ANDRA MATIN: A SILENT SHOUT
Matin’s diverse portfolio can be found in many different forms, across the equally varied islands that make up his home country of Indonesia.
From elevated private residences to revitalised public parks; from striking galleries and restaurants to contemplative places of worship — he finds strength in pockets of quiet beauty and beauty in unapologetic shows of strength.
Wade through the increasingly touristic mania of Seminyak, Bali, cut a left down a seemingly endless driveway enshrouded in shrubbery and artfully minimal event posters and you’ll arrive at two of Matin’s most recognizable buildings. Each one grows – almost bursts - from their tropical surroundings in a way that is both statement-making and, somehow, utterly natural.
The Potato Head Beach Club is a colosseum of repurposed, antique shutters that achieve a harmonious balancing act with the mid-century European furniture inside. Katamama Hotel is a towering ode to its surroundings, fashioned from over 1.5 million, locally-handmade bricks into the most serenely brutal of forms.
When viewing his buildings and interiors en masse, and the excitement they inspire, there’s an urge to make big, bold declarations about Matin’s talents. However, to do so would be a disservice to his level of clarity and conviction in the specific path he has chosen to take.
I see myself as an Indonesian architect... one who needs to contribute to my country and society in whatever capacity I can.
It is when talking about the specifically Indonesian architecture that inspires him, or evoking youthful memories of his tropical surroundings that Matin becomes most talkative. Indeed, Matin’s unique sensibility and awareness of forms seems to have been evolving from a young age.
AM HOUSE, JAKARTA, INDONESIA
He traces his initial interest in architecture back to one pivotal moment at “seven or eight years old,” visiting his grandmother’s house in Purwakarta, a small town in West Java, Indonesia. He conjures this particular memory through floating, fragmentary sentences; their unexpected yet considered structuring build into something wholly beautiful, in much the same way that his own architecture comes together.
My grandmother’s home was a traditional elevated house with a wooden floor, with an imperfect construction that created irregular gaps between the wood. I ran at random directions inside the house which created a creaky sound on the floor.
My mum told me to sit nicely to avoid more noise from the flooring. So I peeked through and that’s when I saw the shadows underneath, and felt the breeze from the gaps. I think that was my very first encounter with architecture; with light and shadow.
This formative instance led to a deep-seated fascination with “contrasts”, as Matin puts it. A driving, investigative preoccupation with “dark and bright, tall and low, wide and narrow…” As he grew older he came to realise that these tensions were in many ways the building blocks of architecture, which became his passion. Upon finishing his studies, he spent nine years working and learning under the guidance of Hendra Hadiprana, quickly rising to a prominent senior position within the esteemed architect’s firm. Then, in 1998, he founded the Andra Matin Studio, through which Matin and his team still carry out their work to this day.IH HOUSE, BANDUNG, INDONESIA
Those tensions that first fascinated Matin all those years ago still sit at the heart of his output. Dark and light. Internal and external. Natural and manufactured. Strength and beauty. Form and function. Architecture is often talked about in terms of these binaries, each duo presented on an oppositional scale. Is it more one or more the other? What Matin achieves in such understated style is not simply a middle-ground, but a blurring of the scale itself – a liminal space in which such qualities are no longer oppositional but complementary. His bricks and concrete somehow draw surrounding plant-life into even sharper focus; deep, dark tones explode into something entirely new when exposed to Indonesia’s beating sunshine and cathartic rainfall.
Beauty can be achieved through many aspects [of the work], but it’s not always in the way you initially expect.
As someone who believes in evolution not revolution, I always try to design using a very simple method that emphasises functionality and relationships.
For instance, to me, the uneven color and moss that grows between bricks is beauty – one defined by materiality, the Balinese locality and a monolithic appearance which makes one focus more on the spatial quality.
Matin has talked in the past about how important it is in his process for him to consider and understand deeply the spatial elements that will be at play in any new project. It goes some way to explaining the striking and unforgettable ways in which he brings his ideas to life. Matin tends to describe his work as above – “monolithic” – or, more broadly, as a particularly geo-specific form of modernism: “tropical contemporary,” as he puts it. It’s interesting as well to see how others attempt to articulate such singular structures.I&L HOUSE, SOUTH TANGERANG, INDONESIA
‘Brutalist’ is the most obvious and oft-used term that one sees when reading about his buildings, something that Matin confirms is not intentional but does not reject completely as a descriptor. It is a word that jars a little however, given that Brutalism as an architectural movement is so intrinsically linked to English-speaking countries in the mid-twentieth century and European communist countries from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s.
A building such as Katamama though, for example, is more than anything a love letter to Bali: its Hindu temples and old-world craftsmanship. “It was inspired by a visit to the village of Tenganan in east Bali,” says Matin. The Balinese utilised their natural resources to make exposed brick building facades using such a simple but wonderful method…. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening so much anymore.” And as for its distinctive silhouette stretching out against its tropical backdrop?
I ended up designing in horizontal lines to emphasise the feel of humble Bali. The ‘monolith’ shape allows other elements to stand out.
Good architecture should create memorable experiences... modernity is an important way of marking what we experience at a certain moment... [and] beauty is something which reflects honesty.
Once again you realise that Matin – a man who dedicates a substantial amount of time to nurturing a new generation of Indonesian architects when he could be furnishing his reputation abroad – finds true reward in showcasing the beauty of other places, people, processes. His buildings are lens through which everything else is illuminated.
TEXT: James Darton
PHOTOGRAPHY: Courtesy of andramatin
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