Kota Tua: The new look of Old Town

04, Jul 2014 | Author: Embassy of Indonesia

Source: Jakartapost

Imagine if, in the near future, many of the old, crumbling buildings in Kota Tua (Old Town), West Jakarta, were transformed into striking examples of architecture from a by-gone era.

The eerie ambiance that currently hangs around the damaged and abandoned buildings at night would be replaced by the laughter of executives in stylish cafés. The streets would be a hive of activity every morning too, as college students go to-and-fro between campuses and school children skip along with bags in hand.

This may be a glimpse of the future of Old Town if the revitalization of the heritage area is successful.

“We want to make this area a comfortable part of the capital to live, to work and to play. In the long run, this will be a lively place with an identity,” Jakarta Old Town Revitalization Corporation (JOTRC) CEO Lin Che Wei told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

JOTRC is a consortium of state and private entities that will focus on the renovation of 85 of the area’s noted buildings.

Lin said although the renovation work was a priority, the most important aspect in the program was reintroducing people to Old Town. He said state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) had given its commitment to support the project by moving some 1,500 workers to an office in the area.

“Look at the Jasindo office. It is being renovated now, but the real question is whether the workers move there,” Lin said, referring to state-owned general insurance firm PT Asuransi Jasa Indonesia, which is next to the Pos Indonesia building.

Lin said the renovation of the heritage buildings would depend on what aspect of the area’s history was deemed relevant, citing the area’s rich history spanning the Pajajaran kingdom and the Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese periods.

Old Town’s heyday was already fading from memory by the end of the 18th century, when inhabitants of this area suffered from a lack of clean water and diseases such as malaria and cholera. It was to suffer further once the Dutch moved its administration to Gambir in Central Jakarta.

The recent renovation of the Pos Indonesia building was expected to inspire similar work on other buildings. The building, which was built in 1746, was in a state of utter disrepair before being returned to its previous graceful state.

Architect Andra Matin, who was behind the renovation, said he had chosen to complement the white of the building with orange detail, as orange is synonymous with Pos Indonesia.

“To me, white is a natural color. I requested customized paint because I wanted the purest white,” he said recently.

Andra said the concept was “a box within a box”, while maintaining the original façade. On the second floor, which is a contemporary art space, he left space between the new and old walls to show the progression of time.

He also designed a new floor to cover the internal wires and installed standing air conditioning systems behind neat white bars, smoothly disguised as wall decorations.

Andra said the renovation project was only 25 percent complete and that the next phase of renovation would be the installation of a garden on the first floor, which was expected to start next year.

When asked if he was interested in renovating any of the area’s other buildings, Andra answered quickly: the iconic Jakarta Kota Station.

“I would be so happy if more people could enjoy my work. There are many interesting stations across the world, such as the one in Madrid by Rafael Moneo. I like a harmonious contrast between old and new,”
he said.

Acting governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama recently urged private owners of the old buildings in Old Town to renovate their properties to assist in the revitalization of the area.

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