Reggy Widjaya: Jakartan Architect

Reggy Widjaya was born and grew up in Semarang, Central Java. After earning a degree in architecture at Tarumanagara University in 1994 and a Masters in architecture at Khatolieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, he worked for 20 years in the field. In 1997, Reggy and three other architects took over a friend’s garage and established TETRA (“four” in Greek) that grew into an award-winning architectural and interior consultancy company. In 2007, he received the “Indonesian Architectural Construction Award.” Reggy is a member of the Association of Indonesian Architects (IAI) and ASEAN ARCHITECT.


Did your upbringing shape the work you do now?

I grew up in a big old house that gave me an appreciation of the natural wisdom of vernacular architecture. As a kid, drawing and sketching were always enjoyable and these interests carried on into my professional life.


How would you describe your architectural style?

Contemporary Vernacular. In 2015, I wrote a book A Small Step on the Journey of the Evolution of Architecture, that laid out my ideas of what architecture should accomplish. I’ve learned that design should always be approached in multiple ways. Western designs are not always appropriate for Indonesia. Western oriented concepts should blend with eastern oriented concepts, regional identity and sustainable development.


Can you give some examples?

Indonesia is tropical archipelago where humidity is a big problem. Using building materials and windows in a house building that do not make allowances for the oppressiveness of local weather and environment will cause health issues and could even make the interior of a structure uninhabitable. Also when designing the façade of a commercial building in Indonesia a number of circumstances have to be taken into consideration: window canopy, building height, type of glass used, etc.


What are the challenges in designing environmentally sustainable buildings?

Added building costs. The initial costs for a building that uses green technologies and materials is very high. Unlike Bandung in West Java, there are no tax breaks or free credits on building permits for green buildings in Jakarta. In spite of this, I always encourage the developers and owners of a prospective project to get their building certified with the Green Building Council. It is beneficial to society and will save them money in the long run.


What inspired you to take up a career in architecture?

I started learning architecture when I was at Kolese Loyola high school. One of my teachers inspired me to see the beauty and art in buildings such as the Chapel inRonchamp by Le Corbusier in France. After studying in Europe, I realized that I wanted to become a professional. Starting out in a garage, my company TETRA now has been operating for 20 years. We now have a workshop, a storage facility, a two-story office building and the number of our employees has increased from two to 160.


What are the advantages of basing your offices in Jakarta?

Since most of our focus is on commercial buildings, the majority of our clients and developers are corporations based in Jakarta. From our work with business owners, we have learned a lot about many aspects of efficiency and effectiveness in construction. We also work on projects outside Jakarta. A few years ago we won the competition for designing the new parliament building in East Timor. We’ve also done many projects in Bali, mostly hotels and villas. Our most recent is the Fame Hotel on Sunset Road in south Bali.


What ways can Jakarta fight urban sprawl?

Urban sprawl occurs in all the major cities of the world. Despite having carried out many comprehensive research studies and the passing (but not enforcement) of numerous regulations, nothing has been substantially accomplished by previous city governments in Jakarta. The biggest problem of this megalopolis is in fact political and bureaucratic corruption. Only with a strong, strict and fair government will Jakarta ever be able to solve its problems.


Do you teach?

I taught at Jakarta’s University of Tarumanagara during my career. Though I quit my job as a teacher in 2003, I continue to share my knowledge and still volunteer to speak on campuses and in seminars.


What architects do you most admire?

The Indonesian architect YB Mangunwijaya. I also admire the work of the Spaniard Santiago Calatrava. Both of these architects brilliantly combine the techniques and styles of vernacular architecture, contemporary engineering and innovative environmentally-friendly designs.


What is your ultimate goal?

I’ve always dreamed that someday I will design a truly green building that has zero impact on the environment, yet incorporates all the wisdom of native vernacular architecture. I dream of making TETRA one of Indonesia’s leading innovators in architecture and a pioneer in the country’s architectural green revolution.


Which of all the buildings you’ve designed do want to be remembered for?

I am proudest of those works that have made my clients happy. One such building is Trisula Center, a small 5-storey office building in West Jakarta. Although the tallest building I’ve ever worked on is 60 floors high, this little gem of an office building has a unique quality and incorporates efficiency in a way that is professionally very satisfying for me.


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