Where are the staircase? Where are the sidewalks?

In The Jakarta Globe

There were times when staircases were beautiful and, most importantly, well-located for people to easily head straight to it at entry.

Now, if any, beautifl and imposingly located staircases are mostly only found in otel lobbies up to the second floor. Otis, inventor of elevator (did he or his company invent also the escalator?) has saved us from painless walking up and down the stair.

The choice of words are exhilerating. Elevator is to elevate you (not to bring you down?). Escalator is to escalate you, but it does so only when you walk, not just ride, on it. Less inspiring is the travellator. (Do you know what it is?).

Strangely, even in unversity buildings, such as the one in Universitas Tarumanagara, where there are so many young people, the staircase is not well located after the first floor.

In Jakarta good staircases can only be found in art-deco buildings such as the banks around the station square in the old town, Jakarta Kota–if they have not changed them, that is. Nice curving staircases, wth their marble steps individualy cut to fit the different curves and sizes, these are crafted artworks. During my time as a student in the department of architecture designing staircase is a high and fun goal: calculating the rise and width of steps, solving the details of corners and handrails joints at difficult curve, etc. All these make me sigh, “Ah!” when visiting buildings by late19th – early 20th century architect Victor Horta in Brussels, as I was rubbing the their handrails and slowly waliking up their staircases.

But now my sigh is for missing them. And, more importantly, missing the walking and seeing people walking up and down the stairs.

We have lost part of our healthy walking because the staircases are disappearing, replaced more and more by escalators and elevators.  I cannot imagine Marcel Duchamp would paint “Nude Descending an Escalator.”

Will we also lose our urban walking as the sidewalks are disappearing, too?

Will we ever stop the car domination over our city life? Will we for ever lose 20 minutes of daily walk that they say make the beautiful legs, healthy hearts and good city life?

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