A Symmetrical Legacy




As the interior design world mourns over the passing of Jaya Ibrahim, we are remembering his legacy that consists of designs bearing symmetrical patterns such as The Legian in Bali, The Dharmawangsa Hotel in Jakarta, The Fuchun Resort in China, The Setai in Miami, The Club at The Saujana in Kuala Lumpur and The Hacienda Uayamon in Yucatan. Although he never attended interior design school, he was placed in the same category as many international interior designers. His distinct vision and concept of beauty made him into one of Indonesia’s best interior designers who left us his words of wisdom, “An interior design can only be successful when the person using it can understand the design and is able to enjoy it to the fullest.”

Jaya was the first event speaker at Indonesia Design’s 11th Anniversary Seminar held at The Dharmawangsa in Jakarta, a hotel that features his Indonesian colonial inspired design. He talked about his best projects such as The Nam Hai in Hoi An, Vietnam among others. However, his first personal project was his parents’ new family home in the mid '80s. As he was in England at the time, he was influenced by the Memphis movement and the celebration of the centennial of Sir Edwin Lutyens.

He took the aforementioned strands and styles and designed the private house. Adrian Zecha, the Chairman of Aman resort, visited the house once and admired its proportion and volume. To Jaya personally, it was an experiment above all and a test to his own discipline. As for his most memorable masterpiece, he considered The Legian Bali of being just that since it was his first commercial project and he allowed the energy of its surroundings to naturally dominate and be part of the interior design. It was a masterpiece precisely because nothing was done to impress onlookers!

He was interested in the world of design ever since he was young but in those days, being an interior designer was not a popular occupation in Indonesia. So Jaya studied economics in England and when he graduated, he worked for a year in accounting but soon realized that it was not his calling. He then moved on to work as a back of house employee at the Blakes Hotel and Hempel Hotel. One day, his aesthetics caught the eye of London-based designer, Anouska Hempel and she asked him to help her in the design department. Jaya found out he enjoyed being involved so much that he did not see it as a job. It remained his passion ever since.

His education was more about how to organise his thoughts and how to foresee the implications of certain moves or decision makings. When he was still working in England several people told him that Indonesia was rapidly constructing buildings but not many interior designers were available. At the same time England was hit by economic crisis so projects were scarce. So he decided to return home to Indonesia in 1990. Years later he established Jaya International Designs. The following designers were admired by him and they served as a kind of mentor and inspiration: Anouska Hempel, Veronese and Tiepolo, William Kent, Grindling Gibbons, Palladio, Geoffrey Bawa and Sir Edwin Lutyens. Each of them has a unique sense and discipline that he esteemed.

According to Jaya, balance and symmetry create tranquillity. When someone enters a room with a symmetrical layout, the person will immediately feel relaxed and is not burdened by further ideas as to whether the furniture inside the room would look better elsewhere or if the view would be improved across the room. He wanted guests to instantly unwind when they get inside their rooms and enjoy their stay there.

Jaya’s distinctive trademark was calmness. The interior design of a building needed to help make that building liveable. If a design could not be used then to him, it was a bad design. There were exciting elements here and there but invariably, his designs were there to point out the calmness of his compositions. His impression of today’s interior designs was that they have lost the restrictions dictated by the elite taste, as well as the sense of what is right and wrong. It was only regarded good when one immediately established a new discipline. Otherwise it was just self-indulgence. The three important characteristics of a well-designed interior according to Jaya were: A well thought-out circulation, a human scale and a good background; all characteristics that he possessed as he left us his immaculate legacy. Yes, our country indeed has lost one of its nation’s greatest sons, respected mentors of interior design and a wonderful human being. Jaya, may you rest in peace.

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