From Sky High to the Deep Sea
PTI Interiors’ principal, Yofianto Soetono is a trained architect who graduated from Parahyangan Catholic University and comfortably sets himself among the top interior designers in the country. His corporate fit-out designs have filled the indoor parts of numerous buildings in Jakarta—from the ground floors to the top levels—while his hospitality designs can be seen in various hotels and exotic resorts throughout the South East Asia region. Today, his works are extended far below the ground as he explores underwater photography. We talked to the designer at his office on one fine morning.
What made you delve into the world of interior design?
I graduated as an architect in 1992 and started working in the field of architecture. After the monetary crisis in 1998, we began to spread our wings into the direction of interior design. That’s when I commenced the business by doing office fit-outs. As of today, PTI Interiors has involved in several hospitality design projects. Since the start of my firm, I have also become more engrossed in the field. The more works I take on, the more certain I become that I have found my passion for interior design. From the business point of view, we can complete an interior design project more quickly than an architecture project, and this is good for our cash flow.
When did you first join PTI?
I joined the company in 1995 when it was still known as Peddle Thorp Indonesia. In 1998, it was given a new name, Prada Tata International.
What types of projects do PTI Interiors mostly take on?
We have done a lot of designs for the head offices of international banks in Jakarta. In addition, we were also commissioned to do several hospitality projects in Jakarta, Medan and Laos.
What are the challenges encountered in each of the projects?
For office projects, we obviously need to adjust the design to the needs of an office including the facilities for activities. In addition, we also have to think about the working hours in the project and the available budget. Meanwhile, the designs of the international corporations’ head offices have to get a seal of approval from their headquarters, something that is quite daunting for us—although later in the field a lot of things are bound to change.
For hotel projects, we have to consider the following two points: hotel operators must follow the standard of their hotels while hotel owners usually have one or two ideas to implement in their establishments. At the same time we have to also consider the construction cost, which should be compatible with the budget and investment value. We have to bridge the needs of both clients and operators, as well as the requirements demanded by hotel guests.
Can you tell us about your design process?
Each project has a different approach. Most office projects start with a brief analysis and a study of room availability. From there we can explore more about the design and then submit a report and an initial concept. After the documents are approved, we develop the schematic design, followed by the work plan. During these stages, we would collaborate with other consultants, such as for the mechanical and electrical systems, graphic/signage designs and others.
In your own words, how do you view office design today?
The transformation of office design has been significant. When I started designing office fit-outs, the designs were all hierarchical—everyone occupied rooms which were arranged according to their ranks at the company, from staff members to top management levels. Then came the trend of open-plan offices where rooms were only built for top-tier employees, while common workers occupy cubicles in one large area. With the advancement of technology, office design is now moving forward with the concept of flex office, an activity-based working space. For several head office designs such as Citi Indonesia, we feature a non-dedicated desk concept where workers can work anywhere, thus creating a more efficient and conducive environment for the workers to collaborate. Meanwhile, demands for a collaboration area is rather high although several offices still have no activities, which need that many frequent interactions.
When I googled your name, most of the search results show your works in underwater photography. When did you start this interest?
For a long time, friends and colleagues had been telling me to take up diving, but I just wasn’t interested. In 2008, one of them suggested that we go diving and he brought along his underwater photography equipment. I began an interest in photography when I was in college, and therefore was keen to try this new hobby because it meant I could document the glorious beauty of the underwater world, which is different than what we see every day. This is especially true in Indonesia, with its majestic oceans. It is beautiful around here, but in eastern Indonesia, the view is even more breathtaking.
Each part of the country boasts its own characteristics, and I happen to enjoy this adrenalin-pumping activity. Every diving spot poses different challenges, but there are always local guides who can point us in the right directions. In Manado, for instance, the characteristic is similar to a wall. It is different from Raja Ampat where the coral reefs are more diverse. I enjoy doing this because I can see beautiful views amidst my hectic daily activities as a design consultant who has to create equally beautiful built-environments.