Viany Sutisna
Breeding Resilience: Thriving in Orange Air

Thesis Supervisor: A/P Tsuto Sakamoto

Site: Desa Gohong (Central Kalimantan, Indonesia)

The thesis begins with the phenomena of the Southeast Asian haze that blankets Singapore and Malaysia with thick smog, as seen from satellite images, an annual phenomenon that persists despite the efforts of numerous parties to limit its occurrence. Specifically, the context of interest is a complex ecosystem of the peatlands in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, where raging fires occur and pungent haze persist.


The design exploration firstly delves into the mechanism of oxygen production through a symbiotic human – non-human relationship between humans and chlorella vulgaris, a species of algae used in long haul space explorations where astronauts must be self-sustainable. This mechanical and technical knowledge is then adapted to the local technologies and materials available on the site, to ensure maximum effect despite its limitations. 

This knowledge is then translated into the kind of forms and structures aligned to the cultural and human context of the indigenous peoples of Kalimantan, through a rigorous study of primitive materials and village engineering structures, as well as folk art and symbolism in the indigenous Kaharingan religion. The thesis becomes an orchestration of the arising mechanical and aesthetic opportunities of the site conditions, using village engineering and adhocism as a construction logic while maximising the silhouette effects of the haze as an emerging aesthetic of resilience and adaptation, allowing them to thrive in their very own way.

Algae Breathing Prototypes

In the city, Oxygen Houses and Mobile Oxygen Vans are available for oxygen treatment. These services were unavailable in villages situated 4-5km away from the city, and thus has resulted in villagers innovating adhoc breathing aids made of water-filled plastic bottles and aquarium pumps to help them breathe. Several algae-based prototypes were developed as an attempt to increase oxygen production.

Oxygen Shrine

During the non - haze period, the Oxygen Shrine lies quietly on the riverside in hibernation, only awakening during specific rituals and village activities. During the haze period, however, the Oxygen Shrine, becomes a place of refuge for those seeking fresh oxygen to breathe, utilizing the algae system.

Its form echoes indigenous motifs and animistic beliefs. The Oxygen Shrine is both a place of ritual and refuge for spiritual and physical survival.

The Watchtower

During the non-haze period, it lies in the distance, as an innocent look out tower. Its quantity and regular interval may be disturbing to outsiders as it is in excess. During the haze period, its mechanical wings open up, creating silhouettes in the haze conditions. Drawing water from the existing deep well network, it sprays water from its wing-like limbs to rewet peatlands prone to fire.

Village Engineering & Masterplan

The adhoc logic of construction evident in the urban fabric is maximised as an advanced form of village engineering. The overall masterplan becomes physical evidence of the survival rituals of the indigenous that follow certain procedures, locations and seasons. 

Rituals as Survival

Specific indigenous practices will have to be re-adopted as a resultant of the critical environmental conditions, that includes asking for spirits permission, gathering of materials and construction, firefighting rituals, rewetting of peatlands and harvesting of excess algae biomass and emergent fishing activity.

Silhouette Effect as An Aesthetic of Resilience

The silhouette effect is a distinct feature of the haze that blurs details and aggregates structures to become borderless black masses. As the structures morph and transform mechanically, foregrounded against the orange-gradient, the distinction between man, animal and village engineering structures are blurred, as survival mechanisms are activated in response to the fire and heat that is at hand, forming an aesthetic of resilience and adaptation.