Antony Liu and Ferry Ridwan of Studio TonTon have led the rise of tropical minimalist architecture in Indonesia with a string of stunning resorts and hotels
There is an undercurrent of minimalist architecture brewing in Indonesia, if you know where to look. And in Jakarta’s suburban neighborhood of Gading Serpong you can find its brain center. Past newly developed track communities and an endless row of Pepto-Bismol-pink shophouses lies the Paramount Hill Golf community. The manicured green respite contains gaudy mansions of the faux-neoclassical mould built right up to the edge of their plots, with squads of shiny BMWs to boot. But one plot stands in obscurity from the rest: a bamboo shaded front with leafy foliage protecting it from outsiders, or perhaps, the occupants from the outside.
A grooved wooden fountain with a row of pipes jutting from its base drowns out the drone of nearby highways and the clamor of jackhammers. A pure white tunnel beckons your entrance with the names of Studio TonTon’s present and past architects. The wear of the city starts to lessen as you turn the corner and witness an unobstructed view of the golf course’s greenery flanked by minimalist glass-paned studios. The soothing hum of busy minds dampens the outside noise as architects hunch over drafting tables and computers. Grass meets cultivated rock designs like bonsai, while white-stilted roof overhangs shade the area.
With its clean, strong lines, you might think you have stumbled upon something by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, or perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright. But look a bit closer and you’ve found something that is entirely Studio TonTon.
Ferry Ridwan, Studio TonTon’s principle architect, will giddily have you know he met the firm’s founder, Antony Liu, in university.
“He was my senior,” Ridwan says with a laugh.
Ridwan and Liu both attended Jakarta’s distinguished Tarumanagara University as architecture students, first meeting in 1988. Liu later formed Studio TonTon in 1996 with his former business partner, Tony Tan, borrowing from both of their names for the studio’s moniker. It wasn’t until 1998 that the firm landed the opportunity to design luxury resort The Balé, in Bali’s Nusa Dua area, bringing Ridwan aboard to collaborate on the project.
Today The Balé stands as one of Indonesia’s preeminent examples of tropical minimalist design with its white-stone walkways, bamboo and wood-slat wall designs, scattering of geometric reflecting pools, and labyrinth-like floor plan.