Karsten & Semarang
Welcome to this tour about the architect Thomas Karsten and his work in Semarang! It will introduce you to the buildings and town plans he executed between 1915 and 1930.
All our narratives are richly illustrated with images. If you want to synchronise text and images – which is recommended – click or swipe to the next image when words are underlined.
Before you begin the tour though, let me explain who Karsten is and why his work – and thus Semarang – is worthy of your visit.
Herman Thomas Karsten, known widely simply as ‘Thomas Karsten’, was born in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) in 1884. His father, Herman Karsten, was a Dutch aristocrat and professor in Latin language and literature at the University of Amsterdam. His mother, Antoinette Abrahami de Melverda, was born in the Dutch East Indies but raised in the Netherlands.
In 1914, five years after he graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at Delft’s Polytechnic, Karsten set sail to his mother’s country of origin. Not for sentimental reasons, but because his college friend Henri Maclaine Pont invited him to join his architecture bureau in Semarang. At the time of his arrival, Semarang was the Dutch East Indies’ third largest port and a bustling trading hub for produce from the Java hinterland.
Karsten’s decision to relocate to the Dutch East Indies had a fundamental impact on his personal and professional life. Not only because he developed a profound interest for the country, its many cultures and Soembinah, his future wife and mother to his four children, but also because he developed into one of the country’s leading architects and planners.
On this tour, you will visit all projects Karsten designed in Semarang: office buildings, market buildings, a theatre, a hospital, a school and even an expansion plan.
In general, it’s good to be aware that:1) Although as a rule of thumb, office buildings are open on working days from 08.00 until 17.00 o’clock, you might not be allowed to enter a building. If this is the case, it sometimes helps to tell the person stopping you that you only want to look around. If this does not help, it’s best not to push – and head for the next object on the tour; 2) With the exception of the connection between objects 8 and 9 and objects 13 and 14, the itinerary indicated on the map illustrates the tour if you go by foot. If you decide to use public or private transport, this itinerary might change; 3) Because some objects are situated a fair distance apart, it’s sensible to use motorised transport from time to time. Public transport is cheap but not necessarily straight-forward. Phone serviced private cars and motor cycles are relatively cheap and very easy. For the latter, I suggest you download Indonesia’s favourite app via www.go-jek.com.
The content of this tour was created by PKMvR heritage research consultancy/Dr Pauline K.M. van Roosmalen in collaboration with Lopen Semarang/Muhammad Yogi Fajri. We hope you enjoy this tour, and the many faces of Karsten’s Semarang!
Concept, text and voice: Pauline K.M. van Roosmalen, Amsterdam
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