Simon Hinman Wan

Art History/ArchitectureUniversity of Illinois / Chicago

Award Information

2017 IDRF Program

Art History/ArchitectureUniversity of Illinois / Chicago

Hybrid Architectural Import: Dutch and Chinese Welfare Institutions in the Seventeenth-Century Urbanization of Indonesia

History has looked upon the architecture of almshouses, hospices, orphanages, and reformatories as antithetical to the majestic palaces and sacred temples for which Renaissance-Baroque Europe and dynastic Asia are remembered. However, during the seventeenth century, institutional buildings for social welfare were highly prized in the Dutch Republic and Ming-Qing China. For both cultures, these buildings represented the public sector's rise to self-governance and subsequent decentralization of religious authority. Thus, when the Dutch and Chinese occupied Indonesian port settlements for sugar and spice trade, they jointly introduced a number of welfare facilities as the most progressive civic amenities. This dissertation is an examination of the facilities in two Indonesian cities that served as the Dutch East India Company's Asian headquarters: Amboina (Kota Ambon, Moluccas) and Batavia (Jakarta, Java). It first addresses the innovations and traditions pertaining to welfare in the Netherlands and China, with the merchant ports of Amsterdam and Zhangzhou as case studies. After considering how the Indonesian facilities drew from their Dutch and Chinese counterparts, the research delves into the local conditions at Amboina and Batavia that further defined the architecture as a complex and distinctive hybrid of multicultural influences. A key hypothesis for this project is that early modern welfare facilities were contributive to the formation of a new public identity through the buildings' design, urban impact, and spatial experience. Such a triangulation of Dutch, Chinese, and Indonesian histories is intended to recall the presence of multiple protagonists in the colonial past, so that there is greater consciousness of the rich transcultural layers underlying European imperialism.