Learning the Opposite Side of Soejoedi to Hasan Poerbo

Bandung – Paris van Java, 151217. ” It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.” Soren Kierkegaard


“I think you have to go to outside the country again to learn the opposite.”
Agus said it quietly when we had discussion during lunch at Bandung. At that time, RAW had project in Bandung that was about ground breaking, a small house for Rusda. I had few hours before going back to Jakarta, I went to Bandung with Pak Djatmiko and Pak Misnu.

Agus and me had lunch together at one cafe near ITB. Few years back in 2002, Agus was a librarian in Architecture Department Institute Technology of Bandung, and I was still a student at that time. We were introduced by Gunawan Tanuwidjaja. Agus was from Cibangkong, he said the area was well known as one of the densest neighbourhood in the world. Together with Gunawan, we made one small group who had a dream to provide digital library at that time, we were naive, tried to document some of the knowledge with limited resources, and using our spare time.

Agus tried to make a point when I listened to what he said. He was just someone who love architecture so much, believe on such ideal thing that humanity should colour architecture. He was just not as confident as before, sometimes he said that he is not an architect, he should not critize architecture. However, people critise because they have point to say, one view point, starting with an argument, going to another argument, label comes second.

Agus started his argument by describing the time I had worked in Foster and Partners, few years back, then worked on doing architecture at RAW. He concluded that experience resembled Soejoedi in one side. Soejoedi was one of the prominent architect few decades back in Indonesia, he mastered the modernist language, based on rationalist approach, ratio supremacy. then he continued,

“You are complete just if you try to understand
the heart of the architect,
not the ratio…
You need to go learning again,
to learn the opposite side,
being complete like Mangunwijaya. “

then, Agus continued that the opposite side is resembled by Hasan Poerbo. A great father of public housing few decades back who had deep concern on technique to provide housing for people. He was the person who challenge the prototype of urban housing in Indonesia. Agus continued,

“forgive me
but I am not an architect,
I wanted to critize some of the prominent architects,
look at the joint,
look at the material met,
It is not special,
so why I bother to praise it.”

Agus was right, from my point of view, he was honest about how he feel about architecture that he had seen. Its his blink ability judged the quality of the process.

I remember one time we went to Sendang Sono, Wisma Kuwera, both of them was designed by Mangunwijaya, and church of Pohsarang that was designed by maclaine pont (together with family). I look at the joint, the construction was honest, humble, and creative to answer efficiency, function, less about the fashion. There will be function and there will be fashion, all of us are seeking for equilibrium.


After that we had discussion about rural studio, a studio that was found by Samuel Mockbee. I also remember about Studio Mumbai which consists on a group of Indian architects and craftsmen, all resident artisans of Studio Mumbai, headed by Bijoy Jain, one of India’s foremost architects. in my rational thought I thought that the approach of being architect will be same, whoever the client is, however the context will be different, the budget, the attitude, the material, the expectation would be different but the approach will be similar. In my heart thought, I think that the design process will be quite different, we need to approach the another side by much heart, to understand the deeper layer of who is in charge with the project. The craftsmen on field, the very specific expenditure which can drive specific experiments, deeper layer of innovations, the bolt and join, to answer Agus critics.

There were times that it looks like that there are opposite sides.
one time, …
I was in the train
going to somewhere place.
I started to look around,
why there was nobody around.
and asking
why is nobody here ?
I saw strangers in the strange train.
I don’t know anybody here

Suddenly I woke up
and many people were there,

Laurensia was there,
Miracle was there,
people in the studio were there,
people in the workshop were there,
people in the library were there,
many close friends were there.
many strangers were there

I saw Agus was there.
he asked
“Good morning, how are you ?.. “
every part has a partner,
we are not alone


Oleh Realrich Sjarief

Founder of RAW Architecture

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