Siti Nur Farah Binte Sheikh Ismail
Poetics of Emptiness: Redefining the 21st Century Alun-Alun in Semarang

Thesis Supervisor: A/P Erik L'Heureux

Site: Semarang, Central Java

My thesis is a proposal for an alternative form of the alun-alun that is modified and situated in Simpang Lima. The design concept was derived from the state of emptiness of the alun-alun across the Indonesian archipelago and since the idea of emptiness itself is actually a strong concept that is rooted in the Indonesian culture, the architecture intends to represent it in a different light and in a metaphorical manner that shows simplicity and deep respect for the context of the site. It seeks to alter the symbolism that draws people away due to fear and intimidation, to a symbol that actually draws people closer to it.

It represents a new model of the alun-alun in the 21st century to instil a change in the symbolism behind it. It repositions the alun-alun in a new manner where the old and contemporary ways are able to harmoniously exist. The architecture embraces emptiness and the use of voids to engage the users with the space and allow them to seek comfort in it. This distinctively creates a new dialogue between the alun-alun and the people. New memories, life and stories that weave into the voids become instruments that initiate a new symbol of the 21st Century alun-alun in Semarang.  

The alun-alun is a large open space that is located in front of a royal palace with two peculiar looking trees positioned in the middle of the square. The canopy of the trees is said to resemble an umbrella which means protection, from the royal leaders to his people. Traditionally, the commoners will sit under the hot sun, before meeting the leaders in the palace. But on most days, the alun-alun will remain empty and this has made the space into a symbol of power for the royals. The constant state of emptiness of the alun-alun further emphasise the power the royals have over the space.