by Marcella Cheng
While it was so easy to be distracted by the bright mural paintings in Kali Code, I was also enamoured by the amazing architecture of the buildings that lined the riverbank. It was amazing to me how tightly the houses were packed together on such a steep slope, yet still spacious enough to easily move through. More than that, I loved the simple, functional, yet still creative design of the buildings themselves, of which I had never seen in a set of buildings in my life. This is a design that stands true to both modern and traditional Indonesian culture.
Kampung Code, once a rabble of criminals and immigrants who lived in barely more than cardboard houses, was completely transformed in 1983 when the architect priest Y. B. Mangunwijaya proposed a plan to rehaul the entire village. This renovation would not only give Kampung Code a new and respected reputation, but also better and real homes that could survive the danger of heavy floods (UCA News, 1992). In this, the design grew largely “organically” as it responded directly to the site conditions and needs of the inhabitants (Lian, 2011); any buildings that the villagers needed were created and fit like a glove along the riverbank.
They also took care to use local materials such as woven bamboo and lightweight timber to support and lift the houses from potential water damage. By the end, the design of these homes have weathered the last 35 years with little damage, and is still a popular sight within Yogyakarta today.
In comparison, a tightly packed set of apartments in Tokyo have also just been overhauled by Japanese Hiroyuki Ogawa Architects. While these rooms also emphasise simplicity, functionality and creativity in a small space, they do it in a completely different way to Kampung Code that can only come from their local context.
This room for example, while also using timber panels, covers not only the floor but the wall and even part of the ceiling with the same material. Offset with the stark white wall, the only other colour in the room, it creates an even stronger emphasis on simplicity and minimalism that Japanese design so loves.
This second, darker room plays with a variety of textures from materials that Kampung Code would not have been able to afford. Japan’s wealth shows in this room, albeit in a more sophisticated and understated way, again with very minimal touches and a two-toned colour palette. In the modern day, these rooms aim not only to house temporary residents, but to also provide a unique experience away from the city, which reflects the locals’ desire for peace and quiet.
It is interesting to see how these architectural designs have responded to their local environment from their ethnic backgrounds, and how they allow an incredible difference creativity despite their similarity in space.
Aga Khan Award for Architecture. 1992, Kampung Kali Cho-de, viewed 16 Feb 2017,
<< http://www.akdn.org/architecture/project/kampung-kali-cho-de >>
UCA News. 1992, Islamic Award for Architecture to Indonesian Catholic Priest, viewed 16 Feb 2017,
<< http://www.ucanews.com/story-archive/?post_name=/1992/09/30/islamic-award-for-architecture-goes-to-indonesian-catholic-priest&post_id=42019 >>
Lian, H. 2011, Kampung Kali Chode Yogyakarta, viewed 16 Feb 2017,
<< http://architectureindevelopment.org/project.php?id=143#!prettyPhoto >>
Gibson, E. 2017, Hiroyuki Ogawa Architects designs pair of contrasting Tokyo apartments for Airbnb guests, viewed 16 Feb 2017,
<< https://www.dezeen.com/2017/01/14/shibuya-apartments-hiroyuki-ogawa-architects-renovation-contrasting-tokyo-airbnb-guests-tokyo-japan-interiors/ >>