Saturday, December 29, 2012

Advice for An Aspiring Architect

In December of 1931, as the Great Depression took hold, a young man by the name of Richard Crews wrote to a number of prominent architecture firms in the city of Chicago. Soon to enter the profession himself, Crews was curious to learn about an established architect's typical working day, and so sent letters to local masters of the trade to find out from the best possible source. Four incredibly gracious responses arrived, including the one below; a letter filled with honest, sage and extremely quotable advice from Charles Morgan, a highly regarded architectural artist who in the '20s and '30s provided renderings for a number of large firms such as  Frank Lloyd Wright. 

Dear Richard Crews:

I am sorry to be delayed these few days in answering your letter of Dec. 21st but I shall hasten and do it before the new year. 

Of course, you would be more interested in what an architect does in a day's work in normal times, than now. So if you will excuse the liberty I shall make the discussion, or at least the answer, on what an architect should do in a day's work. 

An architect should, unless it is impossible, answer his mail the first thing in the morning. Then his mind is free to plan and design upon the problems of his clients. He goes to work planning from within outward just as truly as from the ground upward. There are very few real architects who get big jobs because it is only the politician who gets big jobs, and the politician never has time to be an architect. So by all means the architect should learn to do small jobs well, because of the very fact that if he is sincere he shall probably never get big ones. 

The architect should always remember that Jesus was an architect and that to be entitled to the same name he should love truth and beauty above all else. 

An architect is too busy to bother much about luncheon. A sandwich at noon is enough. He draws or builds models most of the day because that is an aid to his imagination. Imagination is the only quality that is creative. 

Above all else the artist must not copy. Imitate nothing except principle. That is best understood by reading such as Henry Thoreau's "Walden" and of the lives of great people. 

A real architect like a good man in any business does not waste any time whatever doing things of which he might be ashamed. He must above all be a sincere artist. 

I congratulate you upon your choice and sincerely wish you much strength and happiness. Make no compromise from that which you know is right. 

Sincerely yours,

(Signed, 'Charles Morgan, Chicago Associate of Frank Lloyd Wright.')

December 30, 1931

Building In Nature

The act of building can be brutal.
When I build on a site in nature that is totally unspoiled, it is a fight, and attack by our culture.
In this confrontation, I strive to make a building that will make people more aware of the beauty of the setting, and when looking at the building, a hope for a new consciousness to see the beauty there as well.

I think sometimes I have a deal with the climate,
The nature,
And the topography.
It is important to get a dialogue between nature and creative life.
It is curious to say it, but at the same times the dialogue between the past and the present also has to be manifested.

by Sverre Fehn

The Unconventional Approach

I could never have had a conventional career in architecture.
I think you do have to take a certain risk.
You have to make a decision when you leave school whether you are going to risk it or play it safe;
That is really fundamental, the main thing.
If you can take risks, I think it is worthwhile.

by Zaha Hadid

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

On Architecture: The Dented Wall

What does an architect do?
The idealistic answer would be: to build a building.
The realistic answer would be: to sit in an office figuring the yet to build building.

What is the significant of both statements which seem to be the same?
I think first of its simplicity of the idealistic answer. Architect's job yet simple in the definition, it is complex in execution. Ideally it should be so, realistically it was so.
Now, in our current state of practice, in our epoch which is the early 21st century, we complicate the job definition for ourselves, the architects, yet what we do is so specialized that it is much simpler practically comparing to the real practice of past, the ideal practice of today.

I am trying to record my experience in the construction site, hoping that my one year stay at my current work place would not change my idea of Architecture.

I like the purity of material and construction.
The material has soul. The process of construction is an act and effort put in by the craftsman, it should be revealed. These are among many the legacy left by the Modernists.
I think it sounds brilliant, but I know it is quite impractical. Impractical not because of it is not doable, but the architects lack dedication and patience to see it through, and have it carried out.
A broad themes I am proposing here in this paragraph. I think of one day, if I still remember it, I shall expand on this.

Back on the title of The Dented Wall.
Today, during my site inspection walk around, I saw it. I saw The Dented Wall by nail or screw, I am not quite sure which to be exact. In a conventionally wrong practice, the workers would plaster the dented wall with certain kind of paste depending on the nature of the wall, obvious we cannot use the same universal paste plaster for steel and wood and concrete. The Dented Wall, though has been plastered, the first cover, then painted, the second plaster, it is still visible to my eyes. I have sharp eyes by training and, I think, so should every architect have trained sharp eyes.
I hate The Dented Wall for perfection and design reason. It is fine if I designed The Dented Wall, but in this case it is clearly a flaw in construction. Such mistake is intolerable. I also hate the fact of covering for it does not reveal the process of construction.
Arguably, covering can be excused if it is the design intention and also provided that the architect knows the contractor has a good painter in his disposal. But, of course, being a lousy architect, my current office knows not.

