Hoop gloort. De renaissance van het gebouw van de Nederlandsch-Indische Kunstkring in Batavia (Jakarta)
The Art-Society building in Batavia (Jakarta), which was opened in 1914, was designed by P.A.J. Moojen (1879-1955), one of the first professional architects working in the Dutch East Indies. Moojen, who received his training in Antwerp, was one of the founders of a contemporary Indonesian architecture and actively took part in the debate on style and architecture in the twenties.
He designed, for instance, a (not realised) building for the Department of Education and Worship at Koningsplein and conducted the entries for international colonial exhibitions in Antwerp (1930) and Paris (1931). In the Art-Society building Moojen applied the newest techniques, steel roofs and reinforced concrete. The marked alternation of light and dark surfaces in the walls and the careful choice of materials, colours and details indicated a new direction in architecture in the Dutch East Indies.
The powerfully built exterior shows similarities to the work of H.P. Berlage. The economic crisis of 1997 and the end of the Soeharto-regime a year later put a premature stop to the plans to restore the vacant building. This meant a direct threat to the continued existence of the complex, which was prominently situated at a three-forked road in the Menteng-Gondangdia quarter.
After all, similar situations had more than once resulted in demolition, regardless of the constructional condition or architectonic quality of a building. The Art-Society building, one of the emblems of Dutch East Indian architecture, ought to be spared such a fate. For in spite of varying functions, additions and vacancy, the building had been largely preserved as far as construction and details are concerned - and hence was an important monument to Dutch East Indian architecture.
After the municipality of Jakarta had purchased the building in 2001, it organised a contest of ideas, in cooperation with Walibatu ('citizens who concern themselves about old buildings') and the Jakarta branch of IAI (society of Indonesian architects). The winning entry of architect Dastin Hillery provides for a cultural centre with public functions. The latter are necessary in order to make the building self-supporting in due course.
In 2003 a start was made with the restoration work, under supervision of the Jakarta architect Arya Abieta. This work is hindered by incomplete historical information and the fact that, in spite of the contest, no decision has been reached on a future function of the building.