In The Creative Playground of Agatha Carolina
One look at Bitte Studio’s designs and it’s clear that Agatha Carolina, co-founder of Bitte, is the sort of person who forges her own path. Raised by architects and interested in the creative industry from a young age, it would have seemed sensible for her to take the traditional design school route towards a career in architecture and interior design. We visited earlier to her latest project, The Lapan Square, where she runs as the principal architect.
The Lapan Square is located in Bintaro, a creative compound housing micro-shops and start ups from food and beverages to lifestyle shops. Perfect for those looking for an outdoor getaway, The Lapan Square is a project created by Agatha Carolina, herself and her partner, Chrisye Octaviani, co-founder of Bitte Studio. To Agatha, her sentiments about Bintaro, a neighborhood she grew up, has mirrored with mirrored those of her personality and her creative perspectives.
Her work has come to be known for its concepts and creations, from focusing to mixes of patterns and textures of materials. Agatha Carolina believes that by exploring, mixing and trying out new materials, the projected design will eventually fall into place beautifully. This playful sensibility extends down to her work space, a studio inside The Lapan Square. Check out all of the photos from our visit below!
Q: Tell us a bit of yourself and about Bitte and The Lapan.
My name is Agatha Carolina, I am 33 years old and married to my wonderful husband with my beautiful daughter. I always had a passion for art and architecture, even from my early ages as my father was a developer himself. When I was young, he would take me to many exhibitions and to visit artful places.
Then for my bachelor’s degree, I took architecture at the University of Parahyangan. And I continued my study by taking a master degree in Interior and Spatial Design at the University of Art in London. I have always had an interest in art and also architecture and decided to continue my architecture journey with Bitte Studio with my partner, Chrisye, and later Monstore with my best friends who I have known for 12 years since 2008, Michael and Yudha.
The Lapan is a place that houses various local tenants, from food and beverages to other retailers. We have our offices here as well, from Bitte Design Studio, MonStore, Antikode, and SosJ Bureau. But for us, The Lapan is more of a creative compound, where it is a designated space for collaboration and to support one another as a local maker. And the thing that makes me happiest is the fact that we are creating this creative community through The Lapan and we hope to keep growing this community through the existence of this space.
Q: What about Bitte itself, do you normally work for commercials or residentials?
Our first project was Poke Sushi and we probably started Bitte from here. It was an experience which led us to deal with many F&B projects, from restaurants, cafes, coffee shops to bars and nightclubs. Most of our projects are commercial and despite that, we do have many residential and office projects as well. However, Bitte is well known for its commercial projects.
Q: How would you describe your personal style?
I am always interested in exploring materials as each material is bound to have its own characteristics. Materials can speak for themselves through visuals and through the senses of touch presented from each material. For the projects at Bitte, we always try to explore and play around with different materials. We do not want to limit ourselves as well and to always look for new materials.
Nevertheless, we like to visit exhibitions to see many new materials and apply them in our project. So I guess my personal style is all about exploring materials, textures, patterns and colors.
Q: Whose architecture inspires you?
Well, I’m not sure if I have spoken about this before but I used to work in Andra Matin’s studio. After I graduated from University of Parahyangan back in 2010, I worked in Andra Matin’s studio after that. I can say that he is one of my biggest mentors as I really like Andra Matin’s architecture style and personality.
He is a very good mentor and his approach to design is not merely just about architecture, but it is more towards art. We always talk about movies and paintings, and many topics which I really like. Aside from that, I personally love modern architecture like Richard Neutra or like Le Corbusier… something like that of the modern era. I think it is more towards of my style of design, such as the Mid-Century design.
Q: What do you think The Lapan says about you?
Well, it says a lot of things. I used to live in Bintaro ever since I was three years old until I got married and moved out. I know this area so well as I practically grew up here. Bintaro used to be a small suburb with not many developments back in my days, and there weren’t many commercial spaces either. In fact, it was just a residential neighborhood!
But over the past few years, there have been vast developments in this area with many new developments here and there. We have this land, not too big and not too small either. And one thing led on to another, we remembered our goal that is to contribute something to the surroundings of this area. If you see The Lapan as well, this place is not located in the prime area, for you to get through here, you’d need to pass small roads and alleys. However, this doesn’t hinder our wish to contribute something to this area.
