Using cutting-edge techniques and an innovative approach, MM Galleri gives new meaning to the art and craft of stonework
MM Galleri gives new meaning to the art and craft of stonework with its cutting-edge techniques
Stonemasonry may be one of the earliest trades in the history of human civilisation but entrepreneur Peter Tjioe sees no reason why it can’t progress beyond the timeworn techniques of old, particularly when it comes to its decorative applications. The president of MM Galleri Group, an Indonesia-based stone specialist and fabricator, has been working towards creating more precise and more ecological machine-assisted means of working with the material. Established in 1992, the company has over two decades of experience in the industry. Its most recent innovation: the ability and technique to bend marble and other types of natural stone. It’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the company’s technical achievements and ambitions. “Our competitive edge lies in the fabrication—we do everything from packing, cutting to polishing the stone,” shares Tjioe.
“We believe in having the right combination of skilled staff, technical ability and the right facilities.” Today, the company works with various natural stone imported from over 50 countries, collaborating with architects and designers on projects worldwide through its three offices in Surabaya, Jakarta and Singapore. The latter, which opened earlier this year, is a particularly awe-inspiring sight, appearing like a subterranean cave decorated with marble-clad walls.
SET IN STONE
Situated in east Java near Surabaya, Indonesia, the MM Galleri headquarters is housed in a modern building distinguished by its orange cladding and boxy silhouette. Step inside and its grand interior instantly makes a statement. The showroom is decked from floor to wall in various types of natural stone, ranging from an elegant array of marble to intricate lattice screens and backlit feature walls cut from onyx. The building also houses a seafood restaurant, one of Tjioe’s many entrepreneurial ventures and the main venue where he entertains his guests. An adjacent air hangar-like space houses polished slabs of marble and other natural stone, with several slabs running the length of up to four-metres. A marble stairway leads up to a tranquil lounge area on the second floor, similarly designed to impress and exemplify the company’s fitnesse with stonework. An aeroplane model made of bended marble is one of its conversation pieces, along with an impressive swivel door made from a block of Nero Portoro marble, its distinctive gold veins adding a glamorous touch to the space. The door connects to Tjioe’s personal office, which features an immaculate mix of modern furniture on top of the bookmatched Statuario marble flooring. Elaborate, elegant and well put together, it speaks of the essence of luxury that the firm aims to achieve with its creative and myriad applications of natural stone.
“OUR COMPETITIVE EDGE LIES IN THE FABRICATION... WE BELIEVE IN HAVING THE RIGHT COMBINATION OF SKILLED STAFF, TECHNICAL ABILITY AND THE RIGHT FACILITIES”
Tjioe’s foray into the industry begun almost by accident, after an acquaintance had roped him into the marble importing business. “We started as a small marble vendor and we have since expanded the company by keeping up with the trends, innovating along the way,” he shares. “We have constructed buildings, churches, statues, as well as many other outdoor and indoor applications of natural stone.” The businessman—he also runs a wicker and rattan furniture company (which remains a part of the MM Galleri Group)—had no prior knowledge of stonemasonry. During the company’s early years, Tjioe worked as its chief engineer and marketer, while running the firm. Using his background in computer science, the erudite entrepreneur customised machinery to suit the tropical climate and other practical considerations. In fact, the recent bended marble technique arose from one of such experiments. While natural stone such as marble may be known for its rigidity and strength, Tjioe wanted to put these qualities to the test. He turned to research data focused on the stone’s bending strength—the extent and limits to which the stone can be bent. In the process, his team discovered that various types of stone can be made pliable and bent into curved forms, by cutting it into extremely thin layers to be used as cladding for decorative purposes on furniture and interiors. Astounded by the amount of wastage he had seen at the stone quarries, Tjioe also wanted to find eco-conscious ways to maximise the use of each slab of stone.
“WE TREAT STONE AS MORE THAN A COMMODITY, AND WE KEEP LEARNING AND CHALLENGING OURSELVES TO DO BETTER”
“With this bended marble technology, we use only 2 to 3mm of stone, which can be less than 10 per cent of the material,” he says. “We can also use the offcuts from the quarried blocks that would otherwise be thrown away, for outdoor surfaces or even interiors.” Another key innovation is the precision of their automated stone fabrication processes, accomplished through constantly upgrading and improving their Europe-imported machinery. “It’s not just about buying the machine, it’s about how you put it into practice in the actual production line,” shares Tjioe. Take for instance its newest machine, which is equipped with a sevenaxis spindle and camera input. Based on the specifications provided, it is able to cut a sculptural side table from a slab of stone within an hour; the same piece may need up to 58 hours if cut by hand. Beyond the complex machinery, what’s as striking about the factory is its lush surroundings, which include a path lined with bamboo groves and ponds. The ecoconscious entrepreneur hopes to keep it that way, gradually adding more greenery to the site while minimising the use of chemicals in its fabrication processes; the goal is to do without these cleaning chemicals completely.
Even now, Tjioe is not about to rest on his laurels, staying true to his personal motto: work hard and be creative. “My busiest time of the day is at night, thinking about my next project,” quips the Renaissance man. The firm recently produced a functional guitar carved from onyx and debuted a bathroom concept at a furniture fair in Indonesia; the latter features a shower area with free-form walls clad in bended marble. His next goal: to find more ways to utilise the technique, through decorative pieces that feature a trompe l’oeil effect and other mind-bending optical illusions. Ultimately, he feels the formula for his company’s success is as simple. “We treat stone as more than a commodity—and we keep learning and challenging ourselves to do better,” he says.
THIS PAGE MM Galleri Group president Peter Tjioe; the flooring of his personal office in Surabaya is clad in book-matched Statuario Carrara marble; the bended marble technique can be applied onto various furniture pieces such as bath tubs and side tables
OPPOSITE PAGE The MM Galleri headquarters in Indonesia showcases myriad applications of natural stone on its walls, floors and furniture
LEFT TO RIGHT A guitar crafted with the firm’s bended marble technology; a vehicle features bended marble cladding on the car hood; the MM Galleri Singapore showroom; Italian sintered stone purveyor Lapitec is one of MM Galleri’s key partners, and its surfaces are used for indoor and outdoor areas