The GEN Z Series travels from the United Kingdom once again to my mother’s motherland Indonesia to meet a super talented architect Asifa Ulima Kafin from Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia. It is very interesting to see Indonesia is producing young talented and creative architects in abundance. Asifa Ulima Kafin graduated from the University of Pembangunan Nasional Veteran Jawa Timur with a bachelor’s in architecture degree this July. Soon after her graduation, she joined Pranadja Architects as a Junior Architect in Banyuwangi.
Talking straight from her heart, she exclaims, “I am lucky enough to be able to start my career with one of my favourite architecture firms Pranadja Architects. Currently, I am attempting to gain professional experience as much as possible, before I embark on my study at PPArs – Program Profesi Arsitektur.” She comes across as a very kind, humble, respectful, passionate about her creations, and an individual with solid upbringing and keen observing skills.
Coming from an academic family background, Asifa reveals, “From my early childhood, I have been a curious, creative, rational and an intuitive child. These four fundamental characteristics have built my designing skills and ultimately unlocked my hidden passion for architecture. Therefore, I decided to pursue architecture, because I see it as a perfect fit for my strengths. I believe I can balance my aesthetic sensibility with proper technical skills and with my firm belief in the design thinking process, I have always committed to creating spaces based on a problem-solving mindset (smiles).”
Johnny D interacts with Asifa Ulima Kafin about her exploration in the world of architecture and her final year thesis ‘The Osing Museum and Festival Center, Banyuwangi’.
What was your childhood ambition? Did you always wanted to become an architect?
Honestly, being an architect was not part of my plan. The path of becoming an architect crossed my mind during my middle school. However, I never intended to pursue it professionally. My dream was to become a doctor as I love life sciences. I was focused more on pursuing my dream. Long story short, I was rejected by multiple medical schools and healthcare-based majors (smiles). Interestingly and funny enough, I got accepted into any engineering major I applied to, including architecture (laughs).
During my last attempt, I followed my calling to pursue architecture and got accepted. It was unexpected, because I have been interested in this field for the longest time, but I never thought I would be part of it. I have strong faith in God, and I saw this journey as a message from God that architecture was the best path for me. So, destiny chose architecture for me and after four years of study, I feel this is where I truly belong (smiles).
How has architecture influenced your life as a student?
I can say that I have become very accustomed to team working, systematic working and problem solving. Due to many team projects, my survival instinct taught me how to assign people based on their best skills to work efficiently. And because of the deadlines, I became very systematic in getting my job done. I also noticed that I became more sensitive to my surroundings. Now, whenever I see social/environmental issues, I wonder if I can provide an architectural solution to solve or minimize them.
Briefly describe the significance of your project.
The most significant part of my project is the ‘context’. This project is located in my hometown, Banyuwangi. I was born and raised there. I have been familiar with the surrounding context. I have seen how Banyuwangi has changed over the years, exposing the city’s advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, this project was designed with a strong background based on my awareness as a local, strengthened with objective proof such as statistics and official regulations, I found through my deep research for almost a year about Banyuwangi and the Museum.
Banyuwangi is one of the cities in East Java, known for its tourist attractions due to the abundant natural assets and distinctive cultures that are still continually conserved even today. Acknowledging the potential, Government stipulates local culture-based tourism as a primary development program in Banyuwangi. ‘The Osing Museum and Festival Center’ I designed is expected to be a new icon and medium for promoting local cultures, empowering local business and human resources, as well as a public learning facility for the Osing tribe and its cultures in a more updated and engaging way that has not existed in Banyuwangi before, to support the primary development program.
As an Intern, what is the most important lesson(s) you have learned from senior architects, while being a part of a project?
The most important lesson I learned from my internship is probably the technical part of a design that I could not get on the campus. For example, how to install a backdrop and the proper steel used, how to model a design in SketchUp with realistic material measurements based on the market, and most importantly, I also learned how to balance my view as a designer and what the clients need instead of just fulfilling requirements from imaginary clients that do not require so much explanation, persuasion or tolerance.
Which National or International architect has inspired / influenced you? Please specify as to why?
My favorite architects are Realrich Sjarief, Yanuar Pratama and Chris Precht. RAW Architects’ Realrich Sjarief is not only an architect, but also a humble author and I would say a motivator. I have read some of the books he wrote. These books used to be my motivation to stay in architecture, when things got hard. His platform OMAH Library often provides interesting webinars with eye-opening discussions that are affordable for students, which I find very humble and respectable, because a high-quality course in this field often comes with a high price.
On the other hand, Yanuar Pratama and Chris Precht inspire me with their commitment to sustainability. I have been very concerned about the carbon footprint produced by our profession. Thus, in my opinion, creating contextual designs that are sustainable for the environment is a fundamental responsibility of an architect. Therefore, architects like Aaksen Architect’s Yanuar and Precht Studio’s Chris Precht are admirable, because they act responsibly in their practice. They also often use pre-fabricated systems in their designs using CLT, which I found compelling to tackle a lot of environmental and social issues in our society.
‘Climatic Catastrophes’ have become a daily occurrence in recent times. How will architects of the present generation tackle the herculean challenges of ‘Climate Crisis’ through their design creations?
Architecture is one of the most significant factors causing global warming. Almost every process in architecture, ranging from the schematic phase, construction phase, usage and maintenance produce a high carbon footprint, which is very concerning. Therefore, I think designing a building that is friendly enough to its environment is every architect’s responsibility.
In my opinion, it will be great if architects of my generation and the future generation can collaborate more openly with engineers and scientists to create sustainable solutions to solve the issue, because sustainability involves commitment and continuous collaborative research between architecture, science and engineering. Sustainability discussion should also be applied to all campus curricula to raise awareness about the side effects of our field, as well as a medium to kick-start healthy debate and suggestive arguments to discuss the issue from one generation to another.
Briefly write about your University and Course.
I graduated from the University of Pembangunan Nasional Veteran Jawa Timur, located in the capital city of East Java Province, Surabaya. I enrolled in architecture graduate degree in 2018 and graduated in July 2022. I am lucky enough to receive a cum laude and my GPA was the 3rd highest in my major.
Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?
The Gen Z Series caught my interest the most, because it is an excellent opportunity for the younger generation to share their minds and skills openly. Architecture relies heavily on experiences and one’s credibility is often solely measured by how long one has been in the industry. It is not wrong but somewhat unfair, because the younger architects might find it difficult to find a place for them to speak up. Thus, I think ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ is a good platform for young architects to share their experiences, despite many of us being new and fresh in the field.
How would you differentiate Indonesian Architecture from the Western or European Architecture?
I believe, every architecture in each part of the world is different from each other, influenced by the surrounding context, such as climate, geographical locations and culture. Indonesia is a broad archipelago country, which means it has a more diverse culture spread across the country. It is also located in Southeast Asia, with a humid tropical climate. Hence, I think the most distinctive part of Indonesian architecture compared to Western and European architecture is the vast diversity of façades and shapes influenced by hereditary traditions and beliefs. And due to the climates, our architecture’s structural parts may differ from Western architecture, which has sub-tropical climates.
Honours and awards related to architecture, if any.
Honestly, I rarely participate in competitions, which is one of my biggest regrets as a student. However, I am still proud enough to win a ‘Rendering Challenge’ held by my campus once, maintained a straight A for my studio projects, some of it often displayed in my faculty’s exhibitions. I also came out as the third-best graduate. My final projects achieved the second-highest score in my major. Apart from design, I published two architectural journals, one of which is nationally accredited and one proceeding during my study.
Image Courtesy: Asifa Ulima Kafin