Back to The Dented Wall, yet again to make my point.
Whose fault is it?
Now, most architects will agree that it is the fault of the contractor unable to carry out or to produce decent workmanship. Most architects are lousy architects.
We, as architects, should have ourselves to blame on this matter. It is our moral conduct and architectural duty to be introspective. We should not blame others before we introspect ourselves.
I am not arguing that the contractor is not to be blamed, I am trying to make my point that before we start to blame the contractor, we should inspect ourselves on what could have we done.
To design such a lousy thing is the architect's fault. Why do the architects allow themselves to design a wall that need to be plastered and painted?
There are a lot of flaws in the design, yet I observe the architects blaming the contractor. Where lies our fairness as an architect? Should we not be the fair judge on our design and construction? If we always blame others for our own fault, how are we supposed our profession to be taken seriously?
We have lesser and lesser significance in society because of these mediocre architects sprawling practicing Architecture.

The Dented Wall has taught me so.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Of Corrupted Ideals and Of Awareness

Damn it!

I felt anger rising within me the longer I work in my current firm. It is so wrong, so, so wrong. Nothing is in proper way.

First of, the corruption of thoughts. We will definitely lose our innocent view on design and Architecture the longer we work. It needs not to be so, people would say you will and have to compromise, but from my observation, I have to disagree. Because we are only as good as our bosses allow us to be and as our bosses want us to. I have experience the leadership of lousy bosses in my current firm. Bunch of old conservative minded fools who think they know, who think they are better. Ironic. Ridiculous.

I practice self-meditation every single morning in order to keep my purity of thoughts and let the innocence of mine survive. Six more months, I told myself constantly every single day I am here.
Books and writings are my only consolation. Things that keep me alive inside.
I need those.

People at your work place, be careful of them. Be aware, listen to what they say, listen very carefully. But believe only in yourself. For they say nothing of the Truth but their own opinions, most will talk bad about the other colleagues, they may not be right. But this people, be cautious of them and realize that if they are able to talk bad about others, there lies a chance that you will be talked by as well.
Those who are quiet are no better. Even they may not belittle others, they may possess harm by their actions. 
It is therefore better to be armed and practice self-cultivation.
To realize that everybody is the same.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

To Record What I Have Been Through

I think. I observe.

It has almost been half a year now I am working in Batam office. I find the office stagnant in design and lead by a bunch of old conservative men who have no talent nor hardwork, surviving solely with decently good ass-kissing skill. No coordination between departments, between the consultants and the contractor, between the consultants and the clients are observed, even if there is, it will be very subtle and insignificant.

I am recording this in hope of me not losing my innocence in Architecture the day I was first introduced to it, the day that I saw wonder and hope. The day I saw Beauty.
I am in constant fear that I might lose my ideal, that this office, instead of teaching me, will corrupt me. I have to always put myself in a neutral position, to stand outside the system and to see the system itself, the way I did for the last two years of my study at Singapore Polytechnic. I must be aware of this.

There are a lot of things that I am not in agreement with my current office.
I dislike the design method: Addition-and-Covering. Addition-and-Covering is a last minute way to resolve design and problems on-site for practical purpose. I have not objection towards solving problems on-site, a circumstance inevitable. But the way the office do it has to be very clear. In this office, instead of the architects/designers solving the problems, the problems are thrown to the contractor and asked to produce shop-drawing. Such way of throwing responsibility is very unprofessional and in a way, asking the contractor to design, while we the architects should have been the one who solve and design.
What role do we have now but a whore for the clients trying to earn as much money as we can?

This office lacks integrity and ideal.
I learned a lot on what not to do.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Idea and Practice

Idea lives forever. Practice does not.

Think of the books and all the text we've read. The ideas and philosophy by Plato which were written for more than two thousands year are still read until today.
But the manager of let's say a certain company will not be remembered.

Even some of the texts written to convince us regarding the importance of practicality are theorized. Perhaps it is not a fair comparison, because there is certainly no contradiction between theory and practice because theory supports practice and vice versa. We often forget that though things appeared to be contradicting, they actually compliment each other.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Current State of Mind and The Office I Am Working In

There has been quite a number of arguments in my head regarding a type of drawing called shop drawing. Shop drawing is a drawing or set of drawings produced by contractor, supplier, manufacturer, subcontractor, or fabricator, which typically required for pre-fabricated component such as elevators, structural steels, trusses, pre-casts, windows, appliances, cabinets, air-handling units, and millworks.
Hence, the architect does not produce the shop drawing, but evaluates and decides whether to approve the shop drawing proposed.
I dislike this idea of shop drawing, and I would decide for myself to have as less of this kind of drawing as possible because the architect will lose the control over the design. If possible, I think the architect should provide all of the drawings with close consultation and collaboration with the specialists and contractors. Because only by doing this, we, as a participant of construction, are able to cut the loss time waiting for approval and checking and re-checking all the submitted drawings.

