Bittersweet Memories in Design Experience – Tan Tjiang Ay

Helo restless spirit!

We’ve met Pak Tan Tjiang Ay in person. He had casual appearance like normal elder, with identical attire as many photo we found about him on internet. Yet, he displayed frank personality and sharp mind along the sharing with another 43 restless spirit. After few minutes of introduction, he asked if anyone wanted to inquire him, or else he rather to go home. The sharing then, had become active discussion. Here’s the excerpt of last 25 March at OMAH Library.

On being an architect:
Doendenkers & Befriend with client.

Doendenkers, originated from Dutch language, could be translated as “do thinker”. By Pak Tan terms, it defined as “thinking through”, in relation with ability to foresee few steps ahead. This mode of thinking had been his core attitude both in design and daily life. To design is to be aware with constraint and future consequences, to think for oneself, and understand whole process.

In line with having client, trust and understanding is very important. Without it, the process of business are going to be stressful. From the early meeting, he always offered his thinking instead of his product to the client. He set clear argument about his capability. For him, best to walk away and saved time when neither party cannot understand each other. This attitude made him more likely to have long-term relationship with his former clients until now.

On learning:
“Don’t rely on fabricated source, try to eavesdropping, and maintain curiousity”

Pak Tan is sceptic by nature. He believes that chain of information, in general fabricated source, can get distorted by the time it reaches him, which made it unreliable. Thus we need to absord information objectively, as fresh as possible.

When he was a student, Pak Tan used to eavesdropping Mr. Slamet Wirasonjaya’s lecture, a newly graduated lecturer from USA. Mr. Sonjaya brought with him a new branch: landscape architecture. Pak Tan used to ask his friend to open class window so he could listen to the lecture. This lecture then became his bedrock on importance of spatial narrative. For him, the value of eavesdropping are greater than usual lecture, because he actually struggle to understand something.

He and Pak Sandy Siregar used to visit Soejoedi’s work. Altought their lecturer given him red mark for their findings, he still preserve his curiosity. In his word: “If you have lost curiosity towards architecture, best to stop and turn to something else, like merchant. It have better chance of survival.” He then continue to trace back his beginning interest in architecture.

“My early inspiration towards architecture started from young age. There was this old man wearing jungle hat in bicycle, always brings rolls of drawing papers with him. Later on I knew that he is a drafter for local government. Years later on university, I actually “trade” major from engineering to architecture with my friend, simply because it seems more interesting.”

Finding Originality:

After leaving university, Pak Tan open his own firm with only one employee. This time, he started to develop his own style and approach. Before 1980’s, his style is all credited for his firm. For spanning 50 years of career, Pak Tan also had his share of doubt. He almost give up on architecture because of its uncertain income. Fortunately, stopped him from decision that he would regret.

On term of design, Pak Tan claimed himself as a modernist, which he perceive solving problem based on relevant solution at the given time/era. He also, in another talk use label reductionist, for his way in using most efficient lines to solve design problems. Yet, he always pinpoint the importance of transition experience, which in a way consumed more space. When this being questioned, he answered with keen spirit:

“That is the (supposed) result of education. To understand the limit between which is nedlessly and necessity in design. My rule are only being practiced, effectively, within creation of the ambience-making.”

Thank you for sharing with us Pak Tan.
Be sure to join us in upcoming lectures, restless spirit!