Window screens constructed of pieces of bamboo bring the earthy textures of the sunken garden into the house, creating a tactile threshold between the inside and out.
In this remarkable transformation of an existing structure, architect Albertus Wang has conquered the many design shortcomings of the previous building, as well as the limitations of a longitudinal site walled in on three sides, to produce a modern residence distinguished by its dynamic geometric forms, linear connectivity, and illusions of space. The result is a sophisticated and elegant dwelling, a visual and spatial delight that stands in marked contrast to the heavily ornated façades of most of its neighbors in this élite residential enclave in West Jakarta.
From the street, the structure appears as a large white and gray box articulated with three abstract masses, the middle one faced with horizontally raked cement and the two flanking it painted white and pierced with narrow openings. A simple black linear balustrade, a colorful red door, a waterfall, and lotus ponds provide contrast to the clean, modern, and simple lines of the exterior.
“Informal grandeur” sums up the double-height gallery-cum-living area. Traditional Chinese-crafted red doors on the left and the cast concrete stairs leading to the bedroom level on the right illustrate the calculated blending of scalar elements.
The three masses of the house run longitudinally along the length of the site, ending with a fourth, transverse volume at the back. The main organizing element—located in the first, central mass—is a double-height gallery/living space that connects the other three volumes and provides the main horizontal circulation. From this tall, open box extend three staircases connecting the three levels of the house. The second mass, located to the left of the central, open box, contains a bedroom on the first floor, above the garage, and two more bedrooms with a shared bathroom on the third floor. The third mass, on the opposite side of the house, is occupied by a music room on the first floor, an informal living room on the second, and a library on the third. At the back of the house, the fourth mass houses the main living room, kitchen, maid’s quarters, and other service areas on the first floor, the dining room and pantry on the second, and the master bedroom on the third.
The interior of the house is a fusion of innovative devices for space expansion, contemporary materials, and intriguing design ideas. Although the house is undoubtedly introverted, its exterior shell making full use of the site right up to the boundary walls, it is nevertheless punctuated with “pockets” of space along the periphery—judicious cutaways of the original walls—that not only let in light and air but also visually expand the first-floor living spaces outward, through picture glass doors, to the walls bordering the lot. Such pockets, including a breakfast alcove adjacent to the kitchen, a sand garden, and a “pine forest,” also relieve the introversion of the house and encourage various family-oriented activities and interests.
While highly crafted detailing throughout the house highlights the spaces within, it is the entranceway to the house that is most telling. The entrance “procession” advances through a complex sequence of stepping stones, across a waterfall and terraced pools, ending at a tucked-in sliver between the central scraped concrete box and the frame of the library volume. While the door is bright red, it is discreetly concealed, hinting at a contradiction between hesitation and pride. In fact, the entire house is an expression of dualities: heavy and light, light and dark, modern and traditional, spacious and intimate, restricted and liberated. These represent the house’s socio-cultural context as well as the story behind its creation. The design process had to deal with the very real problems of the existing structure: illogical size, scale, punctuation, connection, location, and orientation, exemplified by the cantilevered bedroom placed too low over the main staircase and poorly placed columns and walls. Some irreversible problem areas, which display unorthodox treatments and unexpected details, have even been preserved as a part of the history of the house and add to its overall interest.
Raked cement walls and broad glass windows bring the mood of the “pine forest” garden at the rear of the site into the main living space, at the same time carrying through the architectural themes of the house: geometric forms, linear connectivity, and illusions of space.
An eclectic mix of materials at the entry alcove—raked cement, red lacquered wood, and natural slate—blend tradition with modernity, offering a subtle statement on the nature of dwelling in the modern world.
A view from the stepped entry sequence of the three parallel volumes of the house, the central one finished in hand-crafted raked cement, the other two painted white. The custom-made steel handrail echoes the house’s linear detailing.
An astute marriage of hand-worked finishes, delicate stair details, and the modulation of light within the double-height gallery/living room creates a warm yet modern interior. The specially made handrail of the upper floor balcony is extended to create a floating architectural composition with a musical quality. The built-in pantry and glass-partitioned staircase leading to the lower level are visible in the rear.
The dualities of heavy and light and light and dark are evident in the dining room where a cool concrete floor—an extension of the cement walls of the exterior garden—meets a dark wood ceiling and where white walls and dining chairs meet dark tables. Dramatic transformations in the quality of light entering the house throughout the day add to the ambience. An arrangement of twigs softens the staircase partition.
Balanced with a simple wood table and earthy collectibles, a comfortable leather-upholstered sofa positioned for viewing the flat-screen television on the ledge next to the rear wall of the living area, makes a thoroughly modern statement.
Formal and informal are blended in the kitchen and the adjoining outdoor breakfast patio, accessed through folding wood-framed doors. Playful bar stools are a perfect foil to an almost life-size bronze sculpture by artist Teguh Ostenrik.
A custom-built media wall in the family music room on the first floor provides ample yet readily accessible storage space.
The first, second, and third floor plans show the stepped entry sequence, vertical circulation, double-height volumes and “carved” pocket gardens in this house, which is bounded on three sides by high property walls. Some elements of the plan are left over from the pre-existing structural shell.
PURI INDAH, JAKARTA
ARCHITECT ALBERTUS WANG SW1M-CAU
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