“I am an architect, but not an ordinary one” is what Frederich Silaban wrote in his letter to the committee for the architectural design competition of the United Nations headquarter building in New York in 1950s. This extra-ordinary self-confidence came from an autodidact Indonesian architect, coming from a newly born nation that had just freed from Dutch colonialism and Japanese occupation just few years before. Silaban is the best representation of the new soul of modernity in Indonesia, in line with the raging spirit of nationalism and self-esteem among newly independent countries in post-World War II Asia. His architecture is faithfully responding to the tropical climate, economically efficient, elegantly functional, and rationally embracing cultural traditions.
This book is a result of a long journey of self-discovery through the discourse of modern Asian architecture that begun by the formation of mAAN (modern Asian Architecture Network) in 2001 with specific aims to push the critical discourse and theorization from Asian perspectives based on the comprehensive inventory and study of the pioneers of Asian architects. After more than a decade, the movement has produced new generation of young architects, academics, and writers, who have been actively pursuing this objective.
The writer is one of the most prolific young Indonesian scholar and a key member of mAAN who has been working with the original Silaban archives, under special arrangement given by Silaban’s family to mAAN. This is one of the first fruits of the long pursue of knowledge production on Indonesian Architectural modernisms based on local first-hand sources. Hopefully this excellent seminal work will trigger snowballing effects on the sustained studies, debates, and publications on the works of other pioneers of Indonesian and Asian architectures and modernisms.
National University of Singapore
mAAN founding and executive committee member