Jumat, 06 April 2012

Akanoma, an architecture firm anomaly

This article was published on Akarumput.com Part. 1 and Part. 2

“Love Indonesian Products, If Possible 100%”

 This message is written in chalk on a wall on the outside of the kitchen. The folding windows make the kitchen feel like a traditional warung (an Indonesian food stall). The glasses, pots, cutting board, kettle, and an irus, a traditional tool for mixing food from coconut husk, are arranged hanging above.
The warung vibe is even more complete with a long bamboo bench positioned outside the kitchen. Inside, discarded drink crates of yellow and red are arranged as storage space for kitchen spices and food.

The kitchen is located next to the main entrance to Akanoma Studio. Yu Sing Lim (35 years old) along with Benyamin Narkan, Anjar Primasetra, Peter Antonius, Iwan Gunawan, Wilfrid, and Yopie Herdiansyah use a joglo building (a traditional wooden Javanese building) as their main studio space. The joglo has been raised on stilts, similar to traditional house designs in Kalimantan.

 The walls of this traditional Javanese building have been modified. As opposed to the wooden walls normally used, they have installed window frames spliced together with colorful chipboard and glass nako. This material is used surrounding the entire joglo.

Inside, the space is open with no separators. Tables are arranged next to each other with computers on top of them. The architects work from this studio in a homey atmosphere. The four pillars inside the joglo multi-function as shelving for books. Old plastic containers, which were used for storing vegetables at the market, have been reclaimed and are used as shelving to store documents.

Bamboo is very visible within the studio design. The plans seem to optimize the flexibility and strength of bamboo. Besides used as floor mats, larger bamboo poles make up the columns of the building.

The use of bamboo is also visible along the walls of rooms towards the back of the studio. There is room to meet with clients, a sleeping area for staff, and guest rooms which are closed with bamboo poles of different sizes positioned both vertically and horizontally, some as small as your finger and others the width of an outstretched adult hand.

This two-story building constructed at 700 meters above sea level can be seen towering within the village. The studio itself is built over 650 square meters of land. Far from the city, it is located on Jalan Tipar Timur, Laksana Mekar Village, Padalarang, in West Bandung. The location is closer to the Purbaleunyi toll (Purwakarta-Bandung-Cileunyi) than it is to Bandung city. “This location was chosen because our financing is limited,” explains Yu Sing.

Previously, Yu Sing contracted a house as his studio space. However, the cost of the contract was not cheap. At the same time, Iwan, Akanoma’s drafter, was searching for land and was offered a plot west of Bandung city. “He was looking for land and came across a large plot. So we decided to share it between the three of us and the studio was built using the least expense possible,” says Yu Sing.

The main studio component is the joglo, which on its peak is adorned with two chicken statues from Solo. “We moved the joglo here after purchasing it months ago. We didn’t have enough money to build an office. When we bought the joglo, we didn’t yet have plans to build an office,” explained the author of the book Mimpi Rumah Murah (Dreaming of Inexpensive Housing).

Akanoma studio in a way no represents Yu Sing as an architect. He believes architecture must have roots. For Yu Sing, using a joglo, modified with bamboo, as the main building component represents the current role of architecture in Indonesia.

“I have a dream to create a sustainable city village, to slow the trend of villages being displaced and becoming victims of development. People should have a permanent village where they can live prosperously and comfortably. Our studio is in the village, so we provide a library and social space for the surrounding residents to use,” says Yu Sing, referring to the porch area and public library located underneath his studio.

Unfortunately, Yu Sing explains, the local community has not yet used this social space for their meetings. “If they need it, they are welcome to use the space. What is being used now is the public library, almost every afternoon kids come to read books here. The books in are library are mostly donated,” he said.

Yu Sing has also taken efforts to make sure the building is environmentally friendly. This long-haired architect intentionally extended the roof of the joglo, and attached a number of metal pipes at an angle in a V shape to create a buffer. These metal pipes are connected to the gutters around the roof. They function as a buffer, as well as a rainwater harvesting system by directing rain into a water absorption tank.

Besides being environmentally friendly, Akanoma also makes an effort to produce their own food by planting vegetables around the studio land. “We have planted basil, long beans, eggplant, leunca, chili, cucumber, cassava, cosmos flowers, and more. We also have a pond used to soak bamboo during the preservation stage, which has an additional function as a fishpond. We have already harvested Nila fish for food. Since our studio is quite far away from everything, we usually cook our meals here” he said.
Reclaimed used materials can be seen in the bathroom. A combination of used glass bottles and exposed brick wall. Besides functioning as hanging pens, the bottles also reflect natural light into the bathroom.

Yu Sing also uses bamboo for stairs. “It’s cheap and it’s a great alternative,” he said. The right stairway towards the front of the building is enclosed with discarded car windows. The curved windows are clamped in place then tied to bamboo poles using wire. “We needed that area to use transparent materials. It turns out in this village there is a collector of used car windows, so we experimented with them. The cost was quite inexpensive,” says this architect who graduated from Institut Teknologi Bandung.

