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Andra Matin

Katamama is designed by leading Indonesian architect Andra Matin, in conjunction with PTT family. The renowned architect worked with PTT family before on projects such as the internationally recognised Potato Head Beach Club, amongst others.

We caught up with Matin to look at how the relationship started and gain insight into this uniquely designed hotel.

PTT Family is very fortunate to work with you- in fact, it’s been a long lasting, fruitful collaboration for years. How had this relationship started?

When I first met the PTT Family guys - Jason [Gunawan] introduced me to Ronald [Akili] - they were planning to open a restaurant, that would also be some sort of a library, or maybe a library that would look like a restaurant. I love books, so I got very excited. Unfortunately, we couldn’t turn this plan into reality for a bunch of reasons. A bit later Ronald came up with an idea of a park: a really nice urban park. I’m a fan of walking - when traveling I walk just about everywhere - so I agreed right away. But we were not fortunate here either: the governor of the city wished we finish the project before he resigned, and that was just not possible. So 3 became a lucky number for us: a restaurant project at Pacific Place in Jakarta. At that time, Ronald’s wife, Sandra, went to London to study in culinary school. Ronald decided to open a restaurant where she could practice when she returned - that’s how the idea of the first Potato Head was born.

Potato Head Jakarta is claimed as one of the first bars in the city, and the unique design was a big part of that. How did you come to the idea for it?

I had a 3D plan for Potato Head Jakarta ready, when Jason and I visited a brand new restaurant in Jakarta and realised that our project looked critically similar to it. So we changed the direction of the concept completely. At some point Jason said: ‘Look, I have a collection of antiques, maybe we can use these somehow?’ After this idea popped up, we decided to use as much recycled stuff in the project as possible. For instance, we started using those beautiful old wooden doors and shutters Jason brought - and I quickly realized I wanted them all over the place, on the walls, on the ceiling! Finally, this idea became a central point for the whole design concept of this restaurant.

And the next project?

The next project was a residential complex called Tanah Teduh. Ronald had a plot of land in South Jakarta, which was tricky - 2 hectares of uneven, sloping surface. The land’s original owner’s plan was to cut down all the century-old trees and make the land flat. Happily, Ronald’s decision was to keep the natural curves, save the trees and lakes and build side by side with nature. He wanted a project that would showcase contemporary Indonesian architecture and I was asked to invite my friends to help me with the project, which I did: 9 other architects were working together with me. It took us 4 years to complete 20 houses - quite long, comparing to other similar projects. But it was definitely worth it - I’m so happy with the result, it’s really quite a unique project.

And then came Potato Head Bali…

Yes, yet another unusual task: 4000 sq m. beachfront, where I had to build something that Bali hasn’t seen before. We were making many sketches for the design, but it was just not clicking. Then Ronald went to Rome for his honeymoon and when he came back he said: ‘Hey, I know what I want, an amphitheatre!’ I said: ‘What?!’. But the seed of the concept was already planted. So I tried to rethink Ronald’s idea. I said to myself: ‘Ok, I don’t have to copy the real Colosseum, right? I’ll give it a good twist’.

That’s when you came up with the idea of 1000 antique wooden shutters?

Exactly. We already used them at Potato Head Jakarta, and I just loved it. So we did it again in Bali - and it became our signature. We’ve sourced those doors and shutters from Java, Sulawesi - basically, from all over the country.

Although the Beach Club became an unarguably an iconic building in modern Bali, you’ve decided to build a hotel behind it in a very different style. Why?

I love the idea of a balance. But not like in the classical art or architecture, where the perfect symmetry reigns. I like it when monochrome meets the multi-colours. When a strong vertical line is balanced with a smooth horizontal line. When one dramatic angle compliments another dramatic angle. So my vision of this duo of establishments was based on that kind of balance: where the peaceful five star hotel is paired nicely with the dynamic beach club; they co-exist but also they provide two completely different experiences to the guests. In general, while the beach club was planned as a hip, funky playground, the idea behind The Katamama hotel was to represent Bali. It should feel Balinese, but modern at the same time. The main concept is actually the ‘modern’ architecture of 60s and 70s. It’s very geometrical. And these days, when almost every hotel in Bali is planned with the curved lines, it’s quite unusual.

What else is unique within the hotel?

Well, I didn’t want to make the lobby at the ground level: instead, it’s elevated, so you can see the pool and the landscape from there. To use the ground space I’ve designed the rooms that occupy the lower floor - these are sort of ‘introverted’, with the secluded view to the garden. The general idea was that from every level of the hotel you can see the different angle of a landscape, and the suites sit at the top floor. Every rooftop suite has a garden in the centre of the room - and the natural sunlight, which I personally love so much, is coming through the glass rooftop. That’s pretty unique.

There is also a story behind those naturally coloured bricks that you use for the facade?

That kind of bricks is normally used for the holy temples in Bali. Ronald and myself explored old temples in the traditional villages of the island, and finally picked the type of bricks we loved. It is important to understand that in modern Indonesia it’s very uncommon to use a mono-material for the construction. Generally clients wish to use more of everything, this wood, that stone, those tiles…One material only is considered to be boring. So I’m incredibly glad Ronald shared my vision, when I offered just one single material for this project.

To a Western’s eye, The Katamama’s facade might remind some of the old school European architecture: in a way, it could be an estate, say, in New Castle, England, in 60s- but in a tropical environment. Not that it looks similar aesthetically, but some features do, for sure- like those bricks, etc. Were your trips to Europe a source of inspiration for this project?

It’s probably a coincidence, but on the other hand, I love going to Europe - Netherlands, Brussels, England - observing the architecture and the use of the material. So most probably you are right, and my subconscious played a trick to me.

Do you take the inspiration from the rich Indonesian culture, each area has different traditions and styles of architecture, right?

There is so much to be inspired with. In one of his most recent books ‘Fundamentals’, Rem Koolhaas put together all the roofs from all around the world, and guess what? 75 unique roofs are from Indonesia! Batak, Timor, Toraja - all of them a different! I also enjoy the idea of a traditional elevated house. If you check my projects, you will notice that I always try to incorporate it in my constructions.

You also use lots of ramps instead of the stairs - is that to create some special experience when entering the building or is it solely for the aesthetic purpose?

For me, stairs are like pictures whilst ramp is like a video. Ramp gives the impression of fluidity, whilst steps try to stop you. I use ramps not stairs even in my private house: I love the idea that everything is easily assessable - for old and young, even the small kids with their bicycles.

Talking about modern Indonesia, do yo see any up-and-coming young Indonesian architects?

There is definitely a new wave of talents coming not only from Jakarta but Jogja and Surabaya. As you may know, I’m a founder of the Arsitek Muda Indonesia (Young Architects Of Indonesia): we gather every week and talk about the trends, we let the newcomers critique our new projects, we also made it a habit to invite all the fellow architects to see the freshly submitted projects and be frank about their impression. It’s an evolving community and together we’re growing stronger. The Indo architects are making it into the ‘big world’ - for instance, there was a big exhibition of Indonesian architecture in Frankfurt Architectural Museum this August. Also, about 20 young architects have graduated from my office, and they are all very promising. I keep telling them: remember, establish your own character but don’t forget it should be blended with Indonesian character. Otherwise the architecture in the whole world will become identical, and we don’t want that to happen.