Other Review

Other Review is a digest of findings that casts light on design process, contemporary ideas and creative inspiration. Through communication, we aim to examine the importance of design piece by piece.

By Each Other Company
April 1, 2019

We got the chance to talk to three architectural figures that represented Indonesia at the Biennale Architettura 2018, the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2018. Each architect has designed an exhibit in one of the most prestigious architectural events in the world. They are Andra Matin (AM), Ary Indra (AI) and Don Pieto (DP).

What was your motivation on participating in the Biennale?

AM: It was a dream to be invited to participate in the Biennale, and it was a big honour when we received the invitation.

AI: I was placed as the second at the curator selection of 2014 when Indonesia was invited to the Biennale for the first time. I guess I was one of those ignorant bunches who didn’t really care what Biennale is, until that year. I got a chance to visit the Biennale, to see how Indonesia Pavilion was being made in such a short period with so much logistic and financial problems, and that was the time when I questioned myself on whether I could do it better (or not) if I were given the opportunity. So, when there was an open call for 2018’s curator, I was up to it. And there I was.

DP: There were several motivations which prompted us to participate in such an event. It was actually our first overseas exhibition as well. We knew about La Biennale for quite sometimes, it is one of the most prestigious architecture exhibitions in the world, and we really admired the way it gathered architects all around the world, sharing their dreams in architecture. Also, allowing audiences to have a sight of their own vision, and listen to their thoughts. It is clearly a benchmark for experts and architecture lovers. We were actually hoping to have a chance to visit the Biennale ourselves before.

So, it is only fitting that we jumped in right away when we had the invitation to participate, especially with some of the biggest names in architecture world. We wanted to summarise our thoughts and vision during the first 5 years of our practice, and La Biennale—with all of its exposures and its audiences—was a perfect place for us to have our statement, which we thought would be relevant in architecture and society nowadays.

What was the inspiration behind your work for the Biennale?

AM: At first, I was unsure if I wanted to showcase my own work or to celebrate the rich vernacular architecture of Indonesia. But in the end, I decided to combine both—where the pavilion itself represented my studio along with our design beliefs, while the inside of the pavillion celebrated the various forms of Indonesian vernacular architecture.

AI: To put it simply, I wanted to eliminate logistic problems when designing a pavilion. It required so much effort to have it built. Glass, steel, timber—all those nice materials—were really out of my thinking as I wanted to do something light and easy. And paper fitted all the requirements. :D

DP: Family. Being involved in a lot of private residence projects where we delved into their way of life and habits, we noticed the differences and unique situations between families. We noticed how it plays a great role in determining not just the outcome of the project, but also the way they will live later on in the context of society.

Family is a starting point for individuals to shape their basic behaviour. It’s affecting our action in the community, and influence the way we form the society. So, we thought it is important to address family issues through an architectural solution in order to solve social problems.

The space where we inhabit influences how we act. Architects create and construct ‘micro’ world that people consciously and unconsciously accept; the space where they spend and experience their time. This particular experience will deeply influence one’s world-view. In this very essence of space, the architect will take part in shaping culture and society through housing typologies.

Families are dynamic, our times are dynamic; technologies, the way we communicate, the way we interact, are all moving rapidly. The house is not. That’s why people moved, that’s why people renovate—to keep up. The house is (generally) static. This is the point where we want to start all over again.

Was there anything unexpected or challenging during the process of creating your contribution in the Biennale?

AM: It was completely unexpected that we were given the Special Mention award, and so we were very honoured for that. As for the challenges, there were many. The first challenge for me was to tackle the brief and the given nature of the site: a space of 5 x 5 m and 5 m height—and I wanted my pavillion to be a journey. To create an unforgettable journey in such a small plot was quite challenging, which is why we decided to go vertical. Material selection was also a challenge as well as a gamble. We wanted to use the real traditional natural rattan weaving but due to the fragile nature of the material and the size of each component, it was really a gamble to ship it to Venice.

AI: Not really. Everything went smoothly. I did expect some frictions between me and the other team members as I am not (to be very frank) a good team player. Fortunately, we got along well. It didn’t require a super harmonious team to do this militant process, it just needed all of us to get along well for a certain period of time.

DP: While we had almost zero problems regarding to the content of our exhibition, we think the biggest challenges during the whole process were the financial and shipment issues. We had not had any experience with overseas exhibitions before this one, so this had been one of those learning-by-doing kind of thing.

What did you learn from the Biennale?

AI: Just like any other architectural or art events, taste really matters. And taste is driven by your culture index and your context. So, just do what you think the best you can provide without worrying so much on how other people will perceive and interpret your work. You just have to be yourself, all the time.

