Perhaps suffering from its proximity to Australia and Singapore, Indonesia has been slow to develop a contemporary design culture – with the market chiefly concerned with traditional crafts and imported designs.
However times are changing, as a small group of emerging designers forges original, exciting expressions of an evolving Indonesia. One of these passionate revolutionaries is Alvin Tjitrowirjo.
Born in Indonesia in 1983, Alvin had always found the country lacking (in everything except the food). It wasn’t until he graduated from Industrial Design at RMIT in Melbourne and returned to his homeland that he saw the opportunities Indonesia presented.
“After experimenting with local material such as rattan and other types of wood,” Alvin explains, “I quickly began to realise that Indonesia had big potential – not just material-wise but also culture-wise – that I could capitalise on to create what is now my long-term target; the new contemporary look of Indonesian Design.”
Following a highly-prized internship with Marcel Wanders, Alvin began his eponymous brand – alvinT – and began presenting the new face of Indonesian design to the world.
“In Jakarta, the ball of the design world has just started moving since several young designers started to shake things up,” he says. While this represents a significant shift, Alvin explains that they face an uphill battle with an influx of international brands.
“We are trying hard to stick to our idealism in this heavily commercialised environment, while at the same time continuing to produce original well-designed, locally made products.”
Alvin’s contemporary Indonesian designs are informed not only by the designer’s heritage and traditional materials, but also by the challenging of accepted social interactions. The Mingle Bench (above), for example, has been designed to create greater interaction between often-shy Indonesians.
“I designed the base with a large curve to create a sense of imbalance so when another person sits on it, the bench will bounce slightly to notify the other user… to provoke casual interaction between them.”
Alvin has received a great deal of international attention, exhibiting throughout the world and appearing in a number of competitions, while promoting Indonesian design through media and local organisations.
“Today, Indonesia has been my source of inspiration, and you can see it not just from the material I use, but also how I interpret how Indonesians react or socialise,” he says. “I try to look at local problems and tackle it through a more international point of view.”