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Art-Deco in Jakarta

Jakarta is a city of Art-Deco architectural style, according to a friend who saw an Art-Deco style as building style domination in Jakarta 1930s. But many people in Jakarta do not know what is Art-Deco. There are those who heard the word Art-Deco for the first time. In fact, there are also students of architecture who are unfamiliar with the words Art-Deco. We can understand all of these, because at school they never learned the history of art in addition to the history of struggle and war. That is why if the preservationist screaming about the necessity to preserve Art-Deco architecture, many people do not understand which one.

For ordinary people, may be at odds with some of the old buildings in the old city of Jakarta which emerged in the 1930s with a very decorative style like Stasiun Kota (Central Station), Bank Indonesia Museum, Bank Mandiri Museum, and several other buildings that looked so different from old-buildings such as  Fatahilah museum and Toko Merah, the house of Gustal Von Imhoff, the General Governor of VOC, built in 17th century. The very decorative building is very symmetrical, full indentations that must be done carefully. There is no data whether the craftsmen from Jakarta or from somewhere else, however the buildings are white and called art-deco style. If Toko Merah was built with bricks, wood, and red tile, then Stasiun Kota was built with steel construction and its station office is in concrete construction of which interior is full of decorative forms in white. In Bank Indonesia Museum the interior is also full of decorative style,  even the furniture was built in decoration and ornament shape like the building,

Surprisingly, these beautiful Art-Deco buildings is hardly found in the Netherlands. Even from the writings of the world Art-Deco architecture, this building style is not found in the land of windmills. In between 1917 and 1931 the architecture that developed in the Netherlands was De Stijl, the minimalist, where the building lacks decor as well as the art-deco style architecture. And vice versa at the same time period, De Stijl architectural style that developed in the Netherlands is not found in the Dutch East Indies.

It is a question that should be examined in depth in the thesis or dissertation for art students: why was the style of art deco buildings flourished in the Dutch East Indies? Were Indies at that time able to develop established artistic values so as not to imitate the Dutch architecture like that ever happened before?

Up to 1925 Europe was full of architectural experiments like Bauhaus in Germany and De Stijl in the Netherlands, architectural styles which was as economical as possible. Surprisingly, precisely in the same period, in other part Europe and America emerged decorative art which was costly.

Historically Art-Deco appeared in France after World War I. Later, Art-Deco appeared in various parts of the world. In Indies it became a trending style in the 1930s. In Jakarta is not only in the Old Town, but also in Pasar Baru in the form of shops along Jalan Pasar Baru, or offices on the banks of the Ciliwung River.

If we observe carefully, decorative arts has already emerged along with Koloniale Tentoonstelling, the largest Colonial Exposition in Asia, in Semarang 1914, designed by Maclaine Pont. He, in designing Koloniale Tentoonstelling, heavily influenced by the World Expo 1893 in Chicago he visited on his way to the Netherlands. Though the architecture of the World Expo, according to Patricia Bayer also affect the growing Art-Deco a quarter of century later in Europe and America. It is a pity that Koloniale Tentoonstelling left no traces except photographs.

Art deco is actually filling the space in Old Batavia which at that time was half destroyed by Daendels. But the new building did not completely eliminate the old one, such as Bank Indonesia Museum, it still leaves the old building that once was the hospital of Batavia. We can find the heritage building of the hospital in the rear of the museum complex by scrutinizing its roof shapes that look similar to the roof of Toko Merah, a classic architectural style.

Apart from like and dislike, Art-Deco in Jakarta have established a solid style of architecture in the history of the city as it is not only in the Old Town but also in the rest of the city. For the sake of tourism should Art-Deco buildings revitalized since many were destroyed. So that these buildings provide architectural tone of the city, where Jakarta is the marriage of classical architectural style and Art-Deco.

Interior of Bank Indonesia Museum
Interior of Bank Indonesia Museum