Tamara Wibowo Architects Designs The Industrial Yet Chic Qub Rooms

Semarang, Indonesia

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Qub Rooms is a 10-room hotel located in a dense commercial strip in the center of Semarang, Indonesia. Once a mundane 4-story shop house, the building was transformed into an industrial yet chic structure with a unique facade made out of multiple sized openings, cladded with black steel, creating an unexpected sight among the 90’s white ceramic tiles and blue glass facades.


Architizer chatted with Tamara Wibowo, principal architect at Tamara Wibowo Architects to learn more about the project.


Architizer: Please summarize the project brief and creative vision behind your project.
Tamara Wibowo: Qub Rooms is a 10-room hotel located in a dense commercial strip in the center of Semarang, Indonesia. Once a mundane 4-story shop house, the building was transformed into an industrial yet chic structure with a unique facade made out of multiple sized openings, cladded with black steel, creating an unexpected sight among the 90’s white ceramic tiles and blue glass facades. Fitting within the urban fabric of the city, the qub(ic) shaped openings articulated across the facades in varied sizes is meant to blur the visual understanding of the real floor levels behind the facade thus heightening the visual perception of the building.


© Tamara Wibowo Architects

© Tamara Wibowo Architects

What inspired the initial concept for your design?

The project was challenging because we have to find a unique design solution that reutilizes the existing structure while creating a hospitality project in a row of shop house that is mostly filled with offices and banks. Moreover the design needs to convey a branding identity that both sells and also fits within its context. While we had many early designs of what the building might become, the final design was developed much deeper during construction. In the end, the architecture image was so strong that it creates its own branding.


© Tamara Wibowo Architects

© Tamara Wibowo Architects

What do you believe is the most unique or ‘standout’ component of the project?

The hotel with its distinct facade differentiates itself from the 90s commercial complex while keeping the rawness of the existing structure inside. The interior design of the hotel is a play of monotone new elements such as curved white exterior walls of the rooms and rough black brick walls as the backdrop of each hotel room. They are juxtaposed with the rawness of exposed concrete ceiling deck that is adorned with network of electrical conduits playfully running across the rooms and corridors of the hotel. Sleek lines of steel bar lighting were added in the design of the lobby, the hotel rooms and the corridor to create a sense of finesse and sophistication of the hotel.

What was the greatest design challenge you faced during the project, and how did you navigate it?

The greatest design challenge was the fact that we have to appropriate the programs to the existing structures of shop house and its typical dimensions so the configuration of rooms is limited. We managed to create ten 15m2 hotel rooms with entry foyer to each room and finesse each room with simple yet refined interior design that elevates the perception and experience of a budget hotel. We also made sure that the hotel breaths and receives ample daylight while keeping a consistent design from exterior to the interior of the hotel.


© Tamara Wibowo Architects

© Tamara Wibowo Architects

How did the context of your project — environmental, social or cultural — influence your design?

The existing structures were reutilized as much as possible to sustainably reuse the building while adapting it to a new function. Also because the hotel is located in the middle of a row of shophouse, it doesn’t allow the building to have openings on two sides. Thus we open the building to the front and the back to allow enough air circulation and daylight into the hotel. Tropical greeneries are planted in the back of the hotel to reduce the effect of air and noise pollution in the city as well as to reduce heat gain while creating fresh air into the hotel.

What drove the selection of materials used in the project?

The materials such as black steel plate, black painted brick and exposed concrete that we use in the project were intended to shape a modern urban living that has an industrial expression.


© Tamara Wibowo Architects

© Tamara Wibowo Architects

What is your favorite detail in the project and why?

The most interesting detail in the project was the stairs that were fully made out of perforated steel plate so it allows air to go through the void. Movement up and down the stairs can be seen through its transparency which further makes the public space more active and dynamic. The corridors of the hotel are also allowed to breath, which is made possible by the use of louvre windows at the front and back of the hotel thus allowing cross ventilation throughout the building.

How important was sustainability as a design criteria as you worked on this project?

From the get go, we wanted to reutilize the existing structure to reduce carbon emission as much as possible. We stripped off the original gypsum ceiling and original partition walls of an old office and exposed the rawness of the concrete structures. We even made it to be the soul of the project. With curated materials of black steel and black painted brick combined with patterned cement tile and wood flooring, we intended to create a project that will last a long time, therefore supports sustainability.


© Tamara Wibowo Architects

© Tamara Wibowo Architects

In what ways did you collaborate with others, and how did that add value to the project?

We collaborate with steel contractors to build the facade and stairs in the most efficient way. Also with electrical contractor in creating exposed wiring system that strengthens the industrial expression of the project. We collaborate in almost all segments of the project, such as HVAC, plumbing and water filtration system, lighting and interior design to make sure the buildings run efficiently in the background, while keeping the elegant look in the foreground.

Were any parts of the project dramatically altered from conception to construction, and if so, why?

In the design concept, we intend to demolish the existing beam with its white tile cladding on the shop house facade. But during construction, we could not do that because the beams are all connected with the neighboring buildings. So the solution was to cover the beams with the steel facade and thus we have to extend our floor plates to the front which add square meter to the front rooms.

How have your clients responded to the finished project?

Our clients thought that the building was very stand out from its surrounding with its black facade. The facade becomes the identity of the project so it has a strong presence in the city. It is easy for visitor to associate the brand with the architecture so it becomes a prospective hospitality business.

What key lesson did you learn in the process of conceiving the project?

Collaboration is very important in the process of conceiving the project because designing in existing structure always has limitations and surprises so the design have to be adaptable. Also, a lot of our decision was guided by budget concern so we need to have alternatives in the design and material choices to create something beautiful yet efficient.


© Tamara Wibowo Architects

© Tamara Wibowo Architects

How do you believe this project represents you or your firm as a whole?

This project represents our design approach in any projects. Not only thinking about program and how it looks, but we always appropriating ourselves within each individual context to create a project that is specific thus more meaningful.

How do you imagine this project influencing your work in the future?

The project pushed boundaries of what was being set by this specific building typology. This experience opens up many opportunities for us to create unexpected space and form of architecture in many different contexts.

Is there anything else important you’d like to share about this project?

Qub Rooms challenges the typology of common 3-story shophouses that are found in many corners in the city of Semarang. Within the typical width and and height constraint, a transformation of function is able to form a much more interesting articulation of commercial facade utilizing specific material and architectural form while enriching the urban experience.

Please list any team members and consultants you’d like to include in the credits.

Team members: Berda Karendra Putra, Rieza Amalia, Claudia Kondoy

Consultants: Anugerah Karya Perkasa, Bellagio Steel, Asia Furniture

Please list any products or materials that were crucial to the design.

Steel, brick, patterned cement tile, wood flooring, glass louver, dark wood laminates

For more information on Qub Rooms, visit the in-depth project profile on Architizer.

Qub Rooms Gallery

© William MacCollum

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