Sunyata: The Poetics of Emptiness
Today, architectural practices are undergoing a change from the analogue techniques towards the absolute digital process, which entails a paradox. The ascendant usage of BIM methods and parametric technology at major schools of architecture and architectural studios changes the teaching approach, the practice and, on top of that, the core value of the architectural designs themselves.
In the epoch, where digital science touches upon and dictates almost every aspect of human life, the technologies have led us to a situation where the line between the mundane and the exceptional is reduced — where VR and the social media may connect people but at the same time separate them from the real experience of everyday environments. The question then arises: how can we retain and utilize the traditional building techniques and craftsmanship in the contemporary world we now live in?
Architectural philosophy varies from one country to another, and even in between cities. More specifically for example, the Emptiness or void is a concept that is strongly rooted in Indonesian architecture.
Presented at the Venice Biennale, The Indonesia Pavilion 2018 : Sunyata's intent was to use the potential in maintaining a certain design approach based on day-to-day architectural work throughout in Indonesia — where collaboration between the architects and the craftsmen is a constant practice.
“Emptiness is understood as an active entity; a singularity that functions as a prominent agency in life and at the same time, it is an instrument to inject order in void without employing the grids.”
The manifesto of Sunyata: The Poetics of Emptiness, was to show construction practices in Indonesia today as well as formation of an architectural space by accepting the Emptiness as a cultural-based method, setting the spatial experience free from melancholy of grids and ocular centrism and leaving it open for imagination.
By eliminating typical constructional elements such as columns, walls and a roof, Sunyata embraced the site and gravity as a determining factor for creating form and space. This surrounding hence prepared the mind and the human senses to listen to the pre-recorded ambient sounds of Indonesia’s everyday life as part of the exhibition.
This giant space built a dialogue between human senses and the void, defining a meaning and inducing a particular quality of the space called Sunyata (from Sanskrit) or Emptiness.
The usage of paper, on a metaphorical level for this pavilion, meant to connect with the idea of constructing the Emptiness as a representation of a Freespace — the main theme of the 2018 Biennale.
Paper — as a material of its own qualities — shaped the objective, bearing that particular sense of nothingness. Where emptiness, in this case, is not a void or nothingness, but a quality that is present within that void. In other words — by controlling the scale, proportion and tactility, it built a dialogue between the space and the human body in the specific quality of space it interpreted.
“The void provokes an engagement between the space and the people.”
The elevated platform underneath the paper and the sweeping wavelike structure itself, vertically slicing the room into two, created a particular topographical state, where, visitors were not just spectators but their bodies were an ultimate tool to engage with the pavilion and experience it from being inside and being observed by others from the outside.
Ary Indrajanto from Aboday, along with five other curators (David Hutama Setiadi, Adwitya Dimas Satria, Ardy Hartono Kurniawan, Jonathan Aditya Gahari and Johanes Adika Gahari), dived into the concept of Emptiness to demonstrate what future architecture in Indonesia can be. While emphasizing the core value of volumetric order alternatively to the elemental one, this experimental space — where the interaction of scale, proportion and tactility were the key instruments, exploring the beauty of an empty space — is what made the exhibition truly engaging.