Daliana Suryawinata and Florian Heinzelmann
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 March 2015.
DS: So that we could be there to nurture the projects, and make sure they are being built according to how we want it.
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
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
DS: Referring back to your question on whether there is a
FH: This actually brings us to the core statement of our company—we want to
HB: So essentially, you need to frame it differently for
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
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
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
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
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
vision—what do we want to achieve, and how could we potentially achieve it?