Lawang Sewu building, cultural root of Semarang city

“City” definition are varies. Element that used as city minimum requirement in social group are also different. For example in Hellenistic world, place called city if there is theater element, gymnasium and pyrtaneion. In the middle ages of Islam world, city element consist of defend fort, market and public place bath. In Europe, city consist of defend fort, market and law court (Rapoport, 1986).

In Islam sultanate era in Indonesia, a place called “city” when equipped with palace as central of power, mosque as center of worship (ritual), and market as center of economic activities (Nanang Saptono, 2008). City definition was affected by development era that makes transformation.

When city fort which located in Semarang is demolished in 1824, it has background and reason like for improving security level, for significance economic growth and etc, which make infrastructure and structure of the city start to build as consequences.

Lawang Sewu building is example of material cultural heritage. Building that was designed by Ouendag and Klinkhamer in beginning 20 century is believed as urban cultural portrait in beginning 1900s in Semarang. Not just architecture, but when explored its showing clearly how people interacted  globally in Semarang at that time. Is it the information very valuable?. Semarang can be sure as cosmopolitan city in that era, inspiration to Surabaya, Batavia and Bandung even can be  look back how cultural process happen in Kiai Pandan Arang as founder of Semarang city.

Today Semarang celebrating its 462 years anniversary. What cultural portrait that happens today? Lawang Sewu building as “cultural basket” was hoped to give cultural values. Conservation and Heritage center, PT. Kereta Api Indonesia (Persero) should give contribution together with Government of Central Java province and Semarang city Government in giving social education about a picture of Semarang in past, today and future.

Cultural representation for Semarang people is very urgent. The dynamic of Semarang people if not based with cultural pillar will affect unhumanistic Semarang image. “Urban culture” conservation program in Semarang is not balanced yet with just economy concept. Semarang as main city of Central Java should become “architrave” and “culture trendsetter” that inspired many parties in all layer.

Lawang Sewu building was seen can hold concept that mention above with right. Conservation and Heritage center, PT. Kereta Api Indonesia (Persero) can become citizen inspiration if utilization concept of Lawang Sewu building is clear and in line with decision make. It’s also with commitment and consistent. Having field staff that super creative with read and directing urban culture concept.

Lawang Sewu building utilization as business commercial space is not all wrong because from their treatment and maintenance fee will get as long as not deviate from cultural heritage material principle. Commercial utilization which not obeys that principle will destroy the building and omit cultural values which should be showed.

Many business activities can done without quit from building and site preservation principle. In front main (A, L type) can be used for business management like shop arcade - mall, convention room, food and beverage, exhibition, special event, international bid hall for antiquarian etc. Meanwhile, back main building (B, I type) can be used for “creative house” like school of heritage management, museology, field archaeology, RMIT (restoration, modification, intervention, transformation), historical architecture, photography, cinematography, film documentary, archives, library, graphic design, Semarang redevelopment authority, railways heritage preservation centre, building conservation, music conservatory, cultural preservation studio, etc.

Additional middle building (C, ex printing office) can be used as executive lounge, exclusive resto & bar. Then part of hall A and B building can be used as coffee or eating chair place, meanwhile inner yard border in outside building can become food gallery and visitor driveway without additional building. Kitchen placed in backyard service area. Event is held routinely and thematically inside or inner courtyard of building to keep urban cultural sustainability.

When thinking about space function, it must understanding “The True of Lawang Sewu”. Lawang Sewu building must become spirit and motivator for PT. Kereta Api Indonesia (Persero). Today Lawang Sewu building is not just cultural heritage but can become cultural resources. As other resources like nature resources, human and social, simple cultural resources understanding in economic ways can become strength for profit. Lawang Sewu building someday can become independent for itself even for its environment.

 
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Photo's Courtesy KITLV, The Netherlands
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