Sukendro “Kendro” Priyoso and Jeffry Sandy, principals of Indonesian architecture studio Nataneka Arsitek, are not fans of the color white. Looking at the studio portfolio and visiting two of their projects make this clear. “I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about how my projects ten to be dark in color and texture.” It is both personal preference and an effect of our studio’s practice to often leave the materials we use unpainted and natural,” Priyoso says.
This tactile character of Nataneka houses is no more evident than in Courtyard House in West Jakarta, whose dark, quiet presence recedes with a six-meter setback from a street of sundry two-story houses. Immediately apparent from outside is the dialogue between the materials and extruded forms at play in the house’s front façade and gate. A quilt of plaster, concrete, wood, glass, and steel textures, resembling a Piet Mondrian painting, in the form of walls, louvers, openings and overhangs, break down what would have otherwise been a hulking elevation. Further softening and shielding the 12-meter-high façade is a frangipani tree planted on a raised plinth. The house appears to be inward-looking and reclusive with just a handful of window openings up front, that is, until one steps in and notices the void at its core.
“The client brief was conventional. All they really asked for is a large master bedroom with two bedrooms for their kids. The lot’s long shape, however, presented a lot of exciting possibilities,” Kendro shares. He gestures towards the cavity on the façade, a four-by-seven meter rectangular courtyard with a U-shaped ground floor area around it and a rigid O-shaped second floor atop it.
On the courtyard are three slender eucalyptus trees whose foliage reaches the second floor, fronted by a square koi pond. Wraparound glazing favoring this refreshing green space goes all the way to the second floor, with several windows sliding open to the courtyard. “We always like to maintain a connection between the indoor and outdoor spaces in our projects,” Kendro remarks. “It’s actually more wasteful to build up on most of the lot when you can use the space for something refreshing and healthy, one that brings comfort to the household.”
The ground floor exhibits an open plan and is porous, with generous operable openings on both north and south ends of the living and dining area. A large swing door of teak, camouflaged as the wall is of the same material, leads to a guest bedroom with floor-to-ceiling sliding windows facing the courtyard. This is where one can appreciate the almost cinematic show of people going to and fro the house, like a real-life section plan, via the ramps. The accent starts upon entry with an 11-meter stretch leading to the living room, before rising again after a 180-degree turn to a landing that leads to the master bedroom, and finally ascending towards the second floor.
The ramp provides both a practical and fun means of floor-to-floor circulation for inhabitants young and old. Its gentle nine-degree gradient ensures both the safety of the little ones as they run (or slide) between floors and also anticipates the inevitability of old age and the need for an easier means of movement then. The ramps, finished in teak, have just the right amount of texture to allow both walking and sliding.
The second floor contains the bedrooms of the owner’s two children, as well as a spacious study area with sliding windows on two adjacent sides. Metal grillework, on which vines and greenery cling, rise from the courtyard and dorm the railings of the second floor den’s balcony. Views of the subdivision and the foliage of the trees below connect the interior spaces with its surroundings, providing a calming respite for tired eyes and bodies after work or play.
This article first appeared in BluPrint Vol 1 2018. Edits were made for BluPrint online.
Photographed by Ed Simon