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Meet One of Indonesia’s Few Women Landscape Architects

While some little girls were into flowers, Anddys Firstanty took her love of nature to the next level. Always interested in environmental architecture, and especially landscape architecture; Anddys pursued a degree at the 10 November Institute of Technology (ITS) in Surabaya. She later had a chance to learn more about landscape architecture in Europe, taking that experience back home and applying it to various projects such as Jungleland in Bogor, West Java. Indonesia Design talks with of the nation’s few woman landscape architects about her career and appreciation of design in Surabaya.

What prompted you to study landscape architecture?

Since the beginning, I have been interested in the kinds of architecture that are concerned and work together with nature. For the same reason, I furthered my education with a minor in environmental architecture, which studies in detail how to optimise design with nature, especially by making  use of unlimited energy sources, such as the wind and the sun, in the context of tropical design. Landscape architecture also looks at nature from an even grander perspective. It was very appealing for me to delve into the field. It turned out to be wonderful. When we manage it well, nature can turn into a thousand of inspirations and design innovations that can improve our quality of life–both for users and nature itself. Uniqueness in landscape architecture does not only involve the hardscape,  but also the softscape. Nature provides patterns, shapes, functions, technology, circulation, topographies and much more to serve as materials that we can learn about and turn into design and innovation ideas. God has created more than enough for us to work with.

Why study in Germany?

I always wanted to study in Germany. I prepared myself by taking a German language course as one of the requirements to study there. While I was taking my course, I also continued my master’s degree at ITS. I remembered one time I joined a seminar with a German professor as the speaker. I told the professor about my dream to study in Germany and he was very helpful in assisting me to apply. Soon after, I received an acceptance letter to start my landscape architecture program there. I was lucky to have been able to achieve my dream–although I had to make the difficult decision of abandoning my master’s degree at ITS, which I had been diligently pursuing—with a GPA of 3.8 and only a thesis left to do, no less. In spite of that, I was of the opinion that I had already acquired the knowledge I needed, so it was all right if I didn’t get the degree. What’s more, the chance to study in Germany would not come again.

Germany is a nation that is concerned with the development of landscape architecture. There’s a lot of literature as well as consultants who are specialising in this particular program. Germany is also central to the world, a meeting point for various conferences and international scientific studies. It was easy and feasible to meet international figures in the field there. As one of the most developed nations in the world, Germany is really exciting to explore, both from the point of view of its architecture and landscape. From Germany, it is easy to enter other nations in Europe. It is like the gate that opens up to global knowledge.

Who are your landscape designer inspirations?

Thomas Balsley from New York and Martin-Rein Cano from Berlin. They were my teachers when I worked in Europe and America. I also like Martha Schwartz, a woman landscape artist.

Please talk about your largest and most challenging projects?

Jungleland Bogor, which has the dimensions of 35 hectares. It was very challenging. My brief did not only concern the landscape, but also the masterplan. It was the first and most challenging project after my return to Indonesia. When I was finishing, I had to go back and forth from Surabaya to Jakarta almost every week when I was pregnant with my first child.

How about the development of design development in Surabaya?

The city of Surabaya is completely different from when I left it in 2005. Now the city is paying more attention to designs that feature landscaping. Before, a landscape was only planned and assessed after a building was completed. At the moment, it has become an element that is planned for alongside the building from the start. This is evident in the design of Surabaya’s urban parks, in privately-owned compounds like housing estates, in commercial complexes as well as in government buildings. Even government directives are starting to heed and apply several regulations towards achieving this objective, including the direction to include 70 percent green space in each open space design as part of the Green City Building Development plan, as well as the involvement of many landscape architects in the design process.

Any landscaping trends in Surabaya at the moment?

Green landscaping that features the vernonia elliptica, or Lee Kwan Yew climber, is the trend nowadays. The green creeper can be seen covering the corners of almost every property these days. Also, the “Shaping the Land” system–where properties use natural elements, such as trees and water–is beginning to be integrated into design and can be seen in many facades. Open spaces allow the exploration of the urban landscape, from plants, paving, lighting as well as site furniture.

What’s your opinion of Surabaya Mayor Tri Rismaharini’s development of the city’s parks?

Impressive. It has not been instantaneous, as the work was initiated when she [Risma] became the head of the city’s parks agency. I appreciate the consistency of her efforts, since design is linked to execution and maintenance. When there is no continuous effort, the results will not be optimal. The variation of themes in the parks is also impressive. It will be more interesting if there is a link between the RTH [open green spaces], so that there will be a thematic guide for tourism purposes that can strengthen the image of the city. In addition, plants in the design should be re-evaluated regarding their safety, as there are a lot that are considered dangerous–especially for children who visit.

Anddys Firstanty, female landscape architect

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