Architecture / Interior /

Erwin S.: Designs for a Better City

Surabaya is home to numerous new buildings. This is a fact acknowledged by Erwin S., the Principal of AER Design, whose work Yello Hotel just opened last year. The architect tells us how fond he is to design for the city.

Photo by AER Design Doc.

How did you get into architecture?

I graduated from university during the [1997-1998] financial crisis in the country. At that time, economic development was still struggling, let alone the field of architecture. I thought at least I wanted to try doing something that was connected to the lessons I studied at school, to keep learning and to earn some money at the same time. Lo and behold, this has gone on until today.

Tell us about your first project.

My first project was a mall. At that time I was working for an architecture firm belonging to my senior. For my first personal project, I tried to take up a residential project.

Which project has been the most memorable for you?

The Yello Hotel that I finished last year. It was a collaboration with a solid team whose members truly supported one another. The most memorable thing was the design process, which I really loved. Architectural design has a special value when it’s in process. That’s where we grow, learn to improvise, and especially to learn from our mistakes.

What do you think about the development of design in Surabaya?

Surabaya is a unique market. Owners and clients here are not similar to those from Jakarta or other cities. This is perhaps an influence of the segmentation in Surabaya as an industrial and commercial city. This is different from say Yogyakarta or Bali, where the people deal with elements of “art” on a daily basis. At the moment, design development in the city has been good and appealing–especially after the emergence of new design bureaus as the brainchildren of young Surabayan designers. Their movements are getting more significant and the ideas are always fresh–and sometimes mischievous. These usually end up being a trigger and catalyst for the other designers to move forward and make their own marks. This is something positive.

Why open your firm in Surabaya?

I have never picked where I would work. In my mind, wherever there was a job, I would go and do it as best I could. With that mind-set, usually the path will unfold by itself. One job will lead to another, from one friend to another. As it turns out, I am still working in this beloved City of Heroes.

What’s most attractive about the city for you?

From the point of view of an architect, Surabaya is full of history and tales. Architecture is not merely about buildings. It’s also about humans and their environment. There are a lot of means that we can use to “learn” from Surabaya. Through photography, for instance, we can learn about the behaviour and habits of people in a certain area. Through sketches, we can understand the unique reliefs and atmospheres of colonial buildings in the old parts of Surabaya. These things enrich our vocabulary and will influence how we create a design. Surabaya has a multitude of mysteries waiting to be unearthed, learned and enjoyed.

What are your hopes for Surabaya?

For Surabaya to remain a city of hope, especially for young architects. I hope that in the future, the design climate of Surabaya will become conducive and can accommodate the creative ideas of the young people of the country.

Erwin S

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