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Welcome to the Pandemic-friendly Home


JAKARTA  When architects Sri Rahma Apriliyanthi and Vinsensius Gilrandy Santoso designed their version of a pandemic-friendly home, they veered away from one that ‘hides’ people indoors in a hostile environment, and over-relies on technology. Instead, they dug deep into Indonesia’s age-old traditions of being connected to the world that they are a natural part of.

This conscious deviation from current ways of living, against the backdrop of how COVID-19 is forcing the world to do a reset of unsustainable lifestyles, is what got the two young Indonesian architects the top prize in a recent Asia-wide competition for designing a dream home in the post-pandemic world.

‘Atidesa’, which comes from Indonesian words ‘hati desa’ or ‘heart of the village’, is the name for the home that the two 24-year-old architects and friends conceptualized for the design challenge open to young architects across Asia.

“Atidesa is designed around the idea that we have to redefine the function of space,” Vinsensius Gilrandy Santoso, one of the two winning architects, said from his hometown in Solo, Central Java province.

Indeed, ‘space’ has acquired a new meaning in the COVID-19 era, given the focus on physical distancing, stay-at-home measures and restrictions on mobility as a precaution in a public health emergency.

The two architects also brought in the idea of a single home as a community of sorts by itself, and part of a circular-economy lifestyle that uses shared resources and contributions by neighbors.

In truth, a home is a setting that has a mix of roles to play in our lives, Santoso explains. “A home is not only a residence as it was before the coronavirus outbreak, but also a place where residents can work, exercise, do farming, and at the same time maintain social relations with neighbors,” he pointed out.

He adds that the pandemic is pushing architects to rethink how design has to adapt to the reality of health emergencies, since COVID-19 is unlikely to be the last such crisis. People now need to able to have the option to do at home the activities they used to do elsewhere – such as work, study, recreation.

In keeping with this vision, Atidesa is a stilt house, made of a mix of concrete, brick, wood and bamboo, with mezzanines (one has a hammock) and a balcony. The two architects had in mind a young couple as Atidesa’s occupants.

People need to able to have the option to do at home the activities they used to do elsewhere – work, study, recreation.

   “These (features) are meant to encourage the residents to do light exercises and move their bodies to ease the stress from working from home,” said Sri Rahma Apriliyanthi, who is based in Bandung, West Java province.

Atidesa design

This home is called ‘Atidesa’, which comes from the Indonesian words for ‘heart of the village’.

In May, the team’s entry won among the 186 designs submitted to the contest. It is the first such challenge organized by the Arcasia Committee on Young Architects, which is a regional network of architects in Asia, and the Yogyakarta Young Architect Forum Work From Home Workshop 2020.

Reflecting on what she called a surprise win, Apriliyanthi said: “Almost all finalists used futuristic technology, including mechanical air cleaner, anti-bacterial materials, and modular systems to store water for daily use.”

Atidesa’s integration of the elements of exercise and wellness into its structure impressed the competition’s jury, one of whose members, Japanese architect Mikako Oshima, praised the design for successfully presenting “architecture as a solution for light exercise and not just providing a gym room”.

The entries in the design challenge, which was open to architects and architecture students, came from 10 countries in Asia, from China and India to Malaysia and the Philippines.

In designing Atidesa, Santoso and Apriliyanthi wanted the occupants and their neighbors to practice the principles of permaculture too. They provided for a food barn and a garden, among others.

“A circular economy is essentially extracting maximum value from resources in use, including by using the reduce-and-reuse cycle. We do that by providing a food barn for urban farming and a livestock farm and a garden to filter rainwater for use in the food barn,” Apriliyanthi said.

Santoso says the food barn and garden would be jointly managed by the resident couple and their neighbors, and their harvests are meant to help meet this community’s needs. “The idea is the young couple can meet their own needs during a pandemic and at the same time work with neighbors to ensure that they too have enough food supply,” Santoso said.

The spirit of ‘gotong royong’ or working together to achieve a desired and usually better result, as well as ‘lumbung’ or a having communal food stock or food production hub, inspired their work with Atidesa, Santoso explains. These traditions are still practiced in the rural villages around Indonesia, a country of more than 273 million people.

“It (the design) was also meant to be a criticism for people living in the country’s big cities, especially those who lead individualistic lifestyles and pay no attention to people around them,” he said.

Atidesa also has an open-air space where the homeowners can mingle with their neighbors with safe physical distancing.

“Our message is clear, that adaptation to any pandemic, including the COVID-19 outbreak, is not segregation but collaboration,” said Santoso. “Excessive fear (in a pandemic) will only cause us to lose our sense of direction and make unwise decisions. Our fears should be balanced with knowledge.”

Likewise, he believes that the excessive use of and reliance of technology, despite its uses, can erode connections among people. “Technological disruption has put our human values to test,” he said. “Face-to-face encounters are now being replaced with online encounters using technology, and so with other daily activities including school, office work, and shopping.

Technology is meant to be a helpful daily tool, Santoso observed, but “we should not allow it to use us, by creating consumptive behavior or culture and (having people) avoiding face-to-face communication with others.”

Sri Rahma Apriliyanthi (right) and Vinsensius Gilrandy Santoso

Winning architects Santoso and Apriliyanthi

At the same time, the pandemic has also increased dependence on digital technology, such as in the use of online venues. Technology – Santoso and Apriliyanthi had long chats over WhatsApp and Zoom while creating Atidesa – also helped them complete their design entry.

“Our biggest challenge was – we live in two different locations and have different schedules,” recalled Santoso. His hometown in Solo, east of Jakarta, is some 540 km away where Apriliyanthi lives in Bandung. “It was difficult to schedule an online discussion. When we finally had our first online meeting, we had only 10 days left,” Santoso added.

“COVID-19 made it impossible for us to travel, so we did everything online. We had video calls and discussions at different times for 10 consecutive days,” he  chuckled. (END/Edited by Johanna Son/100620)

*This feature is part of the post-COVID-19 ‘Sustainability Series’ of the Reporting ASEAN programme. 

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