Text by Anas Hidayat
Translated by Mohammad Nanda Widyarta
Contertainer, designed by dpavilion architects of Surabaya – Indonesia, is an amalgam of two words: container and entertainer. From its outer look, at a glance one can see an architectural form made of several brightly painted containers—red, yellow, blue and light green—in attractive position and composition, thus forming a contertainer.
Principal architects of dpavilion, Edwin Nafarin, once muttered: “I want to create architecture that would please many”. Contertainer is one of his works that manifests his architectural creed.
Contertainer Is situated in Batu, East Jawa, Indonesia. Batu is a relatively new town which still retains a strong agricultural nuance. Perhaps it is a town with a village-like atmosphere. Contertainer is a public facility, consisting of a polyclinic and a library, where ordinary people can come and use the facilities for free. The appearance of the contertainer in town can be perceived through various angles, for the appearance of an architectural work would be followed by many effects which it produces.
Along with the development of Indonesian towns and cities, aside from the rise of wealth, there is also a widening gap between the haves and the have nots. The have nots get more and more marginalized, their access to educational and health care services becomes more obscure, due to the increase of related fees. Such is an effect of global economy system, which mechanism is akin to the law of the jungle. This contertainer is a social attempt toentertain lower class people through free library access and health care service, so they would be able to have a better living quality amidst the fast-moving world.
The word entertain tends to be associated with the bliss of big cities: discotheques, pubs, movie theatres, theme parks, game zones, etc.; those “artificial” amusements. But here, at a country town called Batu, the term entertain is a bit “corrupted”; it is a real amusement for the lower class people, the ordinary people. They need proper health care service and access to quality readings in order to make them more confident as total, existing human beings.
On the other hand, in 1960s, Rendra, an Indonesian literary figure, reminded us that “in our country, the cities grow as the distributors of foreign products”. This contertainer seems to embodies his criticism. Foreign products which inundated Indonesia are freighted in tens of thousand containers. Aside from entertaining lower class people, contertainer provides an allusion: “don’t keep our cities the distributors of foreign products. Stop it. Let’s use the containers as architectural pieces!”.
One question to reveal: why dpavilion architects, as a designer of polyclinic and public library, started its idea from container? Perhaps there are several factors. First, a logical one: container is a firm structure with human-scaled spatial aspect (in spite of its real purpose as container of goods), so it is rather practical, quick and cheap to be transformed into architectural work (a 2,4m x12m used container costs only 8 million rps, there are 8 containers). Second, a morphological factor: container has a unique characteristic, a hollow block with standardized sizes, with potentialities to be designed with extreme and provocative manner. Third, symbolical factor: these containers, now utilized as a polyclinic and library, had travelled around the globe. Hence, a container is a true adventurer.
The containers utilized as a polyclinic and library are used container, a true adventurer, is undoubtedly representing the library. Books, “the windows to the world”, are placed inside such container; an appropriate collaboration, is it not? May it stimulate the children reading at the library, fulfilling their curiousities to explore terra incognita.
Also, a container has dynamic nature, it moves and shifts, yet it also transformed into static, unshifting architectural being. To force a container to remain still, is seemingly against its dynamic nature. Yet the designers celebrate its dynamic form through a twisted, non-linear composition. This is enhanced with supporting columns placed uncongruently, making the contertainer enjoys its dynamism.
The contertainer is also a parody, the dichotomy of architecture as a place for activities (which considers human scale) and as expression (expressing emotion and the will of artist), the contertainer exhibits containers of goods as containing human beings. We may ponder upon this: how important is human being for architecture? How un-important is human being for architecture?
In Batu, the cultures of cosmopolitant and the agricultural meet, as mention before, a town with a village-like atmosphere. A bit ambiguous: it is called a town, yet it has village atmosphere; it may be called a village, but is called a town already. The township of Batu is indeed in the process of growth, so the clash between the cosmopolitant and the agricultural tends to take place. Some citizens still work on the fields for a living, yet some others see the field as properties or industrials investment for the future.
The contertainer is an architectural manifestation of such cultural clash. Contertainer is made of containers as a cultural reflection of the open, free, straight forward cosmopolitant which is then planted agriculturally on a site for a long term. Besides, the contertainer proves that a container does not have one single purpose; it has myriad of purposes. Containers may become buildings, encouraging people to perceive buildings creatively from various points of view. They may learn to inquire their local genius in doing architecture.
Recalling existing debates on architecture’s position in relation to market, we may not take aside the issue of commodification of architecture. There are those who believe that architecture is precisely a commodity to buy and sell; some others refute it, and say instead that architecture is a unique and contextual ouvre. Academics and professionals commonly perceive commodified architecture as something marginal; architecture has to be a pure, uncommodifed beaux art.
This contertainer challenges: “architecture as a commodity, why not?”. The point is to make architecture a fine quality commodity, not the low, mundane one, not event a kitsch. In the present time, commodification is an unavoidable, contertainer blatantly uses containers as symbol of commodity, implicitly saying: “It’s a commodity yet is an architecture!.
Contertainer by dpavilion architects is open to be perceived and interpreted from different points of view. An elusive architectural work, it is getting away from one gaze to another. It simultaneously tells that architectural work is multi-interpretative, everybody may interpret it from her/his point.
Is the contertainer, as an architectural piece, justified? Forget container, entertainer, culture, economy and the likes. Just see and experience it. Consider that we only have our eyes as the only elements of our bodies; the eyes will always have the opportunity to reveal the hidden. Architecture which alludes. Apart from the issue of right-or-wrong, good-bad or beautiful-ugly, contertainer is still attractive and provocative. Wanna buy?
Data about Contertainer
Location: Jl. Sultan Agung- Kota Batu – East Java – Indonesia
Site Area: 700 m2
Client: Mr. Ronny Sendjojo
Architect: PT Di Pavilion Kami Berkarya – dpavilion architects
Project Team: Edwin Nafarin (Principal), Kamawardhana Heksa Putera, Kartika Ciputera
Structural Engineer: Junaedi Masil & Associate, Surjo
Photographer: Ganny Gozaly