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The Ruko: Changing Appearances and Associations of Shophouses in Urban Indonesia

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This article explores the meanings of Chinese shophouses (known as ruko) within the dynamic socio-political and historical contexts of Indonesia. It argues that in order to fully understand this building type, it is necessary to move beyond its architectural characteristics or building typology and engage with the discourses of social perception and meaning production that define the thriving urban environment in Indonesia. Attentive to shifts in meanings across time, it shows how the structure of the ruko serves initially as a catalyst for political repression, then becomes a basis for economic recovery and finally serves as a site for identity formation. The article ultimately argues that studies of a building type should be more attentive to the negotiated relationship between architecture and identity and to the socio-political and cultural contestations within which the built environment is located.

Keywords: Chinese; Jakarta; identity; politics; shophouse

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of British Columbia

Publication date: August 17, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.
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