Design Cities 2019: Jakarta, Indonesia
A designer takes a novel approach to traditional materials, making a statement about the potential for a regional design identity.
Alvin Tjitrowirjo describes his relationship with Jakarta as “love-hate.” Since 2006, the designer has run his own practice, AlvinT, out of the Indonesian capital, a city with 30 million residents in its metropolitan area. With his studio, Tjitrowirjo has shown a knack for natty furnishings and interiors, many of them made using traditional local materials. “I wanted to do something that has roots of my own culture,” he says.
Rattan, a climbing palm native to Borneo and Sumatra, features heavily in many of the brand’s concepts. “As a designer coming from Indonesia, I think it’s a good opportunity for me to sort of claim this material as Indonesian,” says Tjitrowirjo. Jettison any preconception you might have of hokey Miami sitting rooms: AlvinT’s rattan takes the refined forms of swooping parametric benches and vibrant lounge chairs. Products are all handcrafted locally.
Getting his fellow Jakartans to see the conventional material in a new light has been a struggle, says Tjitrowirjo. Although locals appreciate traditional goods, he says, this interest rarely translates to a contemporary aesthetic: “We’ve been colonized for so long [that we] feel that Western culture is superior to ours. It’s driven the market downward because it prohibits our own culture from flourishing or progressing.”
But maybe Tjitrowirjo is just ahead of the curve. A major Indonesian manufacturer, Vivere, has called on the designer as creative director. As resident tastemaker, Tjitrowirjo is using the platform to advocate a tradition-inflected but stylish look. “There’s always that constant push and pull between wanting to make something for the market and wanting the market to follow you,” he says. “Now it’s time to pull the market toward what I want.”
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