It has been almost five months since I worked in my new office here at Batam. I observed many things and what crossed my mind today is the management system.
I find the people here very inefficient and produce less impressive work, and I am being very kind with my comment. I wonder whether it is in our culture as an Indonesian to work in such lenient manner. I felt hopeless to the people here and at some point I was thinking of firing everyone and replacing them with new staffs.
I might be wrong.
Lately I got to thinking that the employees are just as good as the leader's skill to lead. I started to analyze how the management works and slowly I can grasp the management system in this office. It is not good, in fact it's horrible.
There are too many hierarchy in an architecture office for small size projects, it hinders the progress of the construction and Design, if there is any Design at all.
I also notice that my boss, though quite smart and charismatic, not wise nor Design oriented. He is not a nurturer but instead an autocratic leader who expects and demands. I can see this by the people who works for him and whom he surrounds himself with: the yes-men.
Those who have opinions will not stay long in the office, and those who stays are nothing but cowards looking for decent salary to survive in this world.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Design is Personal

Personally, I always believe that Design should come from one person and one person only. Hence, with this belief, I spell Design with a capital 'D'.

Design is personal. Some of the greatest Architecture ever built were built for very selfish purposes: the pyramids for the tomb of the Egyptian kings, the Gothic Cathedrals for God, the Taj Mahal for an emperor's wife, and so many more.
Tough it is undeniable that there are also great Architecture built for less selfish or selfless purposes, those Architecture appealed less than those of which built for selfish reason. Hence, Architecture to me is very personal.

For the mentioned reasons, therefore I do not believe that there is either right or wrong in Architecture Design, because Design is subjected to personality. Each of us have or should have our own take and taste on Design, we should design individually to contribute to the diversity of Architecture and Design.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I used to dislike bricks. I thought bricks were such an old fashioned and obsolete material for construction, I thought of bricks as boring and outdated.

It was not until I was told that bricks are beautiful material with its beautiful colors. This simple statement was uttered by my teacher when I was in Singapore Polytechnic. Yes, it was just a purely simple statement of his opinion but it stroke me hard. The thought of bricks as obsolete was so obvious to me that I did not even consider it as possible for people in the contemporary period to regard it as beautiful. My obviousness was shattered, how could I see things so shallowly?

Then there came Louis Kahn with his conversation with brick:
You say to brick, "What do you want, brick?" Brick says to you, "I like an arch." If you say to brick, "Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete linter over an opening. What do you think of that, brick?" Brick says, "I like an arch."

The significance of the conversation lies in our respect towards materials. We cannot just do whatever we like towards the materials, because materials, too, have feeling and pride. It is our task as architects to bring out the best in it, Our skill will determine how good the materials will be once constructed.

I had the urge to record this thought because I happened to come across an article at Domus about brick. I thought and daydreamed of how wonderful it will be if I have a chance to do a building with just bricks.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Visit to Construction Site

There are a lot to learn and a lot more not to, my visit to the construction site for the renovation of Turi Beach Resort East Wing has been very educational.

I thought of building construction a lot. I think of how can I carry out construction with my desired result. It is tough to control so many workers and most of them do not know how to read working drawing and they do not have the proper knowledge of how to construct correctly.
I set a role for myself that I should be a teacher to the workers, I should teach them on the proper way to construct. When the time has come for me have my own firm, I will be the architect and the trainer for the workers. I should establish a solid ground, starting with small and intimate numbers of workers then slowly build up the firm and proper construction worker.

Construction and design should stand together in Architecture. I have always considered the skill of the workers when I design, because it is pointless to design like Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry without the capability to execute the design, it is utterly pointless for it is better to get things right than to get it nice but atrocious. Getting things right does not even mean it is not nice, the beauty of simplicity and the quality of good workmanship never fail the test of time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Morning Sunlight

I had an epiphany while driving on my way to work this morning.
I saw the sunlight reflected by objects and I thought of my long gone childhood, the days of innocence, and my beloved hometown. I felt joyously sad when I remember the time passed for it really hits me to realize the impermanence of all things around me. Everything in our life is just one of many stops that we will go through. Hence, it seldom surprised me when one day I lost something: a book, a friend, a house, or any thing else. I will lament no doubt, but I will see it as something transient. In recognition of the transience, of the time passed, of the un-returned moment, I find solace in the present moment.

As people aged, they will have more and more comforting moment through their constant reflection on their life. Wisdom of age comes from the meditation of nostalgic moment and realization of the lost past events.
I had the realization that I am not old enough, I do not have much experience in life, not yet. Or perhaps I have the experience, but I do not meditate enough.
I am not sure on this because both are partially correct.

