Sun, 02 Feb 2003

Nature-inspired home an oasis in the city

Maria Endah Hulupi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

As more people reach out and try to get in touch with nature, they are increasingly incorporating elements of nature into their homes in the ultimate marriage of modern convenience and natural solitude.

Among these people is Joelianto Noegroho, a young executive whose nature-inspired home reflects the search for a sanctuary amid the stress of the capital.

His three-story house, built mainly from wood, stone, glass and steel, stands on a 500-square-meter plot of land in the Permata Buana housing complex in West Jakarta.

"The land is elevated about two meters above street level so, for esthetic reasons, it spares us from using high fences while at the same time we don't sacrifice security considerations," said Idris Samad, the architect.

The main wooden gate leads to the garage and a stone staircase to the right, leading to the house's main entrance. This staircase is located in a beautiful front garden, which radiates a strong tropical atmosphere that blends well with the modern- looking house.

The garden is embellished with different types of palm trees, bamboo and rambling air mancur (fountain) plants, planted along the outer wall, which is made of black candi (temple) stone from Central Java.

Idris separated the garden from the inner court with a curved wooden screen, stretching along the front garden and cutting through a concrete entrance gate at the center of the house.

"It sort of creates a yin and yang effect between the concrete gate and the wooden screen," he said, adding that basically he adopted the concept of form-follows-function for the house.

The curved wooden screen serves as ventilation and shields the inner court from outside eyes. Yet it still enables the house owners to look outside to the street.

Serenity reigns in the inner court, which is a transition area from the area exposed to the public (garden) to the private area (house). The court, embellished only with loose natural stones, appeases the senses and draws the mind away from the scorching heat, heavy traffic and stressful routine before entering the house.

To avoid any impressions of excess, Idris divided the house into three sections -- the left part of the house was designed to accommodate various functions, the right part for bedrooms, while the central part of the house is for the traffic, in this case the staircase.

The architect uses huge openings, doors, windows and glass walls, especially in the living quarters on the ground floor, namely the living/family room, the pantry and the dining room, to enable good ventilation, interaction and to expose these areas to the soothing view of the rear garden or to the small greenhouse at the center of the house.

"It is also an energy-saving strategy because the owners don't need lighting during the day or the air con," he explained.

The house is also differentiated into three zones: the ground floor contains the foyer, a bedroom and the less private living quarters, the basement is for service and a music room (to insulate the noise), while, to ensure privacy, the upper floor is allocated only for two bedrooms.

For the floors, Idris uses unpolished granite for outdoors and polished granite for the interior, ceramic for the living room and parquet for the upper story.

He also used recycled materials like granite and various kinds of timber -- cut and piled neatly -- to build granite and wooden walls in the house.

"Notice the interesting wooden hues of different timbers. I love using recycled materials and love to experiment with them," Idris said, pointing to a wall of piled timbers that also acts as an accent to one of the bedrooms.

The staircase is self-standing exposed concrete, which Idris said was quite a challenge to build. It is equipped with a steel railing and the concrete treads, layered with sonokeling wood, are designed in a narrowing shape to avoid the rigid appearance of rectangular-shaped staircases.

The rear part of the house is a treat for the eyes. There is a terrace in front of a koi pond, with water falling down a high granite wall and flanked by two small gardens.

The terrace is furnished with a set of old rattan chairs from Central Java and lined with old and thick wood used to line train rails.

Sitting on the terrace, the house owners can enjoy the breeze, the rippling sounds of water falling down the granite wall to the fish pond and the tropical view of the rear gardens, which contains tall palm trees and exotic frangipani.

"The house's gardens are an important feature because the owners love gardening, which they said helps untangle their minds from their stressful lives," Idris said.