Archigram Melbourne: Interview with Albertus

The article was originally published on https://www.agmelbourne.com/post/spotlight-03-albertus-yudhistira on 15 September 2020. Please follow Archigram Melbourne at @archigram_melbourne

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Spotlight 03: Albertus Yudhistira


Spotlight aims to promote recent student and graduate work in Design. We recently caught up with graduate Albertus Yudhistira to chat about his design approach shaped by Gregorian music, his passion for photography and his project, “Sanctuary of Silence” for the Master of Architecture at The Melbourne School of Design. 


Albertus started his architectural studies at the University of Melbourne pursuing the Bachelor of Environments before continuing to complete the Master of Architecture at the Melbourne School of Design in 2019. At the MSD he developed an appreciation for experiential and atmospheric architecture told from a human perspective, and much of his work focuses on enhancing the human senses to encourage a greater understanding of oneself. He is currently an Architectural Graduate at Simon King Architects. He is also pursuing his passion as a photographer at Studio Bercerita (@studiobercerita), a company that he founded with Joseph Ardhianto and Caterine Damayanti.

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Isabella Etna (IE): To what extent have your roots, in Indonesia, shaped your design approach? Or would you say that you have found inspiration in other places?

Albertus Yudhistira (AY): Indonesia has played a huge part in my design philosophy. There are alot of ethnicities in Indonesia and the philosophy and principles of Buddhism and Hinduism permeate thought in Indonesia. It has influenced the way I think, especially the ideas of harmony and balance with nature. I’m also an active chorister at St Francis Church in the City of Melbourne, where we mostly sing Gregorian songs, which originated in the Medieval period in monasteries. It’s a deep tone of music that heavily relies on voice but also the space where it is performed. The emphasis in that style of music is on the experience of the listener and the shared experience of transcendence and divinity. My experience as a chorister has somehow shaped my views on ‘atmosphere.’ We sing every week, every Sunday. A couple of years ago I travelled to Brisbane with the choir to sing in St Stephen Cathedral, which is about the same size as St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne. We sang the same songs there that we had practiced in St Francis Church, but because the chamber was way bigger the effect of the sound and the reverberation was different. At that moment I realised that the shape and qualities of the internal space really affects the way you perceive sound. After I experienced how sound bounces differently in different spaces I started to prioritise it among all design considerations. Coming back to Gregorian music, in Medieval churches the interior spaces are shaped in a particular way to achieve an echo and a better deep sound for the music. 


IE: Have you travelled to cathedrals overseas?

AY: I went to Spain last year for the AA Visiting School. While I was there I went to almost every cathedral in every major city including Barcelona, Seville, and Cordoba. The Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona caught my attention. Generally Gothic cathedrals are quite dark inside with few openings above, the major source of light are clerestory windows and they feature a rose stained glass window. Take St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne for example where it’s very dark and the only source of light is from the rose stained glass window, which is symbolic of divinity entering the space. In the Sagrada Familia the light comes from everywhere and I definitely had a different kind of experience there. There is a huge floor to ceiling height which creates a soaring internal volume. There must be symbolism there.

Image: Sagrada Familia, 2019, provided by Albertus Yudhisthira while participating in AA School In Spain



IE: Your project, ‘Sanctuary of Silence’ was a part of James Park’s studio in 2019 (Studio Untamed, Studio E). Could you tell us about the brief?

AY: The brief was to design a secular retreat, so a non denominational reatreat, in outback Victoria. The site was in Acheron, Victoria which is about three and a half hours away from Melbourne up near Mount Buller. The site was my Studio Leader’s family’s farmland and we got to have a site visit up there. The site is pretty unique. It’s characterised by a typical pastoral landscape with a hill. We were given the whole site to select any area for our design. I adopted the idea of the ancient monastery, in medieval monasteries or himalayan monasteries, where they tended to locate their buildings on the top of a hill. The idea of identity and crisis was my starting point, our city lives are so busy and fast paced with little to no time to take a break especially with the influx of information constantly streaming in with social media. It’s too noisy. We don’t have time to reflect on ourselves or our surroundings. I was inspired by Cistercian Monastery in Maulbronn, Germany. In the medieval times people in the monasteries prayed, meditated and wrote. In order to create the best place for these activities to occur, silence was key. It pervaded the rituals in their lives; once they awoke they would walk to the breakfast room in silence, meditate in silence, everything happened in silence. It’s an interesting belief, in silence they found God. It’s like meditation. The second idea I adopted was practicing minimalism; not including unnecessary elements, so that I could enable the surrounding context to engage in dialogue with the users, and let it speak to you. In this project I pushed the idea that architecture can be a mediator not only between you and it, but between you and yourself. In the context of Gregorian music, it’s a shared experience but also a transcendental personal experience.