I waiting for the time to come when I know, not by analyzing or any deep thought, 'when I know' is just an intuition, inexplicable. I can comfortably know without any doubt, when I 'just know'.
I thought of the sunlight again, this time in the context of my hometown. I remember the moment between the late morning and early afternoon on the walk along the seashore, I looked to the sea, it was windy, the breeze took off the heat of the sun. The water sparkling, reflecting the sunlight.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where Is The Musicality?

Where is the musicality? Where is the rhythm?

I found myself asking those question as I was designing. I was surprised by myself.
In the design process, addition, subtraction, further addition, further subtraction, more addition, and more subtraction, and on, and on, for a decently good designer are inevitable, just like in a musical composition.
Most of the designers of our time will have more addition, the Japanese will slightly tend to the subtraction process.

I would like to think of myself as balanced.
It is not easy to harmonize, I found myself asking, "Where is the musicality?" not because there are not any, but it does not harmonize with the existing concept and structure. It is easy to do addition, but addition that harmonize and respect the other elements are tough. I have to think and consider a lot of factors before deciding what to put there, and often in the future progressive design process, I might have to go back to the one I have just decided and omit it or edit it, I do not know for sure which one I might do, but the possibility is there. Hence, aside from the addition and subtraction, there are also back and forth process of editing. I hated changes, it is laborious and sometimes delirious, but lately, withstanding myself from proclaiming my enjoyment, I find myself hating changes less.
Changes are inevitable. I learned to let myself be open and flexible to changes, because when inspiration comes, which might be so often, one have to seize the opportunity and go with it.

Design is tedious, especially in Architecture.
I hope it will all worth it when it is done, just like others had tried to convince me before.

Design and Redesign

Design process is complicated and highly subjective, dependent upon the designer.
It is a struggling search for the unknown, for if one knows what one is looking for, the search will be a struggle and there will be an end to it.
There is no end in design, no answer, no destination. It is a ride one should take, not knowing from where one should start.

Design process is complicated. I often think of it like composing a piece of music.
Some are gifted, they design effortlessly. Mozart
Some are experienced, they design effortlessly as they practice and grow. Bach
Some are persistent, they design and redesign in search of perfection. Beethoven.

In one time or another, I believe one must been through at least one way of the design process.


And a youth said, "Speak to us of Friendship."

And he answered, saying: Your friend is your needs answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and your fireside. For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you with hold the "aye." And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unclaimed. When you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness. And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.

The Prophet,
Kahlil Gibran

I've Believed as Many as Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

'I can't believe that!' said Alice.
'Can't you?' the Queen said in a pitying tone. 'Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.'
Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said: 'One can't believe impossible things.'
'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes, I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'

Alice Through the Looking Glass,
Lewis Carroll

I Am

" The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.

I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my voyage through the
 wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.

It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself, and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.

The traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.

My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said `Here art thou!'

The question and the cry `Oh, where?' melt into tears of a thousand streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance `I am!' "

Rabindranath Tagore


Then Almitra spoke, saying, "We would ask now of Death."

And he said: You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life? The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light. If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silen

t knowledge of the beyond; And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring. Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

The Prophet,
Kahlil Gibran

Clients: A Real Intense Relationship

I am probable more contentious with a client than most.
I find myself questioning their programs, questioning their intentions...
I get into a real intense relationship,
Which finally ends up synergistically giving more positive results, i think,
Because the client has spent more time thinking about the program and what they want
—they get more involved.

What I am telling them is,
“I am bringing you into my process.
Watch it, get involved, understand that I am not stopping here.”

by Frank Gehry

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Client's Request

It was the fourth meeting with the client.
I had a struggle after I met and presented my design. I think, just like most of the new, and in some cases old and experienced, designers, that the clients, most of them anyway, do not know how to appreciate design. I find myself compromising every time after the meeting. It's ridiculous!

I had a good sense of design, a belief every fresh young designer have, and they just do not get it. It is our duty as an architect to educate and explain to the people what good design is. I hate it they do not appreciate. That's it! I have said it.

It always comes back to the strange request that most of us are very un-eager to do.
I was not thinking clearly. I was in a state of clouded mind.

I am now, in a much more better state of thought. I need this, I want to be like this, the young blood in me, perhaps it is the adrenaline, or perhaps the arrogance in me, I had the tendency to always think that I am the one who is right, I am absolute.
But now that I can think better, the quest of the client is a form of challenge itself, isn't it?

I judged too fast. The client requested me to design with a particular material. I was not happy because the material requested was common and not very interesting. I judged too fast.
It was not the material, it was me who can't design. The fault lies with me.
So now, instead of thinking how to convince the client to use other material, I must now think of a way to design with the given material. By doing so, I can show the local designer, and school them, on how to design properly with the material.

