Danny Wicaksono: Building Impacts Through Architecture

Constructing more than buildings.
Words by

Danny Wicaksono is known as the only Indonesian architect who managed to leave a trace of his name on Comité International des Critiques d'Architecture, a non-profit organisation of international architecture critics based in Paris as well as the co-founder of an architecture studio, Studiodasar, and an architectural magazine Jong Arsitek!.

Known for his works that are based on consciousness of environment, some of Danny’s most-known works are Anjung Salihara, an art compound managed and curated by Salihara community, Jatibening House, Minimal House, and Anyar Market.

His architectural journey was started by an “instinct of survival” and continued by the passion to bring greater impacts on society, by constructing not just buildings, but also a quality living for Indonesians across the country.

How did you first discover the world of architecture?

To be honest, I am not sure how. I know I wanted to be architect when I was 17. The reason was, I wanted to have an education that allows me to work on my own, without being dependent to other companies. At the time, it was the time of the great economic crisis, so I saw a lot of people being laid-off from work. I didn’t want that to happen to me. As for why architecture, as I said, I am not sure.

Born and living in a city like Jakarta, I have never experienced any architecture that moved me or heightened my perception and appreciation towards architecture.

Maybe it was purely a sense of survival? I need to find a skill to help me survive this life, and I happened to choose architecture.

How do you perceive architecture as a way to bring social and environmental impacts to society?

I think if one wanted to have this kind of awareness, architects have to be aware about their position in society. That they are first are citizens before they are architects, citizens who have specific knowledge about creating and building environment, and because of this, there should be a sense of obligation for architects to “donate” parts of their time and creative mind, to raised the living quality of their community and people around them. I think with this perspective more architects can have impacts in society, in more diverse ways.

What is your philosophy in building your studio, studiodasar and architecture in general?

In studiodasar, we operated by dividing our projects to three different types: 1. Commissioned projects, projects that were asked for us to do; 2. Regenerik, where we re-think/re-design architecture that are already considered “generic” in Indonesia; 3. Prometheus projects, these are projects that are education related: writing essays, curating exhibitions, translating english architectural texts to Indonesian language, etc.

In terms of architectural design, I always try to react to contexts and problems that are surrounding every architectural projects. Different projects have different contexts that can be problems or advantages. I try to react to these situations.

Also, every time I design, I always think first about how a building works: its circulation, people’s behaviour, what people see and experience every time they are in a certain space.

Second, it is how the building is built. This helps me to find the best method of construction for each project. Third, it is how the building looks, so they look good, at least according to us.

What is the project that you are most proud of and why?

My first project: Anjung Salihara, because of the client and the design. The client was a poet and journalist, who was 40 years older than me, yet he gave me complete freedom to design the building. At the time I was 27 and haven’t built anything.

The design was built exactly the way I wanted it to be. My take was on mid-rise tropical architecture, that was built on a reasonable budget for Indonesia’s context.

The second one is a low-budget house that is currently under construction. The construction cost is around 20.000USD or around 28.000 SGD.

How do you perceive the progress and impacts of contemporary architecture, specifically in Indonesia?

I think the past 3-4 years have been a very exciting time in Indonesian architecture. I have never seen such huge energy from Indonesian architects. Architects are working on projects, architecture events are everywhere, everybody just seems to always work and have new projects. But I think we need more perspectives, fresh new ideas, and approaches to change our immediate surroundings. Ideas that can be applied or have more impacts for more people.

What is your future plan for your next architectural works?

I wish to design a living space for Indonesia. A “city” if you like to call it that way. To rethink our living space in this country. A realistic one, not a “futurist-utopian” design. A “realistic-utopian” idea of a living space for Indonesians. This is how I like to say it.

I also hope I can design a library one day.

I also want to write a book, and also, hopefully, I can make an architecture school before I die.

Related Articles