The down-to-earth Akanoma studio is ever connected with the ideals of the architect Yu Sing. He believes everyone should have the right to grow and develop in a house that inspires and is enjoyable. Unfortunately, the majority of the Indonesian public still considers architecture services to be only for those who are wealthy. He believes that the lower and middle class citizens should still be able to work with architects when building their homes. “The role of an architect in shaping a house can influence the different sensations of each room,” says Yu Sung, a fan of the late Yusuf Bilyarta Mangunwijaya, an architect and humanist who is fondly known by the name Romo Mangun.
Yu Sing’s first ambitions to design a house started when he was asked to design a house for a colleague’s uncle. With a budget of less than 60 million rupiah (approximately US$ 6.500), Yu Sing took advantage of reclaimed materials from the old house that was being torn down.

That house, located in Caringin, Bandung, was designed to continually be developed upon so it can be constructed in stages, depending on the finances the owner has available. It is a two-story house, which is useful to conserve land and make sure there is enough green foliage and water absorption around the building. The walls were built with a concrete frame to make it earthquake resistant. Fiber cement was used for the roof, to conserve finances. The roof was also designed to harvest rainwater, which is then directed through a simple filter system so that it can be reused.

Another aspect that makes the house unique is that the left over roof shingles from the old house were used to cover the brick walls of the new house. The random color scheme on the shingles creates interesting visual shapes. “I wanted to help with this design, because even I have difficulty building a house because of limited budget. Since then, I continued helping build inexpensive houses and began writing about them,” he said.

At the end of his book, Yu Sing says that one of his dreams is to design 100 inexpensive houses. “Many people in the lower and middle class really need the support of architects, but do not have the means to access these services. I have made a commitment to help with this,” said Yu Sing.
The published writings on inexpensive housing received an amazing response. “In the first year alone, over 80 families contacted me,” he said.

His potential clients came from all over Indonesia, including as far as Papua and Kalimantan. They would contact Yu Sing via phone and email. “Of the 80 families, I was involved in constructing about 20 of their houses, but not all of them were completed. Sometimes it was because they had used the money allocated for other expenses, so building a house was delayed,” he explained.
To assist in designing these inexpensive houses, Yu Sing charges a service fee of three percent of the total project budget. This price range is applied to all clients building houses with a budget of 250 million rupiah and below. If their budget is higher, they are charged a fee of 5-7 percent, which is the national standard according to the Indonesian Architecture Association.

“Even those who have the money don’t always use an architect, let alone the lower class who are building inexpensive houses.”

The architects at Akanoma studio have another concept to help design an inexpensive house in Dago Giri, Bandung. The new inexpensive house belongs to Uway, a motorbike transport driver. The construction of the new house is projected to only require 27 million rupiah (approximately US$ 3,000). For the design of Uway’s house, Akanoma studio is not charging a service fee. “It is our commitment that for clients with a budget of less than 40 million rupiah, we will create the design for free,” he said.

However, Uway does not have enough money to build this house, and his current house is not suitable to live in anymore. Together with his friends, Yu Sing is gathering donations to help Uway build a small house; the fist floor is only 4 x 6 meters in size.

“We are compiling donations by shopping the design around social networks. So far we have already started receiving some donations. From the total goal of Rp27 million, Uway himself has around Rp10 million, so we only need to collect the remaining cost, which is Rp17 million,” said Yu Sing.
Once all the donations are compiled and the house is built, Uway will return the money through installments. The goal is that once the debt is repaid, it will be used to fund the next inexpensive house project for people in similar financial situations.

Yu Sing feels a sense of satisfaction through assisting people in building houses to match their individual characters. The design of one person’s house is not necessarily right for another person. “A house design should be strong, and suit the context. This needs to be explored so the house is inspiring and enjoyable. An extreme example is that a living space which is too crowded will have an impact on the mentality and thoughts of those living there,” he said.

To spread similar ideas, Yu Sing has formed a network of architects from outside of Bandung. This network can help to fulfill requests for inexpensive houses from people located outside of Bandung. “We now have friends in Jakarta, Depok, Balikpapan, and Semarang who we can collaborate with. Ideally we could have networks in every area, so that the architects can meet with clients, see the location and help oversee the building process,” said Yu Sing.

The network of architects is managed through Internet communication. So that when an architect is available to help design and build an inexpensive house, their work can be easily monitored. “If there is a senior architect who wants to help and for example can take on three houses per year, they can simply let us know through their online status,” he explained.

Yu Sing is optimistic that this concept will work because he believes within each person there is a passion to share. It is this passion that has become his approach in his profession. Staying grounded and having a different approach or being somewhat of an anomaly is an approach which is spreading benefits to other people.

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