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Alvin Tjitrowirjo

Taken from the ancient language of Sanskrit, the word Toja, which means water, connotes fluidity, clarity and character.


Indonesian-born product designer Alvin Tjitrowirjo has built a solid and respectable career over the last couple of years. He has distinguished himself from the rest by remaining truthful to the place from whence he came. His choice of materials and his involvement in the preservation of local heritage reflect his love and respect toward the Indonesian tradition. Beyond that, his breadth of work shows that design is more than mere ornamentation; that it can be an integral, interactive part of people’s lives.

The TOTO Toja series is yet another manifestation of Alvin Tjitrowirjo’s thoughtful and inspired take on good everyday design. We spoke to the designer to learn about the concept behind the series.

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How did you come up with the design for TOTO Toja?

Like all designers, I wanted to try something new. For the longest time, the toilet bowl has always assumed the same amorphous shape, and I just wanted to break away from that. I did a lot of research and worked closely with TOTO in order to better understand the history as well as technical specifications behind what goes into making a good, functional toilet. In the end, we decided that the rounded-off rectangular shape would be the way to go. This element is repeated throughout the whole series—from the toilet, washbasin, showerhead and my personal favorite, the faucet. It’s edgy without being too futuristic.

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It's quite a statement

I think we can afford to be a little more progressive. People now live in a cleaner, less ornate environment. They’re more open-minded and sophisticated. The bathroom is no longer a forgotten nook in the back of the house. Bathrooms are getting bigger and they reflect the owner’s lifestyle as much as the living room does.

It’s a rare opportunity to be working with such an established household name. I am amazed by how precise and thorough the mathematics is. It reminds me that design comprises of more than just visual aesthetics. In this case, the designer becomes more of a problem solver. The TOTO Toja series is in many ways a departure from convention but I believe that it is an apt expression of the times we’re living in.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

We had to build a completely new ceramic mold to produce the design. As we all know, clay bodies shrink when fired at in high temperatures. It took us many tries before we finally managed to achieve the quality we want.

How has this collaboration enriched your understandingof design?

Andra Matin

Andra Matin is one of Indonesia’s most prominent architects.
He has designed and built hundreds of structures across Indonesia, defining and raising the profile of Indonesian architecture. He established his firm, Andra Martin Architects in 1988 and has since won a string of accolades including the coveted IAI (Indonesian Architect Association) Awards and The Aga Khan Awards for Architecture and Project Architect. Among his most notable works are the Potato Head Beach Club, Tanah Teduh and Winfred Hutabarat residence.

Andra Martin on Bathrooms

When I was growing up, the bathroom was considered a vestigial part of the house. A lot of traditional houses didn’t even have a bathroom. In the colonial era, the bathroom is situated in the back, in the dirty area. In the 1970s, the bathroom began to gain prominence as people’s lives improved. Surely we remember the colorful toilet bowls we used to have at home.

Nowadays, the bathroom occupies a much more integral role in people’s homes. It’s become cleaner, more open and simplified. The bathroom is no longer an overlooked afterthought. Subsequently, the toilet becomes a showpiece that indicates the owner’s status. Just look at the infamous Philippe Starck-designed urinals atop The Peninsula Hong Kong where visitors can view the city’s majestic skyline while relieving themselves or TOTO’s interactive Neorest that comes equipped with hi-tech sensors and features beyond our imagination.

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What was once a clearly demarcated area is now open for interpretation. In my own home, for example, the bathroom area is one and a half times bigger than my bedroom. It’s my bathroom and my wardrobe area all rolled into one. There’s even a chair and a desk where I can work. My toilet is situated in an open space, directly exposed to natural elements. When you look up, the sky is right above you.

The bathroom has now become a luxury item that complements one’s lifestyle. The concept has become much more fluid and the notion of function no longer restrains creative exploration. Architects, interior designers and homeowners alike now approach the positioning and fitting of a bathroom in a completely different light. Alvin Tjitrowirjo’s collaboration with TOTO on the Toja series embodies this new direction. The design is simple, streamlined, and much like the chairs he designed, possesses a strong character. It’s certainly an exciting and liberating movement to observe and be a part of.

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