Founders of SHAU, the practice behind the INDE.Awards 2018 The Influencer winner Microlibraries, talk about the immense potential of the region’s experimental architecture community.
28 December, 2018
“Brings imagination and innovation to a crucial educational challenge,” said the INDE.Awards 2018 jury of Microlibraries, the winner of The Influencer category. Microlibraries are a series of public library projects initiated by architecture and urbanism practice SHAU in 2015 in Bandung, Indonesia.
SHAU sees Microlibraries as a design laboratory to test ideas about community, materiality, construction, sustainability, typology and small-scale building. The practice’s scope in each Microlibrary project goes beyond that of typical design consultants, including not only conceptualisation and realisation but also securing project funding, sites and various city administration requirements.
Each Microlibrary is tailored to fit the programmatic demands of its community and the potential of the site. The first Microlibrary, completed in 2015, is located at Taman Bima, a small park in Bandung’s Cicendo district flanked by a middle-class housing complex on one side and a less-affluent kampung community on the other.
The building was built on an existing square that had been used by the locals for events and gatherings and uses used ice cream buckets for its facade. “Our intention was to add rather than take away, so we decided to enhance the open stage by shading it, making it rain protected and cover it with the floating library box,” say SHAU founders Daliana Suryawinata and Florian Heinzelmann.
Berlage Institute graduates Suryawinata (a Jakarta native) and Heinzelmann (a Munich native) founded SHAU in 2009 with German architect Tobias Hofmann as two independent offices located in Rotterdam and Munich. Today, the practice operates from three locations: Bandung, Rotterdam (both offices helmed by life partners Suryawinata and Heinzelmann) and Passau (helmed by Hofmann).
“Indonesia, Netherlands and Germany have their own unique strengths and challenges that we must deal with. Flexibility and local knowledge are therefore essential,” say Suryawinata and Heinzelmann on the impact of operating in several locations. The pair has resided mainly in Bandung since 2015. Of the opportunities in Bandung, they say, “Demand for construction is high, and positively there have been more leaders and stakeholders in government and companies who are open to contemporary architecture design in Indonesia.”
SHAU’s strength came from its founders’ collective experience – which includes working with some of the most progressive practices like UNStudio, MVRDV, OMA, as well as the biggest names in Indonesia like Andra Matin and Han Awal – and its ability to bridge practitioners, academics, policymakers and private sectors.
For the younger generation of architects and designers (yours truly included), SHAU was a breath of fresh air that shows the possibility of dynamic architecture practice in a time where there is the (mis)understanding that post-design school career paths were limited to a) working for the government or b) working for the private sectors, c) be an academic, or d) change industry, and these options don’t really overlap.
SHAU is a frequent collaborator of the Bandung city government, which in recent years had forged a stronger working relationship with its architecture and design community, thanks to the city’s former Mayor (now the Governor of West Java) Ridwan Kamil, who was a practising architect before he started a career in politics. Bandung’s designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Design, which was awarded in December 2015 at the same time with Singapore, was both a validation and a boost to leverage more on architecture and design to improve the city.
SHAU has been involved in many of the public space projects in Bandung, among them are the Film Park, an outdoor screening park built using an existing topography under the city’s Pasupati flyover, and the Cicendo Park, a 5,400-sqm park located near a historic area populated by small blacksmith workshops that encourages interaction between different city zones.
“Europe or a lot of parts of the Western World are developed and in the true sense of the meaning: It is more or less done. While in Indonesia, a lot of infrastructure and facilities need to be built. There is a big chance to do new things, across many different scales… [A] medium size practice like ours are able to do large scale and high-rise commissions, where in Europe it is almost impossible to do so,” shares Suryawinata and Heinzelmann of the opportunities in the country. They elaborated that Indonesia is a hotbed for design innovations and new design briefs and that the new solutions produced for the built environment in the country are applicable throughout the broader Indo-Pacific region.
The year 2018 has been a busy one for SHAU. In addition to winning The Influencer from INDE.Awards, the Microlibraries have expanded to three more locations. The Hanging Gardens Microlibrary in Babakansari district in Bandung and the Selasar Microlibrary in Bojonegoro are just completed while funding has been secured for another Microlibrary in Semarang. Other projects in the works include the Al Manan Mosque in West Bogor and several projects in Germany. SHAU has also been receiving lecturing invitations from Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
“The Influencer category was a revolutionary one and the recognition from INDE.Awards means a lot to our initiative. It has promoted it further and to new audiences,” say Suryawinata and Heinzelmann, adding that they wish to see “More creative categories which cover different typologies and multidisciplinary projects” and more research-by-design projects in architecture award programs.
For 2019, SHAU wishes for “More risk-taking, more cutting-edge designs, more collaborative projects for us and many architects in the Indo-Pacific region.”
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