Gedung Merdeka: From Sociëteit Concordia To Bandung Conference.

Gedung Merdeka Bandung has a long history until finally in 1955 it became the venue for the Bandung Conference or also popular with Asia Africa Conference/Afro Asia Conference. The enchantment of the architecture of Gedung Merdeka, which locates on Jalan Asia Afrika No.56, Bandung, West Java, remains a particular attraction for anyone passing along the streets of Asia Africa in the middle of Bandung City, Indonesia.

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Gedung Merdeka-Bandung, West Java-Indonesia.

In its time, this building was used as a place of gathering and socialization by a group of Dutch people who live in the city of Bandung and its surroundings. The building built in 1895 by Assistant Resident Preanger, Pieter Sijthoff, called “Societeit Concordia“.

European citizens of this group more or less helped build Bandung into a modern city for the size at that time. Not only modern but also beautiful and comfortable for its residents. No wonder Bandung once got the nickname as a city for retirees, de Stad der Gepensionneerden, where people live comfortably in their old days.

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Sociëteit Concordia-Bandung, West Java-Indonesia (photo source: mooibandoeng.com)

The existence of Sociëteit Concordia is very exclusive so that no one can carelessly enter and enjoy its luxury. Not just the natives (inlander), white people who do not have access to the European elite community in Bandung will also find it difficult to enter. Some of the natives from the noble class or who was likened might have had time to taste the luxury of the Societeit Concordia through parties organized by their schools.

Sociëteit Concordia itself grown into a community of many European elites in numerous major cities in the Dutch East Indies. Particularly, Societeit Concordia in Bandung, opposite to house belonging to Klaas de Vries who later turned into “Werenhuis de Vries” which was very popular on weekends.

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On holidays or weekends, especially at night, this building is used for dancing, watching art shows or dinner by plantation employees, officers, dignitaries, entrepreneurs, and many elite circles.

This place grew into the most luxurious and modern gathering place of its time. In the inside, there is a room where people can drink, relax, dance and watch art shows. The floor is made of Italian marble and ceiling decorated with Crystal lamps.

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The presence of the Sociëteit Concordia Building which is located not far from the Bragaweg area (Braga street), also the Hotel Homann (founded in 1880) and the Preanger Hotel (founded in 1897), appeared to describe the arrangement of the social community in Bandung as a cosmopolitan city at that period.

Wolff-Schoemaker
C. P. Wolff Schoemaker

The fascinating of Sociëteit Concordia spiritedness remains to increase. Therefore, in 1928 the building was renovated and the addition of a performance building next to the main building. The renovation was carried out through the designs of Van Galen Last and C. P. Wolff Schoemaker which featured art deco styles at Gedung Merdeka. Then in 1940, for the second time, Gedung Merdeka was renovated, especially on the left-wing, to look more attractive. The design was completed by A.F. Aalbers who appear with international style architecture.

The Concordia Building changed its name several times before finally becoming Gedung Merdeka. In the era of Japanese occupation in the second world war, this building was renamed Dai Toa Kaman with the function as a place for performing arts and Cultural for Japanese military power. After the Proclamation of Indonesian Independence, this building was used as the headquarters of Indonesian youth to face the Japanese military power which at that time was reluctant to surrender its power to the people of Indonesia.

A.F.Aalbers
A.F.Aalbers

In 1950 it was named the Constituent Building and in 1960 the MPRS Building. In March 1980 this building was again entrusted to be the place to commemorate the 25th Asia-Africa Conference. At the height of the commemoration was inaugurated the Museum of the AsianAfrican Conference by Suharto, the second President of the Republic of Indonesia. Although the function of Gedung Merdeka changes from time to time, the name of Gedung Merdeka remains attached on the facade of the building.

 

Gedung Merdeka and the venue of Bandung Conference.

With the decision of the government of the Republic of Indonesia (1954) which established Bandung City as the place for the AsianAfrican Conference/Bandung Conference, and Gedung Merdeka was chosen as the venue for the conference.

Bandung-Conference-1955

At that time the Gedung Merdeka still the largest and most magnificent meeting place in Bandung. And the location is very strategic in the middle of the city of Bandung and close to the two best hotels in the city, Savoy Homann Hotel and Preanger Hotel that are used to stay for state guests.

After several renovations, on April 7, 1955, Ir. Soekarno, Indonesia’s first President, again gave the name of this building Gedung Merdeka and prepared as the venue for the Bandung Conference.

At least 25 new countries in Asia and Africa were invited. The Bandung conference was the culmination of the previous meeting held in Bogor in December 1954. At the conference in Bogor, it was decided to continue a conference in April 1955 in Bandung and set the five initiator countries: Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka as the countries that will determine the 25 countries that will be invited. The main issue at the Bandung conference was the nationalism and anti-imperialism. The alignment to countries that want independence and recognition of newly independent countries. The Asia Africa Conference held on April 18-24, 1955.

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The Museum of the Asian African Conference.

The idea to make Gedung Merdeka as a museum of Bandung Conference was sparked during a committee meeting of the Commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Asian-African Conference (1980). The Museum of the Asian-African Conference was inaugurated by the Indonesian President Soeharto on April 24, 1980, as the highlight of the 25th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference.

The Museum of the Asian-African Conference (KAA) exhibited a collection of pictures of the KAA’s travel process, and items used when the conference took place, such as furniture, typewriters and recording cameras. At least there are 4,000 collections in this museum. There are also statues of the initiators of the conference tailored to their previous conditions. The Museum of the Asian-African Conference is opened every day except on national holidays. Visitors are not charged a fee to trace the history of Gedung Merdeka and Bandung Conference.

Also, read The House of Wonders In Stone Town-Zanzibar Island.

 

 

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