With its unfortunate status as a center of infection for the "Asian flu" that has swept through the Far East financial markets, leaving crashing currencies and massive insolvency in its wake, Indonesia has had a hard time of it lately. However, not so long ago--less than a year, in fact--Indonesia was the center of a fiscal boom that bred the kind of wild confidence that led business people to try to shatter records every time they embarked on a new project. So it's not surprising that the Indonesian capital of Jakarta should turn out to be the home of the largest club in the world: Bengkel, which opened last July.
To grasp the concept behind Bengkel, think in threes: triangles, pyramids. First, there's the club's location, inside Jakarta's "Golden Triangle" district, a prime commercial and banking area that is located two minutes away from the Indonesian stock exchange. The area was marked for further development, with a number of hotels, large-scale shopping malls, and various recreation facilities in the works, although presumably most of these are now on hold.
The triangle theme extends to Bengkel's design concept, because it is housed in a specially designed pyramid that reaches five stories in height at its peak. In fact, the club is only part of the building, which is designed as a larger-scale entertainment complex. The club has a footprint area of 100x100m (330'x330'); three floors encompass a central atrium that extends to the peak of the pyramid. The first and second floors are designed for dancing and live performances at night. During the day, however, the same space is intended for use as a multi-purpose entertainment complex for corporate launches, large-scale company parties, and other such events. Also on the ground floor is a restaurant that operates during the day, serving lunch to those who work in the area.
The third floor of the pyramid is intended for entertainment of another sort, typical to Asia. It contains 40 luxuriously appointed VIP karaoke rooms fitted with an advanced technological control system that was designed for all the facilities that will be installed in the rooms. Thus the building allows for various kinds of activity, from dining to dancing, concerts to karaoke; presumably, then, Benkgel draws on an unusually wide audience, from club kids to well-heeled businessmen.
The idea of wide audience appeal is a good one, since Bengkel is designed on a such a massive scale. The club's owners, Pt. Artha Graha, specified that it have a dance floor that measures 40x40m (132'x132'), with a stage that is nearly 30m (99') wide and 20m (66') deep, thereby allowing room for virtually any kind of special event. With such an interior, it is claimed that Benkgel can easily accommodate a crowd in the 12,000-15,000 range. That is not a misprint. In other words, entire small towns will fit inside Bengkel on any given night.
Martin Professional's Singapore office was invited to make proposals for Benkgel during the design phase of the building. After a six-month conceptual period, the design, created by Steve Rawlins, was accepted. In keeping with the building's pyramid shape, Rawlins came up with a series of inverted pyramids fitted about the main dance floor area and an independent set of three triangular-shaped trusses surrounding an octagon suspended above the stage. This truss accommodates nearly six tons of Martin products, taking in the full range of the company's intelligent lights.
Rawlins, a lighting designer for Martin, created the rig with products that include Martin PAL 1200s (both the profile and effects versions), MAC 1200s, Roboscans, RoboColors, and Magnum Pro 2000s. Martin also provided the control.
In its early months, Bengkel played host to a number of hot local and international bands including groups such as Suede, Boyzone, and Michael Learns to Rock. Also, MTV Asia used Benkgel for its Live and Loud series, featuring five Indonesian bands. Rawlins lit and programmed these events. More recently, Bengkel has focused on local bands, as a way of dealing with the plunging rupiah.
Clearly, Indonesia's economy is in for a rough ride over the next several months. But Benkgel exemplifies the massively scaled entertainment space spawned by the recent good times, which, when they return, will have a venue ready to accommodate all revelers.
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