It is my mistake to judge too fast. I should learn to listen better and to think deeper before all else. And of course, most of all, to be calm and remain in non-judgement position.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Sense of Wonder

I'm looking for the Sense of Wonder, the feeling I have when I sense something bigger and beyond me exist. The kind of feeling that puts me in awe.

I'm trying to recollect my memories and to remember when was my last time encountering the Sense of Wonder. Probably it was two days ago when I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, it was a mild Sense of Wonder, it was not those kind of thing that would blow my mind away, nevertheless it was.

There are many Senses of Wonders, subjected to the individual's own sensitivity. Some people will need to see the biggest waterfall of the world in order for them to realize the Sense of Wonder, some need to go to the Gothic cathedral in France, some need to see the Sistine Chapel of Michelangelo, but some need only to contemplate on simple twilight to have this Sense of Wonder.
It is subjected to individual's own sensitivity and contemplation.

I believe when I experience the Sense of Wonder, I experience what people referred to as God. I do not like how the Christian preachers describe God, it is somehow too material. Now I am not saying that God is not material, but too material is what I think it should not. I believe in the existence of God and I find those atheists ridiculous. God does exist, but it will depend on us to determine what God is.
The Sense of Wonder is God, something, or some-non-thing, that is indescribable.

When I experience the Sense of Wonder, I feel small and insignificant, and at the same time, everything around me also becomes small and insignificant. Nothing in this world matter on that moment. Peace and awe overwhelm me.

The Meaning of A Story

The meaning of a story should go on expanding for the reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.

Flannery O'Connor

Observing The Pleasing Nature of Things Followed

We ought to observe also that even the things which follow after the things which are produced according to nature contain something pleasing and attractive. For instance, when bread is baked some parts are split at the surface, and these parts which thus open, and have a certain fashion contrary to the purpose of the baker's art, are beautiful in a manner, and in a peculiar way excite a desire 
for eating. And again, figs, when they are quite ripe, gape open; and in the ripe olives the very circumstance of their being near to rottenness adds a peculiar beauty to the fruit. And the ears of corn bending down, and the lion's eyebrows, and the foam which flows from the mouth of wild boars, and many other things- though they are far from being beautiful, if a man should examine them severally- still, because they are consequent upon the things which are formed by nature, help to adorn them, and they please the mind; so that if a man should have a feeling and deeper insight with respect to the things which are produced in the universe, there is hardly one of those which follow by way of consequence which will not seem to him to be in a manner disposed so as to give pleasure. And so he will see even the real gaping jaws of wild beasts with no less pleasure than those which painters and sculptors show by imitation; and in an old woman and an old man he will be able to see a certain maturity and comeliness; and the attractive loveliness of young persons he will be able to look on with chaste eyes; and many such things will present themselves, not pleasing to every man, but to him only who has become truly familiar with nature and her works.

Book 3,

Meditation of Marcus Aurelius

A Few Hold On and Move On

It is not in the nature of man--nor of any living entity--to start out by giving up, by spitting in one's own face and damning existence; that requires a process of corruption whose rapidity differs from man to man. Some give up at the first touch of pressure; some sell out; some run down by imperceptible degrees and lose their fire, never knowing when or how they lost it. Then all of this vanish in the vast swamp of their elders who tell them persistently that maturity consists of abandoning one's mind; security, of abandoning one's values; practicality, of losing self-esteem. Yet a few hold on and move on, knowing that that fire is not to be betrayed, learning how to give it shape, purpose and reality. But whatever their future, at the dawn of their lives, men seek a noble vision of man's nature and of life's potential.

New York, May 1968,

Ayn Rand

A Sip of Tea

Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.

The Book of Tea,
Kakuzo Okakura

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Our Mistakes Are What Make Our Fate

Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate,
without them what would shape our life?
Perhaps if we never go off course, we would never fall in love, have friends, or be who we are.
After all, time changes, people come in your life, people go...
But it's comforting to know, the ones that you love are always in your heart.
And if you're very lucky, a cab ride a way.

Sex and The City,
Carrie Bradshaw

Successful Communication

When people share their thoughts, they commonly listen to each other's opinions rather then throwing information to each other. In other words, successful communication depends on how well we listen, rather than how well we push our opinions on the person seated before us.

Kenya Hara

Judging and Being Judged

People look at you and they judge. Whether it is intentionally or not, we do it. We look up and we look down on people: fun - boring, smart - stupid, rich - poor, fat - skinny, ...
People look down on you, but so what? Aren't we looking down on people as well?
People look up to you, but so what? Everything is impermanence. Our life is like a constantly rotating wheel. One day you're on top, the other you may be on the bottom.

Realizing this gives a new level of awareness towards life. We're judged and we judge. If we look at it in different way, isn't life fair after all?


