Big things have small beginnings. This is the case with Milimeter, a Surabaya-based company that produces architectural models. With 28 years of experience in making thousands of models, the company has proven that building mock-ups leads to big results, though the patience and hard work of its employees.
Story by Anton Adianto
Photo by Bagus Tri Laksono & Milimeter Doc.
Milimeter was established in 1988 by Hendra Oentoro, an architecture graduate who started making models while in university. A year before graduating, he began taking orders from his seniors to build models for their final assignments. Hendra also took projects off campus, which led to a decision to craft architectural models as a profession. The first project done under the Milimeter flag was for Taman Dayu project in Pandaan, East Java.
The technique that Hendra employs involves using paper to create the mass of the main building. This differs from the technique used by his peers, who use plastic or PVC. Paper has become a distinctive trait of the company.
Hendra's professionalism in developing his company from a small-scale firm to a major player has been a struggle. Perseverance has given Hendra numerous experiences that he would not have otherwise had. 'I taught myself to learn the ropes of the business. From this experience, I managed to learn various things, including finding out about the best materials and technology needed to create models,' he said.
Documentation recording the firm's work on the project has been well preserved, with more than 2,600 models finished by the company during its 28 years of existence. Hendra handled Milimeter alone for the first two years until he hired his first staff member. Today, Hendra has about 15 people from three generations of artisans working for him to produce models.
Hendra's attributes the success of the firm to his four most senior employees: Sugiyono, Suyanto, Lasono and Dirgo Chayoko. During the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 and 1998, the company had to let go 17 workers due to a lack of projects. However, the quartet opted to stay with Hendra through those lean times.
The patience of the core team bore fruit when orders for houses of worship flourished after the fall of the New Order under then-president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid. The firm emerged like a phoenix and soon became swamped with new work, as many of its competitors failed during the crisis and its aftermath. Milimeter has since made mock-ups for various companies, including housing estates, landscape designers, apartments, The model-making technique that he employs involves the use of paper as the main material. Milimeter has handled various mock-ups for different companies, including housing estates, hotels, villas, resorts, shops, malls, health institutions, schools, houses of worship, government offices, factories, warehouses, steam and water power plants, harbours, as well as an integrated area for a regency in East Kalimantan.
Several projects came from abroad, such as the Natadola Marine Resort in Fiji; the Napalarn Private Estate in Koh Samui, Thailand; the Millennium Mall in Brunei. Several model ornaments produced by Milimeter have been exported to many countries, in particular in the Middle East. The models manufactured by Milimeter for almost three decades have grown big and the firm shows no sign of stopping.