DP: We learnt quite a lot, especially in the way they set up the atmosphere and clearly made the exhibition their own, which was really attached to the city. We found it very attractive that the sense of place could transform the whole city into the exhibition itself. We also learnt to be effective and efficient without sacrificing the creative aspect on doing an exhibition, to have a perfect balance between idea and realisation.

What would you do differently?

AM: None, honestly. We have no regrets as every step was a challenge and a valuable lesson for us.

AI: Nothing.

DP: To get ahead of the schedule, absolutely. It had taken a toll on our performance. We were on a tight project schedule while preparing this, so if we could do things differently, it would be to get way ahead of the schedule. To be simple and efficient, and perhaps form a special team to help preparing this.

How did Indonesia's participation in the Biennale impact the landscape of local architecture?

AM: We feel very proud to exposed the vernacular architecture of Indonesia to the world and placed it in the international scale.

AI: I believe if what we did for Biennale could be developed further and deeper, it will certainly help Indonesian architects by nurturing a situation whereby process (and not result) serves as architecture’s paramount of important. Because by focusing on process, we will develop hundreds of possibilities to achieve, and hundreds of unpredictable results. However, if you focus on result, you tend to skip those interesting parts in the process that sometimes were the essence of the journey. Do not forget the fact that architecture is a journey. In short, the tradition of Biennale’s way of thinking will enrich the way we, architects, conduct our work in the pursuit of what Indonesian architecture is. Not the material, shape, colour, or another formality of it, but the spirit and the right path to achieve it.

DP: We think there were a lot of positives. It always brings confidence every time Indonesian architect, such as Andra Matin and Ary Indra, participates in an international event, not just La Biennale. Especially to the younger generation as they realised that Indonesian architects are able to perform at an international level. It certainly boosts their passion, and collectively it brought together a lot of architecture communities; initiated a lot of events, talks, and small to large exhibitions, which helps to develop the quality of Indonesian architecture.

Looking at younger Indonesian architects, what do you think they should bring to the table at this particular time?

AM: It is crucial to reflect on local context, materials, and deep history—it sets us apart from the rest of the world and strengthen our identity as a country.

AI: Individuality. Indonesian way of perceiving individuality, to be exact.

DP: Being in the early 30’s ourselves, while also still learning, we think that young Indonesian architects shouldn’t try too hard to be similar nor to be different than the other architects. In fact, we think that one should avoid such thinking. It shouldn’t be about being similar or being different in the first place, but to be in-context and relevant as the primary concern of each work and approach.

How do you see the role of government within the design landscape in Indonesia, and how could they participate better?

AM: The government must start by setting an example, to take the risk and allow opportunities to create designs with strong character and identity. Like in Brazil, or Chandigarh, there lies a birth of some really powerful architecture that was commissioned by the government. In Indonesia, during the Soekarno era, we had Silaban whom was a crucial figure, and when the new order came in place, it was all gone. We lost our identity. But I feel like we are starting to pick it up again here through competitions that bring new hope and fresh ideas to improve Indonesian architecture.

AI: Nurture an environment whereby future architects or designers will have a chance to live in an open society, not ones that regulated by politics or ideological interests.

DP: There have been a lot of good signs lately. They put a lot of effort to turn the creative industries—in general—into engines of economic growth. And we think it’s just going to be better in the future. Unlike other segments of the economy, the creative industries also contribute to cultural identity and social cohesion. This would play a big role within the design landscape in Indonesia, as it helps promotes the richness in culture of Indonesia’s design.

We think they could participate better by forming partnerships with businesses and investors as well as schools and universities, especially with a lot of local communities. That way, they can reach a lot of different layers in society.

What if Indonesia was given the chance to host its own Biennale. How would you picture it to be?

AI: It will be chaos. As usual… :D

DP: We haven’t had a clear idea of how it would be right now, but the first thing that came up to our mind is related to streets and some historical places of certain cities in Indonesia. Let’s take Jakarta for example. We think of the Biennale as a series of events and exhibitions which take place all across important streets and places in Jakarta, which prompt people to travel all around Jakarta with certain modes of public transportation. At the end of those journey, people will already visited most of the important and historical parts of Jakarta, where culinary related areas would also be an option. That way, visitors would ‘experienced’ the way people live in Jakarta.

Biennale Architettura 2018
16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia
26 May–25 November 2018
Venice, Giardini and Arsenale (map)


Other Review past interviews:
The Insiders: Immanuel-Johannes Palar (Feb 20, 2019) by Januar Rianto
The Outlines: "On Paper" Exhibitors on Working With Paper (Nov 30, 2018) by Each Other Company
Dua Studio on Sunyata at the Biennale Architertura 2018 (Nov 2, 2018) by Each Other Company
The Insiders: Putty Dewikarina (Aug 13, 2018) by Januar Rianto
Felicia Budi on Less Waste (May 26, 2018) by Immanuel-Johannes Palar

Other Review is published in Jakarta by Each Other Company.
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