Weaving, one of the oldest surviving crafts in the world, is ubiquitous throughout Asia in the form of traditional everyday items such as baskets, as well as vernacular architecture. Today, contemporary designers are breathing new life into this technique beyond its conventional forms and functionality. BYO Living is at the helm of this weaving renaissance.
PHOTOS BY BYO Living
Internationally recognised Indonesian firm Byo Living has innovated hand-woven applications for numerous local and international projects and has collaborated with big names like Kengo Kuma and Hermes. The company puts sustainability at the forefront and aims to preserve the craft while showcasing its versatility. Indonesia Design (iD) talks to Lim Masulin, CEO and creative director of Byo Living, about its green efforts and their recent project Goa Maria, located at the cathedral of Hati Kudus Yesus (HKY) in Surabaya, designed by Margie Lukmanto.
How did this project come about and what was the concept or inspiration behind the intricate design?
In 2022, the cathedral celebrates its 101st anniversary and wanted to build a new wing and a prayer chapel in between the old and new wings with a contemporary design. Simultaneously, the new sleek form had to incorporate the deep-rooted East Javanese culture.
The church presented a challenge – to come up with a modern design that uniquely symbolises Catholicism. Having that understanding, we spoke to the architect to find a weaving technique to express the attitude of praying. In Catholicism, when someone prays, it’s seen as sending flowers to god. We decoded the weaving technique with floating floral patterns that build up at the top while creating an optical effect of light and shadow on the surface providing a spiritual experience of these flowers that one is sending to god.
Are there other considerations for the design and ambience that you wanted to achieve with this installation?
It has to be seen as belonging to the site – not pretentious nor attention stealing. Hence we adopted a weaving technique that is unique to Surabaya. We used earth tones to make it more inviting and grounded. Praying is about honesty and humility. We want people at Goa Maria to feel at home enabling them to speak honestly to god.
With such intricate designs, are your solutions costly and what are some of the common misconceptions have you encountered so far?
If people think it’s expensive, I take it as praise, it means that people understand the value. Most of the time, budget is the issue in a project but usually we provide a solution for that. In the past when people thought of weaving, day to day objects come to mind, you wouldn’t imagine big brands working with this technique. Now, we are working with industry leaders to create design solutions.
The other misconception is limitations. We work with all sorts of materials. We are able to weave natural rattan from Kalimantan, wood, leather, acrylic, metal, post-consumer goods like beverage cans and bottles; and many more. A lot of research and development goes into our work.
What role does Byo Living’s weaving technique play in solving environmental challenges?
There are three aspects: the first being vernacular designs in Asian regions. Traditionally homes [used] craftsmanship as a solution – to cool the building, protect from insects, extreme heat and rain. Sustainability is the root of our culture, we have the context and identity for it.
Second is our body of work and know-how, such as passive cooling, ventilation and natural lighting. All these architectural disciplines can be incorporated and elevated in the weaving technique. It is not only a solution for today, but the future.
The third is the materials. We use bio based and a lot of recycled materials. Talking about reducing tonnes of carbon footprint and plastic waste is no longer a theory, we have done this in our previous projects. Not only was the price point achievable, but we also did research to ensure the weaving technique is possible. We won the Good Design Award for our computational ability. When we talk about sustainability, we have the data for it. We use thermal imaging to prove certain patterns can cool a building. It’s really about having the science behind our work.