Sunday, January 15, 2017

Borsumij Building, the only Legacy of J.F.L Blankenberg in Semarang


Borsumij Office of Semarang in 1939, shortly after its finished. The contrast between the old-colonial architecture of Koepelkerk, and the modern art deco of Borsumij.
(source: Locale Techniek, 1940)
In the middle of 1938, a fifty’s-years old architect, Johan Frederik Lodewijk Blankenberg was asked by the N.V. Borneo Sumatera Maatschappij (Borsumij) to designed their new office buildings in Semarang. Blankenberg, whom at that time were the chairman of  Nederlandsch-Indische Architectenkring (NIAK), accept this offers. Here, Blankenberg as its requested by Borsumij, have to designs the office similar with what His fellow architect, Cosmas Citroen had done in Surabaya that had designed their office also in 1934. In His opinion, Blankenberg agreed that the Citroen designs for the Borsumij building in Surabaya gives it the best of the best of modern office building in Dutch Indies (Indonesia during colonial period), as it already addressed in advance to the maximization of space, function and natural lighting. 

The plaque in the entrance of  the Borsumij building of Semarang. 
The Borusmij building in Semarang, located in the centre of the Kota Lama area, in its main road, Heerenstraat (currently Jalan Letjen Soeprapto) and next to Koepelkerk, the landmark of Kota Lama. The building, seen from outside maybe just like another art-deco building built in colonial period but inside it, were remarkable.  The materials inside, its floor, wall, stairs, stained glass and pillars so colourful. The marble floors colour . The stairs decoration used the colour of Arabescato (creamy green with black veins) when the walls were in Rosso Levanto (dark red with white veins), both Italian marbles.  The columns coated in lead glazed black colored moldings, when the basement used the gray green granite plester. At the entrance, there were friezes and ceramic plaque stated that the first stone of the construction laid by M.C . Albert-Rauh, the wife of the Borsumij Agent of Semarang in Ferbuary 4th 1939. Construction was by the Firm. Ooiman and van Leeuwen in Semarang and after ten months, in October, its finished. The construction costs approximately ƒ 150.000.- (almost 12 billion rupiahs in the current value) for office and the new warehouses on the norths if the office.

One's of the Borsumij new warehouses building, located on the north
of the offices. This warehouse also designed by Blankenberg and built
in 1939.
Borsumij itself was a one’s of the major company in Dutch Indies at that times, its even considered as one’s of top big five companies in Dutch Indies along with Nederlandse Handel Maatschappij (NHM), Geo Wehry, Lindeteves Stokvis and Jacobson van den Berg. It was founded by J.W. Schlimmer, agent of NHM at Banjarmasin (East Kalimantan). In 1883, at a time when NHM shifted its attention to banking rather than commodity trade, Schlimmer took over the NHM facilities in the region and began his own company, Schlimmer & Co. In 1894 it became a limited liability company under the name of N.V Borneo-Sumatera Maatschappij (Borsumij) with its headquaters at 's-Gravenhage (another name for The Hague, then its no longer used after the city municipality start from 1990 to consistently using Den Haag/ The Hague as the official name), Netherlands. Beside Banjarmasin, it opened offices at Pontianak and Medan. The company came to hold a monopolistic role in the commodity trade in Kalimantan and Sumatera, related to the name of the company. As there were no large credit institution during these early years, Borsumij was able to succesfully expand its business. The company thereupon invested heavily in agricultural and mining estates, specifically rubber and coal. By the late twenties decade, Borsumij acquired large rubber sources and became direct supplier to Goodyear at Singapore. In the early 20's century, Borsumij also became major export-import company, and its made the company growth bigger. Borsumij ended their fate as big company in 1958, while its nationalized by Indonesian Government following the West Papua Crisis. The company then became state-owned company until nowadays, and its asset managed by PT. Perusahaan Perdagangan Indonesia (PPI).

Source: 
1. Locale Techniek, 1940, volume 009, issue 001
2. Commercial Networks in Modern Asia by Linda Grove and Shinya Sugiyama

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