is such a large-scale master plan of 58 square kilometres, we want this plan to be an example of a
Green integrated city, which is designed for diversity from the very beginning, as it is solving multiple problems
at the same time. Jakarta is facing flooding from rain, and will soon also flood due to sea level rise as well as
the very high gap between the rich and the poor; these go hand-in-hand with traffic, land subsidence, pollution,
no proper sewage, etc.
HB: So essentially, any of the common problems in Asian cities today can be found in Jakarta?
DS: Indeed, it’s a complete set of problems. So the ambition of this plan is to be more than sea flooding
infrastructure—we would like to bring in solutions to improve this situation in a master plan.
FH: It’s not an end product; it’s the starting point—like an urban design brief. It’s about the realisation of a
vision—what do we want to achieve, and how could we potentially achieve it?