Bandung’s Town Square Reopens: West Java

I was so pleased to read an article in the JP that after being closed for so long, the town square has been reopened with a dramatic facelift making it one of the great attractions in the city.

Bandung is one of the major cities in Java that is worth a visit on your travels. Not only is the city a joy to cruise around, it has many great restaurants and places of worship that are superbly interesting. But it is to the new Town Square that I will be heading when next I visit.

After being closed for more than three years for a major face-lift, Bandung’s landmark downtown town square has reopened as Yuli Tri Suwarni explains from Bandung.

A ceremony to mark the reopening, which has been hidden from public view by a large aluminum fence since 2003, was attended by West Java Governor Danny Setiawan.

Gilang Nugraha, a site manager for the project, said the face-lift had not only changed the look of the square, but also its social function at the heart of the West Java provincial capital.

The three-year renovation project cost approximately Rp 36 billion (US$3.78 million). Now the town square is integrated with the Grand Mosque, which is owned by the provincial administration. The town square and mosque are now located between Jl. Asia-Afrika and Jl. Dalem Kaum. Before the two locations were separated by the busy Jl. Dewi Sartika.

However, not everyone is pleased with the changes. Harastuti, the head of the Bandung Heritage Association, said the renovations had undermined the universal function of a town square, which is to bring together all layers of a community.

“I’m sad to see this. It should not have been changed into a kind of private room only for Muslims. Visitors of other faiths will be reluctant to visit the square with the mosque’s terrace protruding into the square,” said Harastuti, who is also an architecture lecturer at the city’s Parahyangan University.

Gilang said the idea of merging the square with the mosque was aimed at driving away the prostitutes and their customers who used to descend on the square every night.

He said the most significant change at the square, which was built in 1811, was the addition of a new grassy area.

Twelve palm trees from Indramayu have been planted in front of the mosque and 80 other trees, including cempaka and melati, have been planted around the square, he said.

The new-look square now has a fountain, the look of which was inspired by Babylonian elevated park, one of the wonders of the ancient world.

The space under the park, which used to be filled with power and telephone cables and water and gas pipes, has been converted into a two-story parking lot capable of accommodating up to 700 cars and 1,000 motorcycles.

Gilang acknowledged many of the trees from the old square had to be cut down during the construction work. Only six of the 20 palm trees from the old square were preserved.

“We will plant new kembang kertas trees later,” he said.

Uu Rukmana, head of the Grand Mosque and Town Square Facelift project, said construction work took so long because of the complexity of moving all the underground cables and pipes, as well as the limited availability of funds.

“About 75 percent of the funding was contributed by the provincial administration, with the remainder coming from the city mayoralty,” Uu said.

Yuli Tri Suwarni