People

Yu Sing: An architect for
all

JP/Ika Krismantari

Yu Sing is one young architect who is responsible for a change in the profession’s image.

Once considered glamorous and exclusive, architecture now belong to everyone thanks to Yu Sing’s revolutionary ideas about affordable design.

Before he arrived with his budget architectural concepts, most Indonesians associated the profession with upper-class society. It was his budget designs for the middle class that changed public opinion, offering a new face for the profession.

“All sciences should offer advantages to people from various backgrounds, including architecture. It should also be useful for all,” the 35-year-old told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.

His push against the exclusivity of architecture is also reflected in his choice of clothes.

Meeting him at his office in a Bandung suburb, the man did not look like one might assume a professional architect would, but was dressed casually in a patterned T-shirt, brown pants and had hair so long it made him look more like an artist.

But judging from his designs, it turns out Yu Sing is an artist in his own right.

The man is both architect and artist, and can come up with interesting and outstanding designs with budgets of less than Rp 1 million (US$112).

At first glance, his architectural works remind people of the popular minimalist home designs that usually cost more than Rp 3 million per square meter.

His signature style of exposed brick walls and naked cement floors is what makes the difference, as both elements can cut spending on finishing significantly, proving that good things do not necessarily come at a price.

The man even brings added value to his designs, making them not only pocket-friendly but also eco-friendly.

His newly built office in Bandung is one work that was built applying his budget green design principles.

Made almost entirely from bamboo with complimenting elements of cardboard waste and used car windows, the two-story building cost Yu Sing only Rp 1 million per square meter.

Yu Sing’s idea to create affordable designs derives from his life experience. Born to a working class family, little Yu Sing endured the bitterness of moving from one place to another because his parents could not afford a house.

It was Yu Sing’s knowledge and architectural skills that finally halted the family’s wandering. The Bandung native built his own house in 2005, followed then by homes for his parents and relatives who asked him to design affordable houses for them as well.

The satisfaction of helping the have-nots obtain their dream homes led Yu Sing to the noble mission of creating architecture that was affordable for everyone.

“I used to wonder what could I do to benefit others … so I thought why don’t I help middle-class people … like I service myself so more people can enjoy living in a house that is seriously designed and affordable,” said the father of one.

Hoping to spread the great idea to more people, Yu Sing writes articles and even published a book on the issue.

He received favorable responses, with orders for cheap houses pilling up from all over the country.

“The orders confirm the fact that architecture has not been responding to the needs of the middle class,” he said.

Such facts in the field encouraged the man to set a goal to build 100 low-cost residences, which he revised later on to 1 million.

“That is just my dream. It is more like a commitment so that I won’t stop,” he said of the revision.

In addition to affordable designs for everyone, Yu Sing is also working on another bright idea, this one for social housing.

“It looks like the existing low-cost apartments with the quake-resistant structures and a height of not more than five floors. The residents are free to apply cardboard or asbestos for walls and use used roofs and used windows as building materials,” Yu Sing said, describing his future projects.

From affordable designs to social housing, Yu Sing tries to formulate his works under an “architecture for all” spirit that allows people from different economic backgrounds to enjoy and own architectural works.

With all these ideas, it is hard to believe that Yu Sing was once an average student that struggled in his academic life.

The Bandung Institute of Technology graduate revealed that he grew up quite lazy.
Young Yu Sing chose architecture because he thought the major would accommodate his laziness, but he quickly found out he was wrong.

“It turned out to be the major with the most work. I had to stay up late and didn’t sleep,” the man recalled.

Yu Sing said he even fell into a depression after failing to catch up with his studies.
Unexpectedly, that low point in his life caused Yu Sing to have an epiphany that led him to become one of the country’s great architects.

Yu Sing said when he was depressed he questioned many things, including the purpose of his life and his profession.

“What can I do to benefit others? It will be useless if I just serve myself,” he said of his thoughts back then.

It was that question that transformed Yu Sing from a lazy student to a prominent architect that has dedicated his profession to helping the unfortunate.

Apart from running an office in Bandung, the man opened a branch office in Solo that was
established especially to create affordable designs.

The winner of a number of architecture competitions is also involved in Wedangan, a group that provides assistance for the development of kampong communities in Solo.

Yu Sing’s beliefs, work and activities have earned him the label “the next Romo Mangun”.

But, he refuses to compare himself to the role model, saying he is still far from becoming a master like Romo Mangun.

Will Yu Sing be the next Romo Mangun? For now, no one can answer. 

But one thing is certain, Yu Sing is here to help anyone — including the poor — have homes designed by an expert.

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