Senin, 08 September 2008

Architecture and Alice in Wonderland Bahasa Indonesia

06 July 2008 writing by Probo Hindarto
This article contains experimental way
(surrealistic story) of thinking
in architecture as well as analytic.

Please feel free to comment

The dawn came back, when I saw the sun eagerly starting his new day. When architects and they whom I knew will never give up for what they believe... Also when other architects gave up to the world that believe in them...

Artwork, pencil and paper + edited with Computer
by Probo Hindarto, June 7th, 2008

Alice find me with her naïf rabbit in the first encounter of adventure, she was the real citizen of the world, who's not died like a greedy merchant.
Nietzche jumps in excitement, he was insane from the beginning. But I was happy he spare a time jumping in my mind, for I am also insane.
Descartes smile very happily; "Gotcha! In the system that we built that you have never realized, has tied you strongly"
Mangunwijaya meditating in his place, watching me deeply... Flashy...

My Encounter with Alice and the Wonderland

It's also boring, when you see them NOT in a state you're hoping to find. When Alice came down the Rabbit hole, I came with her too, as a spirit. Then I also found the amazing falling down the rabbit hole, flying and wondering whether it's going to end somewhere, instead of falling on a top of a roof.

So I came down and fell, after a long-long time of falling, found myself in a passage with doors, hoping to find a way out. Like Alice, I found the key of the rat hole door, by which I was in temptation of the garden of Wonderland. But it's nonsense to tell you, all the thing allegorically happened to me as to Alice, even everything was quite the same.

Then I ask Alice to follow me to my own wonderland, she was not quite amused, as you can see, IT IS THE REAL WORLD.

What I mean by wonderland is something happened inside my mind, related to architecture. I surely take risk to ask anyone to enter this wonderland.

Picture source:

Alice didn't tell me that I should meet things that I don't like in the journey... Or she might have and... yes I realize now, she had. She told me she was crying, when troubles came in her journey. And something which are not necessary happened in a fairy tale, when I took the journey to the old kingdom of Majapahit, that I will tell you after this.

I asked Alice; "Why can't I have the same excitement like you?"

She said; "What are you trying to do? Aren't you satisfied enough with ordinary literature, instead of making surreal fiction literature as mine to describe your experience" and she was moving like a ballet dancer.

"Certainly I'd like to do more things than just telling ordinary story for it will add the excitement" I replied, but yet, I begin to feel my feet moved by an energy, I fall into the world of the old Majapahit kingdom....

It started in a bright shiny morning in the land of the kings of the past. The air was still misty. The brick was still quite wet. Well, it should be, there's no bad air, you know. Bad air is the air of war and hatred. This one is very clear and nice. Alice was with me, and she was doing something else, I thought because she was accustomed to doing things by herself.

The building is huge, called Wringin Lawang, or I suppose the name similar to 'Banyan tree gate' formed as 'candi' or temple in a pair, serving as a gate to housing community. It was a great gate, and very pleasing to enter the inner court of it.

The Wringin Lawang, a gate to housing complex in the kingdom of Majapahit.

Suddenly there were horses with knights, about five Javanese knights came across the road. One of them saw me curiously.

"Where are you from?" he asked in a very old Javanese language. This was supposed because I used orange t-shirt that there was no person ever used the kind of bright color. I used it because I thought it would fit the color of the red brick of the temple buildings in Majapahit.

"I came from the future, Indonesia" I replied. He got down from the horse.

"The king will punish every spy" he said quite loudly. I was trembled, I looked to Alice who found herself with several children inside the temple gate of Wringin Lawang.

Picture of me, at the gate of Wringin Lawang

They say these people still kill people. I could do nothing to help my hands from shaking. But something came out of my mind... one song I remembered, and I begin to sing. Maybe to get rid of the anxiety.

"Du bi du bi du bi du baeeee....
Du bi du bi du bi du baeeeee..."


You are very beautiful.
Red yellow green,
In the sky of blue.

Your Painter is Mighty,
Who would He be?
Creation of the Lord"


Statue of Garuda Vishnu of the ancient Majapahit. (This statue is placed in the museum of Majapahit)

Painting of Vishnu when he fight the giant crocodile and elephant in search of Tirta Amerta, the water of immortality, in the ancient Hindu mithology.
Picture source:

We didn't know where it came from, there was heavy wind in the air, the trees were moving badly, black clouds covered the sky, and there was the bird flying, a very big bird that I believed it was GARUDA, because there was Wisnu/Vishnu on his back.

