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The Fine Art of Green Living Finds a Home in Jakarta
When Sitta Farida Abdullah received a scholarship to continue her studies in Germany in 2000, one of the first things she noticed about the country was that the people were generally very environmentally conscious.

“I attended a German language class in Freiburg, but the first thing I actually learned when I moved into my dorm was how to sort the garbage properly,” Sitta said with a laugh.

It was then that she started to become interested in how to live a “green” life. After her studies were over, she brought her ideas and observations back to Indonesia.

Together with a friend from Bandung, she founded Greenstar Artek Indonesia, a company that plans and designs sustainable solutions for all kinds of buildings.

The company also produces hydrocarbon refrigerants — a coolant for air-conditioning and refrigeration systems that is more environmentally friendly and non-toxic.

“Then I thought about renovating this house — which I had actually bought for business purposes, to resell later — and to turn it into a model for an eco-friendly house in which to apply and showcase our products,” Sitta said. “It was my brother-in-law who suggested integrating an art gallery into it.”

Even though the mother of three acknowledges that she did not know much about art at first, she was intrigued by the idea of hosting exhibitions in an environmentally friendly house, which would give her the opportunity to reach a wider audience.

“I thought, why not combine art and green technology? People who come here will not only have the chance to enjoy the artwork, but they can also learn a bit more about green buildings,” she said.

With the help of an architect from Yogyakarta, who already had experience in applying “green designs,” Sitta opened Green Artspace in June of last year. It took around a year to complete the building.

Located in busy Cipete, the street noise seems to almost vanish completely upon entering the spacious and bright venue, which is surrounded by a small garden. The original house on the site was built in the late 1980s, and Sitta has transformed it into a small oasis in the middle of bustling South Jakarta.

The ground floor is home to the art gallery. Sitta said that some of the exhibitions held there focused on art that either promoted green lifestyles or used environmentally friendly materials.

“Last year, we held a group exhibition called ‘Life Is Amazing,’ in which the curators put an emphasis on the environment and nature,” she said.

“But we are not limited to just that,” she added. “We are also open to display other kinds of artwork.”

But at the same time, Sitta does not want Green Artspace to be just another commercial art gallery. Instead, she wants to open the space for educational purposes as well. Teachers have scheduled field trips for students to visit Green Artspace.

Just recently, Green Artspace also started to host a series of monthly discussions on environmental issues. The sessions are held in collaboration with WiserEarth, a global movement and social network for sustainability.

“The first discussion was held in June, where we talked about food and sustainability. This month, the topic will be green buildings,” Sitta said.

The entire house integrates environmentally friendly elements. Even to clean the pool, Sitta said they only used a non-chemical treatment. On the roof, there is a small garden with a nice view over the city.

“We used the old doors and window frames to create a new parquet floor and furniture,” Sitta said, adding that the whole construction process upheld the 3R principle — reduce, reuse and recycle.

Green Artspace has also implemented an ice bank. “So, for example, if there is a blackout, we can still cool the house by blowing air through the ice bank,” Sitta explained.

Other eco-friendly components of Green Artspace include solar panels and a ground tank that harvests rainwater.

“In the afternoon, it can get very warm in the west side of the house because of the sunlight,” Sitta said. “That’s why we use green shading on that side to reduce the heat. We also have roof ventilation.”

Sitta said that she was confident more and more Indonesians were becoming aware of the need to protect the environment.

“I can see that things have changed for the better,” she said. “Especially among the younger urban crowd. They are concerned about environmental issues now. I saw that during a discussion we organized. We sent invitations through Facebook and Twitter, and it was mostly young people who showed up. I think that’s a very good start.”

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