Dr. Ernesto Sirolli, founder of the Sirolli Institute learned the hard way that “we” is a more powerful word than “I”. At the age of 21, he worked for an Italian NGO as an agriculture specialist. Every single project that they set up in Africa failed. Sirolli’s frst project was to teach villagers in southern Zambia to grow tomatoes. He said “Everything in Africa grew beautifully. We have these magnifcent tomatoes. We were telling the Zambians how easy agriculture is.”

When the tomatoes were nice and ripe and red, 200 hippos came out from the river and they ate everything overnight. And he said to the Zambians, “My God the hippos!”And the Zambians said, “Yes, that’s why we have no agriculture here.” He questioned, “Why didn’t you tell us?” and the Zambians answered, “You never asked.” [1] If we want to truly learn something, we should listen to the people, and be curious about it. That’s what Sirolli leaned from his diffcult early experience in sustainable agriculture.

In this story reminded me of two experiences, both of them happened in one bright sunny day which established OMAH as place for learning, First, when students came to my home and they shared their will to learn. They showed their concern about the diffculties of learning architecture. In “Mastery” author Robert Greene explained that all of us have the ability to push the limits of human potential. He believed that the word “genius” should be demystifed because we have access to information and knowledge that past masters could only dream about. I was thinking that architecture has the loophole on culture of sharing. What I mean by culture of sharing is about sharing the content by deep investigation, critical analysis, and will to learn from teaching practice. So based on what we have in studio – a tiny pavilion made by modular system of plywood which was used for hosting summer architecture workshop class in RAW studio – the story began.

Second, the time I met Laura Romanof, one writer whom I met at Rumah Turi, Solo, which was one of the house designed and built by Paulus Mintarga. She enlightned me with her book, the title is “Sumarah spiritual wisdom from Java”. It’s about the art of surrender, losing your self to universe. She explained in her book ” The third stage (of spiritual practice) is sumarah, of unconditional surrender, of total abandon… here the actual act of faith disappears and is gradually substituted by its fruits: one abandons oneself to the process in complete and absolute acceptance of what is given, no longer asking for anything, no longer utilising the power of the will, no longer invoking faith. This is an absolutely neutral condition where there is no longer any need for effort.” [Romanof:34] She also had concern that youth of Indonesia, and particularly in Java, are turning to modernity and feel little attraction to the old ways. She believes what I believe, when the tide turns in Java, as it always eventually does, interest about the old ways may be reawakened. I think OMAH would also focus on reawakening the spirit of the old in the same spiritual fnding, to fnd and share the essence in Indonesian architecture.

Those experiences concluded that OMAH means home for learning architecture. It’s strange library like one book titled strange details, emphasizing on the quality of buildings who has magnifcent quality, which includes 3 criterias. First, the building has local material as its material. Second, the building showing identity of  wholeness in the details, of feel of symphony. Third, the building is the biography of the architects in which they pushed the design wholeheartedly with his expenditures became his milestone in his career. We are learning these strange detailed quality process of being an architect in OMAH. The lecture, the discussion, the workshop between restless spirits results in a magnifcent process of learning and sharing.

When the lecture started, magical things came up and discussion started. It is fully occupied by strange people covered by a strange situation, strange way of how it works. Strange because it is occupied by beautiful people, shared by wholehearted lecturers, moved by restless spirit, the people with young heart. It is like a fellowship inside for people who are hungry for knowledge. The library should be for all, for public, as far as it could go. The power of silence, the power of trying to understand the knowledge of linking the spiritual, body, and mind of learning architecture. How come we learn architecture in state of knowing everything ? It’s a learning path of discovering. It’s something spiritual beyond architecture. Hopefully our purpose will stay pure in the wonderful world of architecture is surrounding us.

This year has been hard, as I have said, but I have experienced periods of sheer elation, times when I could hardly believe what we were doing and what I was doing and how much happiness it gave me by having all of the support from the beautiful people who contributed to the lecture, writtings and countless support.

Realrich Sjarief
Jakarta, 8 Agustus ‘15


OMAH Free Studio.

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Generic Design Course