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The History of Bandung and Gedung Merdeka

Bandung is the capital city of West Java province, with the third largest population in Indonesia after Jakarta and Surabaya. The city of Bandung began during the Mataram Kingdom in the 17th century. At that time, the capital of Bandung Regency was in Krapyak, now called Dayeuhkolot. Krapyak is located approximately 11 kilometers south of Bandung's city center, near the mouth of the Cikapundung River. The Mataram Kingdom in Bandung lasted until 1677 before moving to the Dutch East Indies government. 

To defend Java during the time of war, the first Governor-General Herman Willem Daendels built a road that served as a line of defense extending from Anyer on the western tip of Java to Panarukan on the east. The road was originally supposed to run along the north coast of Java, but with reasons of a logistical supply, from Karawang the road was diverted to the south to reach the area that would later become the city of Bandung. Then, Bandung was officially founded by the Dutch East Indies colonial government, under Governor-General Herman Willem Daendels on September 25, 1810. 

Bandung continues to develop, from what was originally a closed area for forced planting, to a transit area and to develop as a city for holidays. The nickname Bandung Paris Van Java was popularized by the Dutch, in which the nickname was closely related to the development of tourism in the Dutch East Indies. Bandung as the Paris of Java Island emerged as it became the center of fashion style. In addition, architecture in Bandung applies art deco as a reference for the construction of buildings that are very similar to Paris. Examples that can be seen are Sociëteit Concordia, the Preanger Hotel Building and the Savoy Homan hotel. Bandung also has many art public spaces such as museums, galleries and theaters.

Post Indonesia’s independence, Indonesia’s political situation was unstable. In an effort to maintain independence, on March 23, 1946 the Bandung Lautan Api or ‘Bandung Sea of Fire’ occurred. During this event, 200,000 Bandung residents burned their own homes and left the city to the mountains south of Bandung. The burning of houses and buildings was carried out to prevent the Dutch NICA allies and troops from using the city as a military base. However, important buildings such as Sociëteit Concordia remain intact. 

Sociëteit Concordia, which was later known as Gedung Merdeka, was one of the important buildings for its significance throughout the history of Bandung. Following Indonesia's Independence, the building was used as Indonesia’s youth base in response to the threat of Japanese troops who still unwillingly accepted the independence of Indonesia. The next year, after the clash of Bandung Sea of Fire, this magnificent art deco-style building functioned as an art and entertainment building.

In the early period of the reign, the government set the Concordia building as a public meeting hall. In 1954, the renowned Concordia became popular when it was appointed by the government of the Republic of Indonesia as the venue of the Asia-Africa Conference. Asia-Africa Conference was the first international assembly of Asian-African Nations and was attended by 29 Asian and African countries from 18 to 24 April 1955. Therefore, at the beginning of 1955, a restoration project was conducted to improve the quality of the building and accommodate international-level meetings. On April 7th, 1955, first Indonesia’s president, Soekarno, subsequently renamed the Concordia into Gedung Merdeka along with Jalan Raya Pos which changed into Jalan Asia Afrika. Now, this building is used as a museum exhibiting various collectables and photos of the Asia-Africa Conference.

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Daniswari, D. (2022, August 19). Gedung Merdeka di Bandung: Sejarah, Fungsi, dan Arsitek. Kompas.

Melani, P. (2020, March 15). Alasan Belanda Jadikan Bandung ‘Paris Van Java’. CNN Indonesia.

Setyaningrum, P. (2022, December 21). Sejarah dan Asal Nama Kota Bandung. Kompas.

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