IE: Aside from your studies in Architecture, you developed a passion for capturing moments through photography during Uni. How has this shaped the way you approach designing spaces?

AY: As a Photographer you are asked to be observant, feel the genius loci of your context and to be present to capture the moment around you. It helps you to observe things more carefully. In connection to my projects I would say that through practicing photography I have formed a much understanding of light. If you look at some of my drawings, you can see I have considered the direction of light, where it’s entering the space. Through my photography work I’ve also developed an interest in shadows. It’s like a reflection from a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional plane. You cannot see the real object, but it’s like a reference or an imprint.


IE: On your personal Instagram account @albertusmyudhistra, your photographic focus could be described as ‘the mundane’ given you focus on moments between people in everyday places or details of everyday objects. Would you agree? And what draws you to this subject / approach?

AY: It’s something you normally take for granted in your daily life, it’s something that’s often forgotten. For me though it’s quite interesting. We often aim for the unachievable in everyday life. In my photography works I am much more interested in appreciating the transient moments of everyday life. There is beauty in everyday objects.


IE: On this note, would you agree that you align with the area of architecture described as “Phenomenological“ architecture? Where the most famous figures are notably Peter Zumthor and his Therms Val’s Project. Other than Zumthor, who are other figures you looked at while putting together your thesis?

AY: During the process of my design I read books by Peter Zumthor, Juhani Pallasmaa, John Pawson, Donald Judd, John Cage and James Turrell. I also love “In Praise of Shadows” by Jun’ichiro Tanizaki. There’s a personal connection between their theories and the way I see architecture. They let materials speak for themselves, and their emphasis on the experiential interplay of light of shadows. Perhaps contrary to Zumthor, I did not want the visitors to have preconceived ideas about the space before entering it. In this project I wanted the visitor’s to make up their own mind. From my understanding of phenomenology it is about grasping the phenomena, delving into your five senses, and I definitely align with these ideas.




IE: We have seen some of the models you made for your projects, how does the making process play into your design process and then presentation style?

AY: It was more focussed on experimentation with light. I started with the experience and atmosphere I wanted to achieve and tried to push that through my work. When I make models I often find that it’s all about experimenting, what I mean by that is that you often come up with things that you did not expect, which can be much more interesting than the initial idea. It’s all about trial and error.

IE: We also understand that you took Studio 35mm in 2018 with Hamid Khalili prior to James Park’s studio where you explored how photography and film medium can shape our perception of architecture. Did you carry these principles into your thesis which was focussed on experience? 

AY: There are two things I learnt. Firstly, film helps us to focus hearing and vision senses. When you’re looking at drawings it’s essentially only your eye that’s working. The hearing sensory is so important in film. Secondly it helped me to understand space better, to curate an image. With the camera you are in control of capturing that moment with aperture, lighting, and with film there is also the consideration of sound and how that affects and evokes emotion. I took all of these aspects into consideration when designing the Sanctuary of Silence.


IE: You mentioned that you’re interested in pursuing 3D Visualisation, and the aspects of film and photography that you discussed seem as though they’d place you in a good position to have mastery over this. Could you tell us more about your interest in 3D Viz?

AY: Lot’s of architectural visualisations are empty, there is no narrative, there is no story that makes you want to look at it. That’s the downfall of some 3D artists. There is a firm called MIR in Norway (www.mir.no) who understand this concept quite well and produce hyper-realistic renders. They are in control of their work in the sense that they know the effect they want to achieve and how to achieve it. 

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Project credits:

Sanctuary of Silence by Albertus Yudhistira 

School: Melbourne School of Design, University of Melbourne

Studio Leader: James Park 

Year: Semester 1, 2019

Level: Studio E

Project images provided by Albertus Yudhistira

Follow Albertus’ Instagram @albertusmyudhistira and his photography studio @studiobercerita for more updates