Additionally, Bintaro has become a lot more interesting due to the rise of many, many creative people in the area. These rising new architects and graphic designers live in Bintaro. My hope is that The Lapan becomes a junction where all of us from the creative industry can collaborate to create something more for the community.
One of the ways we have contributed to the neighborhood is by building a free library. If you look across The Lapan, there is a little kindergarten that is lacking a lot of facilities, for instance, the school does not own any library on site. So we decided to create a free library at The Lapan, where we hope kids are able to immerse themselves after school through learning new things with the books we provide.
Initially, The Lapan was supposed to house only offices, but when the pandemic hit, we immediately thought about the importance of offices and how the trend is shifting. We asked ourselves what are the things we can do to help? And when we sat and discussed this, the key words that we came across were: open spaces, good circulations, lower capital. And so, we came up with the idea to house smaller tenants and those who would like to start their businesses with small capital, not just for offices, but retail shops and F&B stalls. Some of the shops you can see at The Lapan are mostly lifestyle shops, e.g. plants shop, barber shop, furniture, clothing to bicycle shops.
Q: Whose job is it to curate all these shops?
Ours. The Lapan itself is actually operated by my father, Chrisye, my partner from Bitte, and I. We were in charge of curating all the various tenants to support each other, we chose our tenants carefully as well in order for them to not compete with each other in the compound.
Q: Since we are sitting at the Monstore and By Bitte shop here. Which of these pieces is actually your favorite?
Since we work mostly for commercial projects at Bitte, most of our clients tend to ask us to design the furniture for them, in order to create more character and more uniqueness to the space. We have a lot of archives of these products that we have designed as well as a product designer in our team, Albert. I can say that we have not really developed many products at By Bitte, but that will be our next goal, to develop more pieces to provide more characteristics in the spaces of those who have purchased our products. However, one of my favorite pieces is this lamp and this is our best-seller. It is a wall lamp but can be used as well as a table lamp.
Q: How do you balance between life as a mother and an entrepreneur? And what is the legacy you wish to influence your child?
I think being a mom and being a working woman is very tough, because you are combining two
roles that have their own responsibilities itself. I think being a mom is a lifetime responsibility, and also having a business like Bitte, I want it to last for a lifetime too. To balance between these two roles, I just try to prioritize.
When I am at home with my daughter, I just try to be present. I would play with her and give her my full attention. When I am at work, I just try to fully focus on my work and to also be really present in everything I do. I personally feel that if I mix things up and not divide these roles, I would get stressed and it will not be effective too when you have to think about your daughter 24/7.
But for my daughter, Aleica, she is a very creative child. I am not forcing her to do any art at all, I like to provide her with canvas and paints, and she just plays with it. In her early years, Aleica was just working on abstract art since she did not understand shapes back then. Now, as she has turned 4 years old, she understands more about shapes and forms, and she shifted from her abstract art and doing heads, humans, cats, to houses. Her paintings are her witness of her developments and I like to see it that way.
Q: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
It’s tricky but I always believe in not regretting any of our actions, because one thing always leads to another. When looking back, life is connecting all the dots of the things we have done before. So if I were to advise my 20-year-old self, I would say to always just have fun, and not to overthink it and to be present. Those moments, you will definitely miss it if you decide to overthink. In my 20s, I used to have a lot of fun, and I loved it, so my advice is to enjoy what you are doing.
Q: What’s next for you?
I think there are a lot of interesting things going on. Be open-minded and not limiting myself. The world is moving in a very fast pace so we just need to ride the wave and be very open-minded. It’s moving towards digital era, I learn about NFTs and cryptocurrencies, which is very interesting. We just launched our own NFTs and it’s sold out. This is a very interesting time to live.
So guys, Oline is pretty much a woman of everything. We’ve talked about architecture, interior design, being a mother, entrepreneur, and now she does NFTs as well. So glad to actually get to know you more about you more because everyone of us in Urban Quarter here is obsessed with your work.