There are many occasions when we’ll mentally blink and ask ourselves “what the …? when going anywhere in Jakarta. Sadly, sights or sites which produce a quiet smile, let alone a giggle, which can enliven the rest of the day are rare here.
We Brits are known for our follies. These have nothing to do with the Folies Bergère, which is a famous night club in Paris, founded in 1876, which has featured a host of top performers, such as Frank Sinatra and Benny Hill, yet is more famous for “small nude women”.
According to this short history of Brtish follies, a major theme in the 17th century were “mock gothic ruins and ancient temples scattered with seeming random abandon about the landscape of many grand houses.”
Neither am I going altogether by the definition of follies in my Websters as “foolish and useless but expensive undertakings,” because although some architectural constructions aren’t what they appear to be, they may may not be expensive.
According to the Folly Fellowship, some make us laugh, some provoke contemplative thoughts, some can frighten. Some are mere whims, others demand to be taken seriously. Their creators may have had a whimsical notion to do something oddly out of the ordinary without any baser compusion than a sense of it making some kind of sense, perhaps in a parallel universe.
However, although planning laws prevent modern day architectural follies, some might claim that the humble garden gnome or pink flamingo is merely a small-scale folly. And certainly, the English love of the peculiar, the eccentric statement of individuality in our gardens, lives on.
But, and I don’t think you’ll mind, a glance at my title will tell you that I’ve been digressing a bit .
Under a pair of flyovers in east London, a new folly is temporarily on show. It’s aptly named the Flyover Folly and fills a space which in Jakarta would house scavengers and similar homeless folk but in Hackney is a cinema for the rest of this month.
This page about it is, however, somewhat highbrow.
The structure is scaffolding holding up some wobbly-looking bricks, which turn out to be made of reclaimed timber – oak, pine, yellowish opepe and reddish jarrah from railway sleepers. Each of the 10,000 bricks has been sawn from longer lengths by volunteers, and drilled with holes so they could be strung together by wires. The wall is in fact not masonry, but woven, and its elements can be reused after it is taken down.
It’s an endearing-looking object, but more important is the way it brings to life a spot few will have known was there. The place is powerful, under the roads, with Piranesian columns, the water of the Hackney Cut and a slot of clear air, like an elongated oculus, between the two Roman-scaled bridges.
With far fewer words, none in fact, OakOak in France sees possibilities in streets which leave a smile on our faces at no cost.
More of his work can be seen here. Check out both sites for larger images. You’ll thank me later.
And if you come across anything similar in Jakarta, please do let me know.