D-associates' Offbeat Take on Design


The architectural consultants d-associates, winner of the Arcasia Awards for Architecture in Hong Kong for their DRA House featured in this edition, has a unique perspective on design. The firm is helmed by Gregorius Supie Yolodi and Maria Rosantina, who have merged their inspirations and ideas to create singular and mature creations.

Photo by Mario Wibowo Photography, unless stated otherwise

What’s the story behind d-associates?

Maria (M): Supie started the studio in 2001. We have the same alma mater, the architecture department of Parahyangan Catholic University in Bandung. From 2000 to 2002, we completed one or two projects together. Finally in 2003, I joined d-associates as partner. Also in the same year we finished several projects, including The Papilion and a design for Rest Area KM19. After the first few developments, other projects started to go our way.

What’s your design philosophy?

Supie (S): The distinctive trait will naturally come when an idea has been attempted and completed over and over again. Time will be the judge of the success of a concept. Obviously, this trait will always move forward and become more mature because we are also evolving. We have to keep learning in order to be better. What we always consider first and foremost in a project is the context. By context, I mean a lot of things such as location, function, constraints and others that will become the basis of the concept. From this notion, I believe that in each project we are constantly learning from various experts.

M: It’s in the ideas that we believe will give soul to the resulting works. Form is a by-product of a very long process. There are some thoughts that make us believe that thinking about architecture is a process of learning from everything that surrounds us. Architecture is not only meant as the building, it’s a process of creating new life stories. Architecture is a logical decision decided by the senses. Architecture is work that has a life inside of it.

Give us a picture of how the collaboration process works for two designers.

S: Constant thinking, constant discussion and communication is the key. An idea does not always appear out of the blue. Sometimes it is like a blessing. it might come uninvited. Or it might need a long research or a study. Every idea should always be assessed and reassessed, covering a wide range of things, before it is decided that it will become the final idea that will be pitched to the client. However, the best idea might not be what the client wants. A client provides a picture or a brief of what he wants, but it might not be what he needs. This is where an architect comes in, as someone to manage the data, impulses or needs of a client and develop them into a fitting design concept, which should be in line with the context, function and constraints, or limitations, given by the client, and the real situation in the field.

M: The key is discussion and good communication between us. At the beginning of a project, there is always a big idea or concept that Supie or me as a principal architect in charge conveys. These will be discussed together and after that we enriched and developed with the team. During development, various studieswill be conducted, several schematics will be tried and in the end, the best schematic will appear among other plans–one that everyone feels is the best. This is the one that will be perfected and brought to the client.

How do you strike a balance between life, work and architecture?

S: Life as an architect is holistic: The mind-set and way of life become one. Architecture is not something that can be separated from everyday life. it is not just a job, but life itself. Managing both as one is better even, though not easier.

M: All three things appear in blur. They blend like one breath in one soul. Architecture is not always sitting at the desk or standing in the middle of the field for a project or drawing in the studio. it is always thought of in everyday life. Consciously or unconsciously, what i do in everyday life comes with my soul and my decisions as an architect. it affects my fascination in everyday little things as well, because i am an architect. On the other hand, my daily life—and the things that i encounter in my daily life—affect me when i design and take decisions in architecture. How architecture responds to nature and a site’s context fits the way we respond to nature, environment and our neighbors in everyday life.

Which design step is the most important for a project?

S: The beginning stage of brainstorming ideas is usually the most fun, because it is the time when we are allowed to dream about the design visions that we want. Next comes a step that is no less important: The make-or-break stage, one that will decide whether an idea can be realised and completed in real life. This includes getting the vision from other consulting partners, such as the structural consultant and MEP. Another step that is tiring, but also significant, is the coordination stage, with the executor and supervisor during the construction stage. All of the steps are important and entwined together to create the finished work.

How do you define creativity?

M: Thinking outside of the usual stream, although perhaps the stream will lead you to a walk alongside a steep gorge.

S: It’s akin to holding your breath, then gasping for air and then feeling relieved because you can breathe again. Trying to continuously find a feeling of relief is similar to the process of finding creativity.

What about the long term?

S: I don’t dare to dream, let alone about the long term. We can only pray and hope that the world of architecture in Indonesia can always move forward to better appreciation for better architecture. I hope Indonesian architecture can include into the architectural map of the world. We hope that we will be able to keep creating better works despite the many obstacles along the way.

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Anton Adianto
Anton Adianto graduated from Parahyangan Catholic University majoring in architecture. His passion for writing, watching movies, listening to music, uncovering design, exploring the culinary world, traveling, delving into the philosophy of life, meeting people and disclosing all matters related to technology feeds his curiosity. Currently he resides in both Jakarta and Bandung.