One of our favourite buildings is in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. The building is magnificent. I would be surprised if there was anything else like it in the world. We like the idea that the nicest buildings in the world are unique, regardless of their size. Like trees and humans, no two are alike.
Can you guess the name of the building? I’ll give you a hint: it’s a mollusc. Give up? It’s called the Golden Snail.
It’s an IMAX theatre located in a park east of Jakarta. The park is a microcosm of Indonesian architecture. With its hundreds of islands dispersed throughout the sea, Indonesia has quite varied architecture.
The design isn’t the building’s only characteristic. The architect who designed it was inspired by a famous Indonesian legend: Keong Emas, which means golden snail in Indonesian.
A jealous king falls in love with a prince’s wife and kidnaps her. The god Batara Narada pities the poor woman and turns her into a golden snail. The god asks the snail to follow a river in order to find the princess’s husband.
A widow fishing along the river sees the snail and brings it home as a pet. She puts the snail in a vase.
The snail brings her luck. When she gets back from her daily fishing, the widow sees wonderful dishes on the table, the housework done and other surprises. It’s like that day after day. Her good fortune continues.
Curious to find out who is behind all of this, one day she pretends to go to the river, but quickly runs back, hugging the outside wall of the house. She peers in through a crack. She sees a beautiful princess come out of the vase and do all the work. The widow runs into the house, shatters the vase and makes the princess her daughter.
Travelling from village to village to find his love, the prince ends up at the widow’s house and finds his wife. The couple returns to their kingdom, bringing the widow with them.
In a second version, the princess is turned into a golden snail by a witch who wanted to steal her husband.
In a third version, the princess tripped on the snail and broke its shell. That’s when the bad luck begins. This legend is part of the folklore of the island of Java.
Is there a building in Quebec whose architecture was inspired by a Quebec legend?