Hari Sunarko: The Art of Architectural Philosophy


Underscoring every architectural creation is a philosophy reflecting on art and function as well as visual design. This is an ethos internalized by Hari Sunarko, the principal architect of Handal Natsa Kedhaton, for each project he handles. The East Java Chapter of the Indonesian Institute of Architects ensures that each of his designs contain elements of art, which is an integral part of architecture itself.

Photo by Bagus Tri Laksono & HNK Doc.

How did you enter the world of architecture?

Since I was in junior high school, I have been interested in design. During my time in junior and senior high school, I also joined painting exhibitions. In university, I did not choose any other option but architecture. After I graduated from university, I never wanted to work in any other field other than design. Before, people were of the opinion that an architect would not be able to earn a lot of money. But because architectural design is the only talent I have, I have to be loyal to this field. In the end, I have never been tempted to find work as a contractor or to buy and sell property as an alternative.

What was your first professional project?

Even when I was in university, I had already handled several projects. I had to work to pay for my tuition. At that time, I did the design for some living quarters in Surabaya, one of which was a house in the Kapas Madya area. After graduating from university, I worked in the design department of Pupuk Kaltim for three years.

Why did you choose a career in Surabaya?

After getting married, my wife decided to stay in Surabaya, so that’s why I had to resign from Pupuk Kaltim and move here. Since I had handled quite a lot of projects during my time there, they actually found it hard to let me go. In the end, it was decided that they would allow me to move to Surabaya and keep on doing the projects of Pupuk Kaltim as long as I created a design consulting firm that was a legal business entity. The first project that we completed under the firm was a dormitory building in Yogyakarta. The next one was a housing compound in East Kalimantan.

What was your most memorable project?

To design the campus of Universitas Muhammadiyah in Ponorogo, East Java, in 2003. The university originally only had a handful of students, so in the beginning I was rather doubtful. Not only did the client want me and my team to polish this project with only a limited budget, they wanted to make sure that with the construction of a new building, more students would be interested in studying there. This was one of the projects where an architectural approach made the build out successful. It was shown that the number of students did increase once the project was finished. The design solution of the project was not how good the building was visually. We managed to offer an awareness that made students feel proud to study there. We successfully implemented a design that satisfied the client’s brief - not just one that was only good for the architect. We are very thankful that the university has improved since we completed the construction. Almost every year, they come back to us to ask for new designs for new extensions of the university compound.

Are architecture and design not always concerned with physical aspects?

I truly believe that. For instance, when I have the urge to create a building with the concept of Javanese architecture, then I will not only design the physical façade of the building in the style of Javanese architecture, but I will try to do all aspects of the design using Javanese characteristics. We have to also think about the non-physical elements.

Please discuss the artistic elements in your architectural designs...

Actually, all architects are doing the same thing. In our designs, sometimes things need to be custom-designed. I often have to include artistically inspired ornaments in the design, such as for door handles or the artwork. We regularly involve our partners who dabble in these respective fields.

What’s your opinion of the architects of Surabaya?

When I talk about young architects today compared to the architects in my time, I believe today’s architects are more remarkable. Before, architects were limited to government projects. With the passing of time, people in Surabaya are beginning to realize that even a residence will look good when it is handled professionally by an architect. I feel that some Surabayan architects don’t really like to publish their works, or perhaps they do not have the proper documentation needed to publish them. I don’t know why. They are quite like me, actually.

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Anton Adianto
Anton Adianto graduated from Parahyangan Catholic University majoring in architecture. His passion for writing, watching movies, listening to music, uncovering design, exploring the culinary world, traveling, delving into the philosophy of life, meeting people and disclosing all matters related to technology feeds his curiosity. Currently he resides in both Jakarta and Bandung.

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