I got to thinking about 'fate', that crazy concept that were not really responsible for the course our lives take, that it's all predestined written in the stars.
Maybe that explains why if you live in the city, where you can't even see the stars, your love life tend to be a little more random, and even if our every hug, every kiss, every heartache is pre-ordered from some cosmic catalogue, can we still take a wrong step and wonder off our own personal milky way?
I couldn't help but wonder, can you make a mistake and lose you 'fate'?"

Sex and the City,

Carrie Bradshaw

Loathe Reality

When I look back on my life, it's not that I don't want to see things exactly when they happened, it's just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way, and truthfully the lie of it all was much more honest because I invented it. Clinical psychology tells us arguably that trauma is the ultimate killer. Memories are not recycled like atoms and particles in quantum physics, they can be lost forever. It's sort of like my past is an unfinished painting, and as the artist of that painting, I must fill in all the ugly holes and make it beautiful again.
It's not that I'm being dishonest. It's just that I loathe reality.

The opening line of Mary the Night,
Lady Gaga

You Can't Not to Love

You know that it's true, that it has become a fact, but it is just so difficult to accept it.
"Why?" you asked, "Why does it have to be me?"
"What have I done wrong?"
"Why am I the one that have to suffer?"
The questions keep coming to your head and you, not knowing nothing's wrong, blame yourself for everything.
Why is it so painful to let go of something that you don't even own?
... or what? What can it be?

It's nothing too difficult to realize, some of us just have it more than others.
You care ..., sometimes a little too much. You love and you feel too easily. You're a fool who do not know how to safeguard you heart.
You'll learn, slowly, how to feel less heartache over time. You'll learn, but you can't, deep down in you heart you know it, not to love.

The Superior Man

Confucius said,
'The superior man has nine things which are subjects with him of thoughtful consideration.
In regard to the use of his eyes, he is concerned to see clearly.
In regard to the use of his ears, he is concerned to hear distinctly.
In regard to his countenance, he is concerned that it should be benign.
In regard to his demeanor, he is concerned that it should be respectful.
In regard to his speech, he is concerned that it should be sincere.
In regard to his doing of business, he is concerned that it should be reverently careful.
In regard to what he doubts about, he is concerned to question others.
When he is angry, he thinks of the difficulties (his anger may involve him in).
When he sees gain to be got, he thinks of righteousness.

Book 16, Chapter 10,
The Analects of Confucius


It's like a disease, a sickness, the anxiety of getting it right. It's excruciating to see flaw. It kills to have no capability to achieve perfection.
How can you walk out the door knowing the shoelaces are not tied equally to the same length, or at least with 1 cm deviation? You can't! What would people think of you? That you just get out of the house in a hurry because you were rea
ding late the night before, hence unable to wake up? That you are a person of carelessness that just too arrogant to care about a small thing such as shoelace?
But it's just shoelace! Nobody care except for yourself!

How you wish you can just see the doctor, prescribed medicine, consumed, and in a few days, healed...
But do you?
Is it a sin to desire to have absolutely nothing that is wrong?
Is it unacceptable to pay attention to the details?

The Time Past

I thought of the time past... And the memories it left behind.
Do you, like me, still remember the cute little girl who sat beside you during the coloring class at the kindergarten?
Or the smart boy who scored perfect during the maths class? Or even the geek who memorized every single dates on the historical events in history lesson?
I wonder what happened to them.
I used to have friends, it pains

 me to even type this, that I would always meet during lunch break at the school canteen. We would gossip about everything.
It's not because that we had forgotten each other that we lost contact, it is because of the less merciful circumstances.
We live and we move on. It's no one's fault.
Along the way, we meet new people and we learn different side of ourselves. We grow.

When the day come, when I finally meet those old friends of mine, I realize that the girl was not as cute or the guy was not as smart as she and he used to be. How funny has the table turned?
It really is fascinating this memory, bitter sweet it taste when I think of it. There is a reason why memory should stay as it is, a memory. Just like old friends should stay as old friends, never new, never current.

People come and people go, some changed our lives, some were changed by us, no matter how small or subtle, we did it to each other.
But I believe those who really matter will stay in our lives forever. Those people are stubborn sons (or daughters) of bitches who won't bulge even when you try to kick them out. Those people are here to stay. We should know who are those people because we are those people as well.


' As one person remarked, "A good question is greater than the most brilliant answer," and that is true. A good question is one that touches Realization; it touches Order, whereas an answer is very fragmentary in comparison to it. I never really got to Architecture by simply taking convenient things; it was through the unfamiliar that I learned and realized what architecture really was. '

Louis Kahn


"Avoid using colors! None of you can handle it." he said, more than three years ago. His words haunted most of his students ever since, for they had become a dictum of our architectural design. I like such teacher with strong opinion, someone you find excitement in agreement over disagreement.

I observed people who are dictated by such rule and gave up on the exploration of colors. They are good

 listeners and followers, they do not question. Hence, the rule shackles their creativity.

