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Braga, Traces from The Past

As Yogya with the Malioboro, Surabaya with the Tunjungan, Bandung is nonetheless comparable with the two's by the Braga. This street, stretching on North-South axis, was one of the landmarks in Bandung city center, one of the places the society most admired.

Braga is one of the oldest streets in Bandung. The shop houses and restaurant along the streets are mostly around a hundred years old.

Those buildings are the actual evidence of the heyday Netherlands-Indie period, and especially in this case, a living museum of architecture style showcase : classic-romantic, art deco, Indo-European, and eclectic style could be well observed here along the street of Braga.
Long before the modernization of building, during the Netherlands-Indie period, most of the building here had been built in Oud Holland style of architecture. One of the most significant characteristic of this typical architecture was signed by the existence of main building accompanied by storage / pavillion building beside it.

It was during the leadership of B. Coops, the mayor of Bandung then, the street gradually transformed eversince, becoming the most famous shopping street in Netherlands-Indie, "De meest Europeessche winkelstraat van Indie". 


It was regulated then, under supervision of experts from the Municipality Bandung - Ir. JP Thysse and Ir. EH de Roo, that every single shop house on Braga, should be designed in a proper Western style of architecture. They soon realized that they faced different context of a tropical climate country which wasn't the case of Europe as a source of Western architecture.

It was then Prof Dr Ir CP Mom came out with the brilliant idea to adapt with the constraints of building in tropical area. Building is designed with the unpartitioned largest floor area possible, high ceiling, and thick wall. Marble is a suggested floor material that it was cool during hot daytime. For proper air ventilation, holes are made above glass windows that accomodate the crossing of air the whole time.
Especially on windows, lead color ornamented glass is used widely as a consistent elements to express the building style. The ambiance of the light passing through the color window always seen from inside usually arouse some certain aesthetic feeling.


A number of building are still inherited these special characteristic of architecture design, among others : Scientific Bookstore, State Gas Office, etc.
As a street almost the same age as the city itself, Braga is a main component , influenced and gives ambiance to the development of the city.

On the early of the 19th century, Braga was a muddy street during rainy season, and a dusty one during dry season. It was due to the fact that this street was mainly the route for buffalo drawed charts, loaded with natural crops, from villages to the storage house the 'Koffie Pakhuis', it was called Karrenweg or Pedatiweg meaning chart street.

The place where the 'Koffie Pakhuis' used to be was then used as the office of Municipality Bandung, until now. And about the name Bragaweg (Braga street) used after 18 June 1882 to replace the name Karrenweg. It's strongly assumed that the name Braga derived from a group of tonil performance 'Braga', established by Residence Assistant of Bandung, Pieter Sijthoff.

Afterward, the street flourishly developed, firstly influenced by the making of de Grote Postweg (the main transportation way), followed by the establishment of Batavia-Bandung railway connection on 1884.


Not after the late of 19th century, were the shophouses along the street no more than mere kiosks.
Dramatic refurbishment happened after 1920 as a result a number of architects' collaboration. Among the architects' work, still recognized are buildings designed by RA de Waal, Benink, Brinkman, Gmelig Meyling, trio architects Bel-Kok & Piso, and many ones by the two brothers architects Prof Ir Richard LA Schoemaker and his little brother, Prof Charles Prosper Wolff Schoemaker. This last mentioned architects have a vast influence over the architecture in Bandung.


One of the buildings designed by Wolff Schoemaker on Braga are the Landmark Building (which was originally a book store - Van Dorp) and a movie theater Majestic (build on 1922).

The two buildings express an explicit blending of Western and Indonesia style. On both's facade design, a typical ornamentation of Kala's head (giant's head - a certain ornamentation widely used in Java tradition ) was become a strong articulation.

On the crossroad of Bragastreet and Naripanstreet, the architect AF Aalbers left his mark by the design of Dennis (De Eerste Nederlands Indie Spaarbank) Building. He used the curvilinear type of form, expressing the building in a strong art deco style. The most recognizable characteristics of this building is its high tower, nicely fitted on the junction of the building's middle corner. This L shaped building was designed in a sensitive manner as it was receededly fixed as if it was to contain the spacious feeling of the foursquare in front.

Although there has been alteration on some of the original structure, yet Braga possess its unique ambiance still. But there is a significant change from the old Braga to the present. Braga is nowadays not any more the leading shopping arcade of Bandung.


A research on 1979 by Prof Djoko Sujarto from Bandung Institute of Technology, showed that from 250 respondences only 11 % regards Braga as a shopping area. The rest regard it as a leisure area (24.5 %), sight seeing (33.5 %), or just a place they pass through (31 %).

It was a dramatic contrast comparing to its heyday. Braga was then the place where people from upper economic class fulfil they necessity. For quality fabric, there was Orderling Belang store (where Sarinah store is now located). Braga with its exclusive atmosphere was also the place where people spend leisure time doing window shopping along the street, that the term 'Bragaderen' (do Braga) was born.
Before World War II, there were Horlogerie Stocker and PE Huber, where people can purchase and repair quality hand watches such as : Rolex, Titoni, Mido, and Omega.


Braga was also the center of main stores, distributors, manufacturers of branded products from America, Europe, and other countries.The company Fuchs & Rens, established in 1919, was the main distributor in Netherlands Indie for Chrysler, De Soto, Plymouth, Renault, Fargo, and many other car companies.

Back to Braga as a leisure area, for those who were long for good apetite and liquors, this was the place where one could best satisfied their taste. To name the places : Firma Kuyi en Vesteeg, Maison Boin, and Het Snoephuis - all were famous restaurants and bakeries.

But the most well known was Maison Bogerijn, which has now been renovated into a different shape - Braga Permai Restaurant.Ideas and suggestions have long been discussed on how to revive the 'treasure' of Braga. It is a big question thus to ask of how and when we're gonna really start to do it in practice ?

Kompas, April 2000
her suganda