Realrich Sjarief on Interview with Berlogos Russia

“BERLOGOS” is a russia-based information resource that initiated by leading architects and designers of Yekaterinburg, regularly and systematically updated and having its own concept and rubricator.

Realrich Sjarief speaks on his carrier and recent work, Alfa Omega.


The Indonesian architect, the founder of RAW Architecture, the organizer of the scholarship program and the free school of architecture OMAH, the author of the books told BERLOGOS about architecture as a cultural form, locality, general architectural education and specificity of Indonesian architecture.

– Realrich, you founded RAW Architecture in 2011, continuing the dynasty of builders in your family. Did this affect your practice?

– True, my father and my grandfather are respected construction engineers, well known for their skill. I went the other way, deciding to become an architect and creating my own architectural firm in 2011. The task of the RAW office, like many other firms, is to offer a professional product in a residential environment and improve the quality of life. But we focus on exploring the possibilities of each material and realize the importance of skill.

I take projects with which I can experiment, establish a connection using local solutions, it is always a point of growth.

– You organize a scholarship program, which annually attracts people from all over Southeast Asia, who want to study architecture from the very foundations. And you introduced a free OMAH school for young people. Personally for you, why is the architectural education of the population necessary no less than any other? What is most concerned about people, what are they more interested in?

– This is the fundamental basis in the career of the architect. I offer not only theory, but also real practice – the whole spectrum of the profession that we all love. Participants in the fellowship and fellowship program are interested in how to adapt in the rapidly changing architectural practice.

If you have seen the work of Paul Klee Versunkenheit (nach der Zeichuung), depicting a man without an ear, but with eyes, a huge nose and a mouth; then I would add a huge ear and one more detail – to be an architect, a person must have a huge heart.

I think after you get the basics and pass the internship, all you need is to believe in intuition and yourself. Your heart will follow the design.

– Does it happen that your students ask questions and try to answer them in their projects?

– Whole projects have always appeared on their own, as unique people. I ask students to rely on children’s experience or the most vivid memories (spatial or not) that they had. Then I ask you to translate it into the language of design. Form planning begins and the initial sketch begins. I put before them the main problem in the form of a site plan, and they often come up with very interesting solutions to how to design this site in accordance with their own understanding of architecture. Sometimes they are curious to develop a new language, and, I think, it’s worth knowing yourself to find your passion for design.

– What does stability mean to you? How do you interpret this term?

– First, when the design copes with a local problem and displays it in a workable urban environment. It is a viable design that can react to surrounding challenges. Secondly, sustainable design is not just an existing form of modern materials. It can adapt the strengths of the terrain, surroundings and local craftsmanship. Stable design is also able to solve any problems, whether economic or social.

For example, my project Alpha Omega from the beginning to the end exists due to the social involvement of the local community. The building determined the material that corresponds to the site and conditions. Since the site is a swamp, we raised the floor 210 cm above the ground. The object is designed with several holes, allowing the natural airflow to freely enter the room. Material for construction was found within a radius of 5 km.

– One of your projects is a bioclimatic house. What is their future? Will they be the privilege of some “elite”, or will it become the norm for all people in the world?

– This was my first project and experiment, a local solution to the housing problem. Bioclimatics means that design can support itself, like the body. For example, making holes, we can control the flow of air, which allows us to always maintain the optimum temperature inside the building. I think that to some extent such a design can be the next paradigm for the formation of a residential environment in the future. This is practically feasible and has already been used in many cases as a basis.

– You wrote Alpha: Never-Ending Discussion in Strange Architecture, which mentioned several levels of architecture and evaluation that shape our culture. Could you tell us about them in brief?

And, do you think, has the place of architecture in culture changed over time?

– I had an idea to gather thoughts to improve literacy in architecture, try to talk with young people in the OMAH library, based on the provisions of many books and lectures. One of them – “Understanding Architecture” Conway and Roenich – explains the importance of understanding the architecture, rather than its assessment. In one layer, architecture serves as an art, in the other Architecture as a form of cultural expression has not undergone major changes. Today’s architecture, especially the housing problem associated with the use and restriction of land, has raised interest in efficiency. It’s about what you can do with small spaces. The challenge is to shift project constraints through design.

– What is the role of architecture in Indonesian culture? How would you describe Indonesian architecture?

“My last project of the Alfa Omega school is probably an example of my interpretation of Indonesian architecture. Since the school is in a remote location, the construction depended on what was available on the site. It turned out that with the help of material and human resources, with bamboo, brick and steel for 4 months, you can build an object that can accommodate 1200 students.

In short, Indonesian architecture, in my opinion, is a design that depends on locality, attitudes to the specifics of the context and the specific situation of the site.

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Oleh Realrich Sjarief

Founder of RAW Architecture