I observed people who are not bothered by the rule. They are inspiring, but they are fools. They are not bothered by the rule because they did not listen and pay attention.

I observed people who are constantly questioning the rule.
Why were we told not to use colors? Why can't we handle colors?
These people are generally slower but they are the people who will excel in the long run.

Three Types of Intelligence

During my three years of architectural learning, I met all sort of interesting people: weird, wacky, quirky, innocent, banal, fun, shocking, crazy, quiet, reserved, conservative, and any adjectives I can fine from the Urban Dictionary. They are all talented in their own way and gifted if you just pay enough attention to find it.

There are three types of intelligence I observe along these three ye
ars: the smart type, the creative type, and the genius.

The smart are those who are capable to solve problem. They are, I think, the most appreciated in the field and can easily adjust themselves to most working situation. I think they are the hard-workers.

The creative are those are capable to create problem. I like this kind of people, they are able to stimulate thoughts and see things that has never been observed before. Of course, when I said 'create problem', it doesn't mean problem like spilling coffee on carpet floor or playing lousy music when others trying to work. The problem here is intelligent problem. What is that? If I would have known it, I would be a creative, wouldn't I?

The genius are those who are capable to create and to solve problem. At first, I thought they are the combination of smart and creative, but I'm having a second thought of it now. I think they are the people who lives inside their head, their bodies are just a vehicle for them to carry their head around. The geniuses are not so easy to detect because when they create problem, it won't be obvious, and when they solve problem, it won't be your problem they are solving.

So, which type are you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Happiness of Fish

Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling along the dam of the Hao Waterfall when Zhuangzi said, "See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That's what fish really enjoy!"

Huizi said, "You're not a fish — how do you know what fish enjoy?"

Zhuangzi said, "You're not me, so how do you know I don't know what fish enjoy?"

Huizi said, "I'm not you, so I certainly don't know what you know. On the other hand, you're certainly not a fish — so that still proves you don't know what fish enjoy!"

Zhuangzi said, "Let's go back to your original question, please. You asked me how I know what fish enjoy — so you already knew I knew it when you asked the question. I know it by standing here beside the Hao."

Autumn Floods,
by Zhuangzi

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Room Outside

Once in awhile, I would allow myself to indulge in a dream. To dream, one needs an approval, for a dream is not a daydream. A daydream comes and goes naturally, spontaneously and almost subconsciously out of our desire. A dream requires a decision, and therefore, an approval, from at least oneself.

Today, at this moment, my dream, as it usually does, sprouts out of the short, transient daydream.

The image was a house-not-yet, or perhaps I should say: the non-image was a house-not-yet. This non-image of a house-not-yet is beginning of an idea: a dream.
There was only outside which is inside, finished with clean white glossy tiles was the landscape. It was breezy and surprisingly comforting atmosphere on a sunny afternoon. Enclosed by the surrounding trees and shaded by the overhang, I walked towards the white washed wall canvasing the dark grey shadows of the trees, rustling in response to the wind.
The door appeared as I approached. The wooden knob was round and the door, too, was of wood. I turned the knob clockwise, the door swing out. I was inside which is outside, the room was brighter than the before I enter. I closed my eyes then opened slowly to adjust to a strong ray of light from the front and above. It was glaring.
As my sight stabilized, I saw the room clearly, brightly lit, for the first time. The floors, the ceiling and the walls were grey, rough grey screed finished. The amazing thing was, the room was surrounded by weeds: the ilalang. And as I look above me, the skies are blue and clearer than the outside. The room was outside.
I walked down a few steps to the lake inside the room. The water was clear blue, sparkling the sunlight as the wind breezed the surface of the lake.

It was certainly a nice dream, I thought to myself on lazy afternoon in the office.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ideas Come Naturally

Thank you. It’s a wonderful moment, of course, to get such a prize. There was a journalist, a couple of weeks ago back in Switzerland, asking me: “Now that you’re getting the biggest prize in architecture, will this change your life?” Then I said, “Of course not.” And then I added, “Maybe, I don’t know.” Maybe something will change, but I would like to say it wouldn’t. So, I’m a little bit older now—a couple of weeks older—and something has changed a little bit. Let me try to explain.

