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Nature & Modernism
05 August 2013,
Antony Liu’s magnificent family home in Serpong, Indonesia features an underground water absorption system as well as an underground fog system to give an ethereal ambience.
Renowned Indonesian architect Antony Liu of TonTon design studio earned his stripes building refined, elegant, and often large-scale projects. His prolific portfolio includes the famous Bale resort and a wedding chapel in the Conrad Hotel, both in Bali.
Liu, 42, is often credited as being one of the new generation of Indonesian architects brInging contemporary design to the “island of gods”.
Perhaps his best work thus far, however, may just be his family home in Paramount Hill Golf, Gading Serpong, an exclusive gated community located 13 miles west of Jakarta.
Sited on 1.470 sq m of land, the one-story house is both spare and luxurious—a rectilinear plan set around a sculptural patio and wild plants.
Clad in raw concrete walls and polished bangkirai (commonly known as meranti or Philippine mahogany) panels, the house is designed to be unobtrusive to the surrounding environment.
“I don’t like the idea of axing the existing trees and plants. I always strive to design buildings that complement the surrounding nature, without compromising both style and function,” says Liu, who is also skilled painter.
He left two-third of the land – about 945 sq m – for the existing rain trees, mango trees and climbers and creepers to grow wild, as well as an underground water absorption system.
StarProperty chats over afternoon tea with the proud homeowner. proud homeowner.
The year was 2005 when Liu purchased the land. In terms of the house’s layout, he first decided to divide the house into three masses.
“Stretching along the site, the prominent mass is linear and consists of a line of rooms – the master bedroom with an adjacent outdoor bath and swimming pool, three other bedrooms, a home theatre, and a living area facing the compound,” says Liu.
Set alongside the prominent mass is the supporting mass, which includes a kitchen, study room, and the kids’ bathroom.
Separating the two masses is a long corridor – a vertically arranged wooden panel on the right, and a row of glass walls on the left.
“The wooden panel camouflages the doors to the private rooms. Meanwhile, the glass walls, supported by exposed galvanized columns, blends the interior with the landscape and its water feature,” says Liu, referring to the river-like water feature that resembles a traditional Japanese garden – thanks to the bamboo and rocks that dominate the landscape.
Indeed, a walk along this corridor renders an architectural experience that transports you to Kengo Kuma’s Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum, in which wood, glass, steel and nature co-exist in harmony.
The third mass of the house consists of the garage and service area. Located at the front of the main building, this area also functions as a buffer.
Also located in the front part of the main building is the master bedroom area. Designed with privacy in mind, the master bedroom is separated by an exposed concrete wall from both the garage and the service area.
Further highlighting the private ambience is a beautifully designed outdoor bathroom and swimming pool, as is only to be expected from an architect known for having designed splendid resorts in Bali.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
Liu says designing his house was the easy part – he knew exactly what he wanted.
But building the house proved to be both financially and technically difficult, as he required medical precision for every little detail. After buying the land, Liu saved up for two years before construction began.
“We started building in July 2007 and finished in December 2008. It could have been faster, but building a dream house isn’t cheap, especially if you require excellent workmanship,” says Liu, referring to the impeccable finishing of the house.
Each column is aligned to the wood panels, window frames, concrete tiles and even the position of the doorknob. And if that’s not meticulous enough, Liu also built a state-of-the-art fog system that reduces the temperature of his house up to three degrees Celsius.
Set underground, beneath the rocks spread throughout the bamboo garden, the fog system uses high water pressure and specifically designed nozzles placed at precise intervals.
“The fog system is a common technology used by orchid farmers. But the nozzles usually shoot fog from above, creating mist that fertilizes orchids. I requested underground nozzles, which apparently had never been done before. I told the engineer that I was willing to experiment. I’m very pleased with the end results,” Liu enthuses.
LABOUR OF LOVE
Liu had worked for five different architects throughout the 1990s before finally setting up his own firm, TonTon Studio Design, with fellow architect Tony (and later on, Ferry Ridwan) in 1999. The name, conceived with amusing chutzpah, refers to “Ton” as in Antony and another “Ton” as in Tony.
Liu and his partners hit it big when they were commissioned to design Bale, a 2.8-hectare upscale resort in Nusa Dua, Bali. With business growing exponentially, Liu realised that he needed a bigger and better office.
“We used to run the business from a tiny shoplot in Kebun Jeruk, West Jakarta. It was a crowded area, and I personally find the confined space put my creativity to a halt. I began searching for a space in Serpong, where you can still find green patches and fresh air,” explains Liu, whose firm now employs 25 architects.
It didn’t take him long before he found a 860 sq m plot of land with a lake view in Serpong. He immediately purchased the plot, thinking that he was going to build a family house here.
But he soon realised that the site wasn’t big enough for him to build an“elongated one-storey house with a large compound”.
“I then decided to use the land to build the new office for TonTon studio. And as fate would have it, I soon found a bigger plot in the same area that was just right for me to build my dream home,” Liu shares.
Liu knew that building a dream house meant pushing his creative limits and zeroing his bank account. But he considers the architectural magic in his house a miracle – quite literally.
This is why he named his house “Bea”, an abbreviation for “beautiful”, which not only refers to the architectural beauty of the house, but also “the beauty of God’s plan in my family’s life”.
A devoted Christian, Liu believes that this house has a deeper significance to him. Indeed, it must have been divine grace that Liu has achieved this elegant yet intricate haven.