Interview by Dian Arthen Photos by Bagus Tri Laksono
Originally published in the 14th anniversary edition of Indonesia Design, Dec 2017.
Renowned architect Jasin Tedjasukmana is the mastermind behind some of the most famous hotels in popular destinations in Indonesia, namely The Hermitage Hotel and Dharmawangsa Hotel in Jakarta, and the upcoming The Residences at Mandarin Oriental in Bali. Graduated from Parahyangan University in Bandung in 1977, the Cirebon-native founded his own architectural firm KIAT Architects in 1987 specialising in residential architecture and hotels and the man hasn’t stopped working ever since. Indonesia Design recently spent an afternoon with Jasin where he talked about his passion for architecture, style and inspiration.
Can you tell us the origin of your interest in architecture? When did you realise that this is what you were meant to do?
I’ve always loved seeing buildings and old constructions since I was in elementary school. At school, I always received good grades in every lesson that required drawing.
Also, back in my hometown in Cirebon there was one architect who my father hired to design our house and this person taught me about architecture. My interest [in architecture] didn’t come straight away, it grew slowly from when I was a kid up to studying architecture during my teenage years.
What’s the philosophy behind KIAT Architects? Why did you pick the name KIAT?
The philosophy of KIAT can be seen from the meaning of the name kiat, a Javanese word that can be loosely interpreted as “knowing the best thing to do.”
What makes your firm different from other architectural firms?
The difference is in our approach towards clients. Basically, what we do is we try to find as much as we could about the client’s desires and dreams that we will then put into our design planning. For private residences, the goal is for the owner to have that “home sweet home” feeling and the design has to follow the standard principles of architecture. For public places, we are assessing from the building’s purpose, its economic value and standard principles of architecture.
Most of your designs lean toward classic style with an Indonesian touch, why did you choose classic?
Neoclassical is actually a part of basic architectural studies where we learn about proportion, harmony, unity, sequence, balance, vocal point and others. Once we’ve mastered all of these, we can design everything from deconstructionism to minimalism, modern even brutalist.
As for the Indonesian touch, what I incorporate is the spirit of the building itself. Like Javanese house, it’s important to learn about the traditional arrangement of the house.
How would you describe your signature style?
Solid vertical elements that are implemented repeatedly is my signature style so that whatever the typology is there’s always a strong neoclassical element to it.
Can you tell us about the Citra Niaga project in Samarinda that won the Aga Khan Award in 1989?
The Aga Khan Award gave recognition to those who came up with innovative and original ideas. I was a team member of the Citra Niaga project and I’m very proud of it because it was a pilot project in Indonesia where we were able to create a commercial area that brings together all levels of society from retail shops to street vendors. The empty space in the middle has also become a tourist attraction where there are art and culture performances held every weekend.
You have done numerous projects in several cities in Indonesia, which Indonesian city is your most favourite? And why?
Jakarta and Bali, I have had so many private house projects that gave me the opportunity to explore different styles of architecture. In Bali, I’ve done so many researches about the culture, local building materials that we can use for Balinese architecture, both classic and modern.
What is the story behind The Dharmawangsa Jakarta?
The Dharmawangsa Jakarta is located in Kebayoran Baru, one of the prominent residential areas in Jakarta after Menteng. The team and I wanted the hotel to look like a huge house that happens to have 100 rooms, since the project was conducted in the early days of Indonesian Independence, we also wanted to incorporate classical and colonial elements to it. The vertical elements are strong in this building and we also adopt the traditional arrangement of Javanese house.
What about the inspiration behind The Hermitage, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Jakarta?
We had a different approach for The Hermitage, we wanted to preserve the Dutch East Indies building that was built in the 1920s. Neoclassical and art deco were on trend during that time, the building was first used as a telephone company and then occupied by the Ministry of Education and Culture then followed by Sukarno Education Foundation before we turned it into The Hermitage.
We built a new building that houses 100 hotel rooms using the same style of the old building, we put the modern facilities and entertainment upstairs and use traditional furniture.
Can you tell us about any project you are currently working on?
The Residences at Mandarin Oriental in Bukit Pandawa, Bali. The project is owned by Bali Ragawisata that handles different hotel brands in that area and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is one of them.
Mandarin is known for their residences and they champion for Asian hospitality. The group doesn’t want the residence to be too ethnic yet when people go there they still can feel the Balinese atmosphere inside the place. So, for this project I’m implementing the spirit and arrangement of traditional Balinese house that has a horizontal element to it.
What do you think about the development of architecture in Indonesia?
Indonesian architecture is still finding its form and it’s becoming more difficult nowadays due to the fact that architects are growing in the globalisation era. I’m sure Indonesian architects will eventually find their own Indonesian style by taking inspiration from other local architects and from analyzing the geographical condition of the country as a tropical area.