As you just heard, when I was a boy, there was no architecture. There were architects. Some of them my father liked, some of them he didn’t like. But architecture didn’t exist. Only later looking back I asked myself, was there architecture in my life? At first I thought, “I don’t see anything.” Perhaps just our house… But architecture? A school? I grew up in a village, in a town five kilometers outside of the city of Basel. So, I looked around, and there was not much. Keep in mind that this is me later looking back. And then all of a sudden, one Saturday evening, we took the little train and went to the movies. Then I started to remember there were all these movie theatres in the streets, and they had a beautiful kind of feeling. They had a beautiful feeling when you got in. There was a really marvelous world of kitsch, really marvelous. And when you went down to the bathroom, the colors were yellow and black. And then all of a sudden, I realized there were this and that, and the balustrades, which had polka dots—polka dot kind of holes—and so on. So, I imagined that this must have been architecture. It was something special. And then later, I remembered that once a year we went to a monastery, a baroque church, nearby. And there were monks singing Gregorian chants in this beautiful Baroque church. Architecture. And then—this was the best—at the end of the service, the family always went down into the rocks, and you came to a very small chapel built or excavated in the rocks. There were a lot of candles and those typical smells and all these things. Architecture! Architectural atmosphere! So, I was glad to discover it. There are other things, of course. But I was glad to discover there was architecture in my youth. I just didn’t know it.

A little bit later—10 years or 15 years—all of a sudden I decided that I wanted to become a real architect, which was sort of a lonely decision in the kitchen. And I started to do my work. I started to enter competitions. I won a competition. I did my first two buildings. The two buildings started to grow. And I remembered at the time we looked at these two buildings, Annalisa and I. I got really depressed. It was terrible. I saw the buildings, and I could see the models of the buildings. This was terrible. I could hear the architectural discussion of the time in my buildings. This was the last time that this should happen to me. The last time that I’m not being myself.

So what is this being myself? It is interesting that in these buildings, which gave me this headache, heart ache, there were things I liked, such as things that did not come from a magazine or from a discussion that I can talk about with somebody. Rather, this is me! What is this “me”? Of course, I don’t know exactly. But I can try to explain a little about the process of what I feel when this happens, when I have the feeling “this is me.” Maybe those of you who play tennis, you know. You have to concentrate on the ball. If you start to think just for a moment, “Oh, my friend is looking at how I play,” then you are lost, right? You have to keep this total concentration on what you want to do. This is one thing. The other thing is you have to be loose. Now, I’m talking about myself. I should say I have to be loose. I go to the place. I listen to the client. I walk around. I hang around. I’m not going to do research.

When I start to do research, I’m really bad. This I know from studying. No research. You are just hanging out, listening, feeling, having the place resonate a little bit. And then all of a sudden, ideas come naturally. I don’t know when and where. I think this is a very natural process. Everybody—all of you, all of us—we experience this. And what I discovered was that when I have these feelings, it is like being a boy again. All of a sudden, I think this is me when I was 10 years or 12 years old. I’m dreaming. I’m there and something comes to me, but it’s not, of course, na├»ve dreaming. Everything, which is part of my biography, is there. But it’s not there as a research product or as reference material. It went into me, as part of my life. Then it comes out from somewhere—from my emotions or whatever, my feelings.

So, I’m at the same place as at the time when I experienced architecture as a boy without knowing it. This is what I love. These beginnings, these moments of the beginning. And then comes the really hard task when I have to take care that nobody destroys my first image. Because, as you know, we’re doing a job as architects. We are surrounded by politics, by laws, by money, by clients who have weak moments, and all these things. Sometimes people want to take away or harm my image, my baby. So, this needs a little bit of persistence. Maybe that’s where my reputation comes from that I’m a stubborn guy, which I’m not, of course.

As I get older, I think I got some kind of a… I’m sort of secure that I can do this—be a boy, and in being a boy and dreaming, doing something. Then I say, “When I like it, you will like it, too, because I’m not so special.” Now comes this moment when I get this prize. And I think now, and I start to feel that dreaming becomes even easier. Maybe I can. You help me to go on dreaming even stronger. Thank you.

Pritzker Prize 2009 Ceremony Acceptance Speech,
by Peter Zumthor

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Billie Holiday, A Glass of Bourbon, and An Imaginary Cigar

I'm feeling drunk and absolutely good.
Looking at the time on my computer screen, 2:24 AM, taking another sip of a glass of Bourbon, closing my eyes, I imagine myself smoking a cigar with Billie Holiday's The Very Thought of You  playing in the background.

It's a perfect night with myself.

I used to be very comfortable being with myself, half a year ago, before I met all the new friends from the Coffee Session. I felt good around them, I feel at home. I miss my friends. Over the few months ahead after I made those new friends, I guess I started to get used to their companion.
I am finally 'sociable'.

Then, when I'm back to Batam, I am in pain. I forgot to be comfortable with myself, the only relation I have been dedicated to for the past 20 years of my life. How could I do that to myself, I asked. Until tonight, I didn't realize how much I miss this, how much I miss myself...

I closed my eyes as I took another sip of Bourbon. How wonderful the music of Billie Holiday that had been accompanying me as I write and drink. How perfect this moment is.

I'm still a bit drunk, but I'm not sure whether it's the Bourbon that caused me so or the moment with the love of my life: myself, or perhaps, it's Billie Holiday.