It is interesting to realise that the grand design of the planet is built on the principle of symmetry. As humans, we naturally find symmetry aesthetically appealing, as it creates order and completeness in what we see and encounter. As a design concept, symmetry remains a classic approach that is timeless-and which has always been favoured by designers and architects. In Surabaya, there is perfect symmetry in a beautiful design gem called the de Soematra Function House.
Photo by Antonius Widjaya
Built in 1910, this Dutch-colonial-style building, which takes its name from its location on Jalan Sumatra, was intended to house the architectural firm of Algemeen Ingenieurs en Architecten (AIA), before it was transformed into a private residence.
For decades, the Art Deco building was forgotten and slowly grew run down. It was not until 2010 when Azza Dina Jamal rediscovered it and saw the tarnished beauty of its architecture. She contacted the renowned designer Hidajat Endramukti, her friend and long-time collaborator. Together, they re-conceptualised the building, launching it as de Soematra a year later. White is the main colour used in de Soematra, providing a perfect blank canvas that also strengthens its colonial-style background. As a designer who admires classic styling and loves old homes, Hidajat Endramukti removed some existing walls in the main building to create a more-open space that he divided into a foyer, a small private dining room, a lounge area, a main dining area, a library, a coffee and tea lounge, and an outdoor terrace that is juxtaposed against a rear garden. He also added a new space on one side of the building in form of a long pavilion that was divided into an additional private dining area, greenhouse cafe and restaurant.
Inside, de Soematra showcases Hidajat's strength in creating a subtle ambiance of luxury through a classic approach. The combination of classic European-style furniture is matched with chinoiserie bric-a-brac and antique Indonesian bronzes, resulting in a dynamic eclecticism.
A fan of symmetrical design, Hidajat created balanced shapes around a focal point. One of the best examples of this approach is the lounge, where he divided the space into two twin sitting areas, separated by a corridor, which feature almost identical interior placements.
Hidajat also plays with bold colours and prints wallpaper to create robust accents. By the foyer, for example, the small private dining area called The Indigo Room takes its name from its dominant deep-blue/violet floral-print wallpaper. As for the main dining room, Hidajat chose to dress it with wallpaper featuring a quaint yet romantic motif that gives an illusion of the flowers growing on the wall. The main dining room was originally two rooms. However, the need for a fine-dining area that could seat up to 22 led to a decision to known down the central wall. Hidajat also removed the glass windows that opened onto the back veranda, replacing them with stained glass featuring patterns that were originally found in the lounge.
The attention to detail at de Soematra is fascinating. Not a single detail has been ignored. The ornate ceiling, for example, is new and originally did not exist as such: Hidajat took an existing pattern design from the house and printed it on gypsum. The same is true for the transom window, which Hidajat re-created. Notable design flourishes can also be found in the toilets. Both the men's and women's washrooms are located in a new multi-purpose additional wing and have been glammed up by adding a powder room with a nice sofa, an ottoman and a chandelier - all done in perfect symmetry.
To the eyes of contemporary design lovers, the concept of symmetry is often associated with older tastes that lead to boredom. However, with the savvy approach and meticulous design sense of Hidajat Endramukti and Azza Dina Jamal, de Soematra successfully restored glory of this beautiful colonial building. Without a doubt, de Soematra is one of Surabaya's great design landmarks.
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Jamal Ghozi & Azza Dina
Architecture & Interior Design Consultant
Chris Tju Pte Ltd
ME, Civil & Structural Consultant
Jl. Sumatra No. 75
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