Design Dossier: Cosmas Gozali


As one of the nation’s most acclaimed architects, Cosmas Gozali has a career spanning more than 20 years. He draws upon his experiences living in Padang, West Sumatra; Singapore and Vienna, Austria, where he earned his degree from the Vienna University of Technology (Technische Universitat Wien/TU Wien) in 1992. Among his many accolades, Cosmas has won the IAI Award 2002 for the Ganesha House in Ubud, Bali, the ICI Award in 2002 for the Opera House and the Origami House and the Jakarta Government Award of Culture in 2011 for his work on the Swiss ambassador’s residence. He is also noted for his innovative work on exhibition design and art installations. Indonesia Design sat down with Cosmas recently to discuss his personal tastes and style. Here’s what we learned.

Which architects have influenced you?

I have always been impressed by Le Corbusier. It’s not his forms that influenced my designs, but more of his philosophy of architecture. In his promenade architectural idea, he emphasized that every feeling we have in every step counts. I always keep that in mind.

What’s your fave space in Jakarta?

DCM’s design for Thamrin Nine, Sonny Sutanto’s Harris Vertu Hotel, Paul Rudolph’s Intiland Tower and several historical buildings in the city. These are indeed good landmarks, but I feel there is still something missing. I’m still looking for that distinctive building.

Fave space in Indonesia?

I’m following the airport renovations in major cities like Denpasar, Makassar, Medan, etc. Ridwan Kamil’s mosque design in Bandung is also enjoyable, as well as hotels in Bali. But old buildings in Sawahlunto, Makassar and Semarang are not to be forgotten. They have an excellent beauty has gone through the ages.

Things to be improved in town?

I hope we will have more public spaces. I haven’t visited Kalijodo, but from what I saw on the media, that is so exciting. Taman Ayodya in Blok B is already a fine example of a city park. I think public spaces, parks and open spaces are so important to create togetherness and a less-stressful life. It is also important to have free public spaces, hence hanging out wouldn’t have to be expensive. This is why for one of my current projects, the Fine Arts and Ceramic Museums in Jakarta, I will take out the fence to make people feel more welcome.

Why get into the business?

This is my calling. I have wanted to be an architect since I was a fifth grader. At that time, there were no malls in Jakarta. The most prominent shopping district was Pasar Baru. Some weekends, my father took me for an afternoon ride in Menteng or Kebayoran in our old Fiat. Seeing houses in Kebayoran made my heart skip a beat. I realized that I was good in art, as well as physics and math. Architecture sits right at the balance point of those subjects.

Fave cities?

I like cities that merge well with nature, like Sydney, where one can enjoy the architecture as well as the hills and water. Seoul also amazed me, as I can feel the rich heritage and new culture all at once. I don’t understand the language, but the graphics are easy to comprehend. Last year, I went to New York and I loved it. People were walking along the avenues at ease, just like in the Europe. I enjoy walking for its tranquil sensation and to see the people, and to experience nature and culture first hand. For this, New York really got me.

Tell us about your dream house.

A house that connects with nature, with a spacious garden and a terrace where I can sip my morning coffee and read the newspaper. I’d like to have big trees in the garden for the aesthetics and natural shade. It would be perfect if there was water. The mass must be big, as I need space for my collection of artwork.

What role does green building play in your work?

I do my best to put people in balance with nature. There are always big openings and gardens, even the small ones, so people can enjoy natural daylight and air circulation.

Dream project?

The Jakarta Green Belt. I proposed this design to make Jakarta greener, humane and walkable, with a 150 kilometre-long and 300-metre wide pedestrian pathway so people could freely walk, ride bikes or skateboard all year long. What a wonderful city it would be. I want to build more facilities for decentralization so we won’t spend too much time in traffic.

What’s your definition of sustainable design?

Design that won’t add any damage to the world and make a positive impact instead. Positive impacts can start from small things, like when a project adds value to the neighborhood. It can be also done environmentally, from materials selections, water waste treatment systems or space programming that allows energy efficiency for lamps and air conditioning.

Wish for architecture in Indonesia?

To motivate our young architect to go international and meet international standards. In our country, there is a tendency to assign foreign architects to big developments. What I want is for the big projects abroad would hire us Indonesian architects. I also encourage local developers to assign our local architects. I want us to be proud of what we make.

Fave room in your house?

The terrace. I enjoy the morning breeze, the sound of birds and how my garden smells after the rain. If I go home early, I sit there in the afternoon. I spend the rest of my time in a small living room in my bedroom, where I can read peacefully. In my Singapore house, I like to sit in the dining room. I enjoy being close to the kitchen. I love cooking. I have longing to have big kitchen so my family and I could cook a big dinner for family gatherings while casually chatting.

What is the most important thing to know about architecture?

Comfort. In our designs, we have to give the space a soul. A residential design is never about the house, but always the soul, a home. That is why I never say that I make certain style, but I deliver a feeling. My medium is the composition: The height, the width, the function, the lighting, air circulation, the comfort, the sounds that make one feels at home.

What course did you like most as a design student?

History of fine arts. For me, it was a dreamy fairytale. The tests were like me talking to my lecturer about the things that I liked the most. I didn’t only read the recommended books. I added several books to the list. I like to analyse art, to look at its history and to know the background of the artists. It’s like a novel for me.

Which buildings in the world have amazed you?

While studying in Vienna, I became a fan of Otto Wagner and his design for the Karlsplatz Stadtbahn Station. His works are rich in Art Deco, but they are geometric and never too much like you may see In France or Spain.

Tell us about your current project.

Several residential projects, some hotels including one in Padang, and a mixed-used development consisted of a hotel and an apartment in Sunter, Jakarta.

Gift you would like to receive?

If it is artwork, then I will be happy. It is hard to buy clothes, because I am a particular person. I am more diverse in collecting art.

Last cool purchase?

I’m honestly not a gadget freak, so it’s definitely not a gadget, although I buy iPhones. The sophisticated item I purchased might be artwork. My last buy was from ArtStage Jakarta last August. I have been collecting art for 20 years now. At this moment, I’m no longer looking for paintings or sculpture, I’m looking for something new. I don’t know what it is yet. Maybe I will know when I see it.

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Barbara Hahijary
Barbara earned her bachelor's degree in architecture from the Interior Architecture Program of the University of Indonesia in 2013. Historical or heritage buildings, as well as utilitarian design, fascinates her as it is the interaction between people and architecture that remains her favourite topic to explore. Besides architecture, her interests include design, handcrafts, literature and social issues.