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Braga Street

Braga Street is a small street in the center of Bandung, Indonesia, which was famous in the 1920s as a promenade street. Chic cafes, boutiques and restaurants with European ambiance along the street had made the city to attain the Paris van Java nickname. The street starts from a T-junction with the Asia-Afrika Street (or De Groote Postweg during the colonial times) to the north until the city council (balaikota), which was formerly a coffee warehouse.

Early history

Initially, Braga Street has an official name of Karreweg. The city resident dubbed the street as Pedatiweg, from the Indonesian language of horse-drawn carriages (pedati), because it was a narrow street (about 10 m or 30 feet (9.1 m) wide) that only carriages could pass through. The street was built only to connect the major Great Post Road with a coffee warehouse, owned by a Dutch coffee plantation owner Andries de Wilde (the warehouse is now the seat of the city administration or balaikota). In 1856, when Bandung was the capital of Priangan Regency, some colonial houses were built along the dirt road of Braga Street with their houses thatched with reeds, alang-alang grass or other straw materials.

In 1882, a theater group established itself at the south part of the street and the Toneel Braga, the name of the drama group, became famous. Residents flocked into the street to watch the group's performance every night and therefore the road was then improved by stones and oil lamps were installed for the lights. The street was then popularly known as the Braga street.

In 1884, a railroad connecting Batavia to the city was laid down and the city core grew rapidly. New buildings filled the southern end of the street while the northern one was still a rubber tree forest. The street became more famous with a grocery store named De Vries which sells daily needs for rich plantation owners. Hotels, banks, cafes and restaurants were opened and the street transformed itself into a major shopping street.

In the early of twentieth century, the street was the most European shopping street in the Dutch Indies. Several well-known Western products opened their stores in the street, including Chrysler, Plymouth and Renault car distributors. Colonial bookstores, watches and jeweleries retailers and boutique shops were common in the street for the high class people.

In the 1900s, along with the Dutch East Indies government plan to move the capital from Batavia to Bandung, the government included Braga Street into part of town planning. In 1906, the city council began replacing stone by asphalt and applying a new rule of designing new buildings at the street. Art Deco buildings began to decorate the street and about 50% of which are still present with their original architecture.

Starting from the south entrance, the Gedung Merdeka (Independence Building) stands at the corner, known as the venue of the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference. Built in 1895 as a clubhouse for the wealthy, the building was first named as the Concordia Society. The building was renovated twice in 1920 and 1928, the last of which was designed by two Dutch architects, Van Gallen Last and C.P. Wolff Schoemaker. It is now used as a museum of the conference.

At the southeast corner of the cross-section between the Naripan Street, an eight-stories building is noticeable for its distinctive oceanwave style. Designed by Dutch architect A.F. Aalbers in 1936, the radical modern architecture building was used for the DENIS (De Eerste Nederlandsch-Indische Spaarkas or the First Dutch-Indies Savings) bank. Aalbers applied the Amsterdam School architectural style with its strong expressionism dialect, shown by the rounded curves along the horizontal side and one vertical fa├žade in the middle, but he put also the modernist architecture for the interior design. The building is still used as the headquarter of a regional bank, the Bank Jabar.(wikipedia)

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