Architecture for Humanity – book review

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August 03, 2008
Some content in this article is suitable only for Indonesian context.

Becak afternoon
Photo by Simon Monk, used under Creative Commons license.

Probo Hindarto’s note:
This note was written with permission from Mr. Galih Widjil Pangarsa (a writer of architecture thoughts in Indonesia). This article was written before the publishing of the book.

To write an opening words in this article, is not an easy task for me, for I am faced with great thinkers of this age that I admire, especially because of their struggle connected to architecture around us, that is free and independent from the ego of industrialism, hedonism, consumerism, capitalism, and thousands of corners that may drive us into dreams and glamour of ‘new’ architecture… that sometimes is not really able to modest itself into simplicity of nature. I wish this book will give more discourse about architecture that has an original root from Indonesian culture.

This book will be much more comprehensible than the book from Mr. Galih Widjil Pangarsa titled “Red White Nusantara Architecture”, even there are stories in the writing, that in the view of my young age, it seems to be a wisdom to see ourselves inside a drama, seeing architecture trough the works of Mr. Eko Prawoto, inside a frame created by Mr. Galih. In here, there is a convincing drama, that is soft and worth to be read.

Not in the manner of a fake soap opera, but more in the manner of ‘wayang orang’ (or traditional Javanese drama) that is full of meaning and lessons. I was lucky to receive the draft of the book and read it, I even have not completed reading the previous book of Mr. Galih, from which I have to ‘dedicate my time’ to understand the thinking inside the book. Like a morning sunshine, this book may enlighten our thoughts.

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What can be known from the first explanation from Mr. Galih about this book, is that it is a critic of our architecture education based on ‘picture’. It is possible that the readers will have to try to understand the basic thoughts of Mr. Galih first before continuing. But this becoming important, because we then can see the importance of understanding architecture not only by drawings.

In the book, Mr. Galih explain that architecture is about space, not about picture. Here means what happens inside a space is something ‘felt’ not pictured or drawn. By this meaning, we will be able to head to a more environmentally friendly architecture, where architecture is not presented in individual context, only placed on a site.

Then, many aspects that are previously ‘hidden’ in the process of designing, will be presented. The sound of air breeze and leaves, the view of shoes in front of a door, barks of dogs from far distance, baby cry on the far side of the road, is a part of architecture where it belongs, and here is the meaning of the presence of space in architecture, to get along with the nature to form experience inside a man.

What will presence from ‘village’ architecture can then be valuable, even when it presence in a very simple artifact and considered not trendy by urban people, and it can (likely) presence in a mature stage of design. Not over reacting, but fulfilling its function to overcome the nature without showing off. “Village architecture” that often has pejorative connotation, is evenly becoming a mature and reasonable reactive architectural solution.

“Village architecture’ that is presented by Mr. Eko Prawoto in his architecture, inside this book is explained as the new pearls of basic humanity, that can get along with nature. “Village architecture’ can no longer be seen as ‘low’ architecture, but high quality architecture.

(Some of english version in this translation may not be appropriate. Please refer to the Indonesian version for reference)

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by Probo Hindarto
© Copyright 2008 astudio Indonesia. All rights reserved.

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