Modern Tropical Design Blends with Local Elements in Surabaya

The RR House is a serene home where every element is designed around family and the location’s tropical climate


In western Surabaya, a part of the tropical coastal city populated by gentle rolling hills, Indonesian architect Paulus Setyabudi designed this harmonious family home to invite elements of nature inside the living spaces while masterfully using local materials and design elements to counteract the heat. 

‘We designed each space based on the family members’ daily habits at home, from waking up, to spending time with friends and relatives at home, to bedtime at night. The clients wanted a house that can accommodate all of their activities but remain practical, so everything has its place and the space is easy to maintain. They also wanted open, simple spaces and furniture that can be changed, moved and replaced at any time. The goal was to create a house that’s informal and in accordance with the character of their humble family,’ Setyabudi explains. 

Given the house’s west-facing orientation, Setyabudi used specific materials to protect the interiors from the tropical heat. Wood was selected for its cooling ability, and features in open spaces from the front garden area and entrance to the courtyard. A Lee Kuan Yew plant in the entrance area acts as a heat-retaining curtain, while the front door itself is made of iron, patterned with hollow symmetrical elements to allow wind to pass through the courtyard into the interiors. The roof’s unusual design was conceived to protect the home from harsh heat, while Indonesian Kayu Kuku wood was chosen for exterior flooring in the courtyard areas to help control the temperature in the common living spaces. 

The ground floor houses the courtyard and living spaces, including the family room situated at the back of the home away from the bustle of the highway, while on the first floor are the master bedroom and children’s rooms. Also on this level, a porous metal balcony channels sunlight and breeze into the home, and a wooden screen prevents direct sunlight entering the rooms. 

Most furniture is custom-made, with the exception of light features by Indonesian craftsmen like Ong Cen Kuang, and the result is a home that reflects both the family who live in it and their tropical urban environment.

Text / Babette Radclyffe-Thomas
Images / William Sutanto