Source: The Jakarta Post 11-5-2007
The tough task of restoring city's heritage buildings
In recent times, the Jakarta administration has turned its attention to the conservation of
heritage buildings in the capital. However, with just a handful of architects dedicated to this
pursuit, the process has been gradual. Following in the footsteps of his father, Han Awal,
architect-cum-photographer Gregorius "Yori" Antar spends much of his time learning ways to
restore historical buildings. He recently explained to The Jakarta Post's Anissa S. Febrina
what restoration and conservation of architectural heritage is all about.
Question: In general, what opportunities and challenges do restoration and conservation
projects present? Answer: Basically, it is important for a city to keep track of its history.
Architectural heritage provides us with physical proof of history.
It is important to not only preserve the physique of buildings, but also revitalize their function
accordingly. What used to be an office in the past may not be suitable for that function
anymore, but may be able to be used in other ways.
Take the Post Office building, for example. It will soon be used as a philately museum and a
However, it is difficult where A-class architectural heritage sites are concerned because there
are strict rules on restorations.
When restoring buildings we have to take great care. We must be careful when choosing and
replacing old decaying materials so as to not to lose the charisma of original buildings.
Certain houses in Menteng are good examples of this. Once existing roof tiles are replaced
with tiles that are completely different in style, you immediately lose this charisma.
Interior, lighting and landscape details should also be taken into consideration. Old buildings
look better with monochrome lighting. Colorful lights make them look like discotheques.
What is so unique about the Bank Indonesia Museum restoration project?
It is unique because it is a fantastic opportunity to learn about classic architecture. We will
have to redraw every shop drawing and measure every detail of the building.
The challenge is to establish a new function for this former office building.
Another challenge is in choosing the materials to be used. We could choose avant garde
materials, but we would have to do it carefully to avoid losing the original character of the
With experience gained restoring the National Archive building, we decided to use rough wall
plasters in the Bank Indonesia building because it will look too modern if we apply today's
Restoring the Bank Indonesia Museum is similar to restoring an A-class architectural heritage
building in that we are endeavoring to restore it as closely as possible to its original
Restoration and conservation projects are often considered as being expensive and idealistic.
Is this the case in reality?
It depends on how bad the damage is. Restorations to the Maritime Museum, for example,
were expensive because of damage caused by sea water intrusion and the subsequent need
to use specific technology in the restoration process.
It also depends on how close to their original appearance buildings must be after restoration.
Where A-class buildings are concerned, maintaining originality is a must. However, we should
also not dwell too much on the past.
Cambodia's Angkor Wat has been conserved in the French style of keeping history intact,
where even moss is left untouched. This school of thought relies on the imagination of visitors
to visualize what sites must have looked like centuries ago.
Indonesia tends to be influenced by the Dutch in terms of conservation, where buildings are
restored to look like they did in the past. However, we also try to envisage new functions for
buildings in accordance with requirements and potential.
Americans sometimes take conservation to the extreme, their main aim being to attract
tourists. I once visited an Indian village in the South West of the country where local
inhabitants were forced to live their lives and dress as their ancestors would have centuries
ago. Who would want to live like that in the present day?