Inside and Outside the Mall

Also in The Jakarta Globe


One funny and snobbish thing about malls is its interior design—actually I am not sure if it is “design” at all.

Basically a mall is a large floor space subdivided into shops or eating places (I would not call them café or restaurants for reasons that will be revealed later). And, then each shop or eating place wold assign an interior designer or so to create a different theme or ambiance. It is the experience that is important, they say. So in this mall in central Jakarta they have this french-style eating place, with its dark-blue painted window frames and lay-out trying to emulate a Parisian street-side café. The frames are profiled to resemble cast irons, typical of “modern” late 19th century Parisian buildings.  Everything is recreated, including the way the waiters serve. The only problem is that when looking outside, you will see that each of the other shops and eating places is also fabricated to resemble some place else some period else. Suddenly you cannot help but realise that you are having a fake experience. For some, especially those who have been in those different real places before, this might give a nice nostalgic feeling. But, I feel  quite stupid in this situation, for the fact that what I see outside such a fake Parisian bistro is not a street with people walking along the wide sidewalks.

Since Indonesian middle class is rising in number (by 7 million every year) and quality, and many of them have by now experienced the real Paris or Los Angeles, or many other world cities that they aspire to live in, I wonder why they would like to be entertained by these fakes. Is it perhaps not what they, but the designers and the owners, want? Perhaps they were just indifferent, as they might not realise that the places, where they are in, are trying to emulate the real places some where else?

In the mean time, in the past 3 years or so there are noticed emerging real street-side coffee shops with real outdoor sidewalks with real people passing by in Cikini and Sabang streets, central Jakarta. And these places seem to be favoured and frequented by many. They are becoming popular. Maybe you notice them in other parts of the metropolis, too?

Nevertheless, I wonder why it is so. Is it because we really love the street life as it is, or because they also offer a nostalgic feeling about the colonial time, or we feel that it should be the true urban life in the future, for a successful metropolis yet to come?

This entry was posted in Architecture, Arts, Language and Culture, Jakarta, Urban Life. Bookmark the permalink.

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