"Let go of the traveler" Vishnu said in a voice like echoes and ring of bells. "For he is just visiting. Let he find the amusement of the past".

All the knights bowed in front of this mighty figure, Alice hold my hand and we didn't bow to Vishnu, maybe because we are modern people.

The claws of Garuda was so big and it then took me and Alice with his claw and fly to the sky. Vishnu showed the ancient area of Majapahit from the sky. There were many artificial lakes, which were 32 of them in Majapahit. The shape of the lake is rectangle, made of red brick unglued.

The researchers said that the lakes were meant to neutrilize the surrounding temperature as well as maintaining humidity, because the air is quite dry in Majapahit (was) or Mojokerto (now). This shows the sophisticated technology and knowledge of Majapahit. Legends say that The lake was used to throw away the gold plates and spoons after dining with foreign guests.

Click here to use Google Earth to experience the flying through the ancient majapahit area started from Segaran Lake.

- End of surrealistic writing -

Fascination of details

All the ancient ruin in old Majapahit that survive until this moment has a tendency to show details, like all ancient building in Java and Nusantara. Details have become a part of Javanese architecture and inseparable element of buildings.

Fine example, details in Bajangratu Gate Temple, with many symbols made inside relief. Aside of building presence that exist until now with some restoration, the temple is not only attractive from its monumental size and proportion, but also visually attractive with interesting corners even from the nearest distance.

Attractive not only visually appealing, but also attractive because observer can be triggered to understand many visual phenomena, like form, symbols, and details.

Buildings in Majapahit have mystical trace that is incomparable with 'modern' buildings, even the terminology would not be well known in western literature. And to 'experience' the feeling that happens because of the trace, there is no other way than visiting the site and feel the space, the solids and voids.

Valuable lesson from visiting the old sites is seeing and knowing how ancient societies build their building. Visiting the site also help us understand the space that may give inspiration when designing.

Detail as a part of Nusantara (Indonesian) traditional architecture is less used in the euphoria of 'modern' architecture, whereas modern architecture had been declared 'dead' by Jencks, and 'less is more' by Meis Van der Rohe had been 'less is bore' by Venturi. Detail presence in temple buildings become the main power beside the all form of building. This makes detail as an attractive visual pleasure aside of symbolism contained to give more value of historical information through figures.

It is very much a pleasure to know that detail presence is a bridge to continue tradition in modern context. Simply because detail is a part of traditional architecture (especially in Indonesia). And it is a pleasure to explore new architecture technology in detail.

That is why detail use needs to be thought as a step for historical preservation, simply because detail has been a part of traditional architecture. Detail in here is local vocabulary that become a part of modern construction.

This is possible as part of 'infiltration' of traditional architecture inside modern architecture, making aliened ideas as the side effect of modern architecture coming into a new level of postmodernism. Image from detail can be an added value of visual image of building, that will add more value to its observer. This because human is creature with emotion, feeling and subjective memory and a will to interpret space to form future memory.

We can not replace memory of being in a certain place, with seeing picture in books or magazine. Because all sensation related to space will only be perfected if the observer present in the space (like mentioned in the book "Merah Putih Arsitektur Nusantara" or Red White Nusantara Architecture, written by Galih Widjil Pangarsa). Even so, observer's behavior will determine interpretation of architecture object. This will determine whether an observer will appreciate an architecture object or not.

From perception, there might be interest to temple buildings in Majapahit. The reality is, an old building can be more interesting than the new one. This is like comparing an old remain of the Majapahit with new mall building, for instance. Inside a mall, there are interesting objects that may bring amusement, especially because technology has been able to make new architecture 'candies'.

By my experience, architecture and the existing space can trigger an interest to this kind of old architecture. Not like the perception that exist in the presence of space, meaning, symbol, details and other things. Of course, there is a difference of touching a wall that was made centuries ago, compared with modern glass wall. In this case, there is a difference of aesthetic value, and this will determine understanding of architectural object in different context, in other word, the ability to be interested in an architectural object.

In iconography context, there are many vocabularies can be 'seed' to tradition, or without being too extreme, a strong vocabulary of local values.

To bring icon of the past into present time is not impossible, for instance the one done by Renzo Piano with Tjibau Cultural Center, in Noumea, New Caledonia. This iconography brought new context of vernacular Kanak house architecture, creating aesthetic and beautiful new architecture that has a connection with local values.

Photo by Fanny Schertzer, under GNU lisence

Photo by Fanny Schertzer
Under GNU lisence

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

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