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 Charles Prosper Wolff Schoemaker  (1882 - 1949)



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Lived/Active: Indonesia/Netherlands      Known for: painting, art deco artchitecture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Charles Prosper Wolff Schoemaker (July 25, 1882 – May 22, 1949) was a Dutch architect who designed several distinguished Art Deco buildings in Bandung, Indonesia, including the Villa Isola and Hotel Preanger.  He has been described as "the Frank Lloyd Wright of Indonesia," and Wright had a considerable influence on Schoemaker's modernist designs.  Although he was primarily known as an architect, he was also a painter and sculptor.

Wolff Schoemaker was born in Banyu Biru, Indonesia on the island of Java, where he would spend most of his life. For his secondary school education, Schoemaker was sent to the KMA (Royal Military Academy) in the Dutch city of Breda.

In 1905, he returned to the Dutch East Indies to work for the Royal Dutch East Indies Army as a military engineer.  After leaving the job in 1911, he became the engineer for the Department of Civil Public Works in Batavia (present-day Jakarta), and became the Director of Public Works in 1914.  From 1917 to 1918, he worked for Fa. Schlieper & Co and took a study trip to the United States with the organization, where he came into contact with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright.

In 1918, in partnership with his brother Richard, Schoemaker established the architectural firm C.P. Schoemaker and Associates in Bandung.  His firm blended traditional Indonesian architecture with modern European styles, incorporating traditional elements into the shapes and layouts of the buildings.  Wolff Schoemaker deliberately applied a functionalist approach to his buildings.  Among his most notable buildings were the Sociëteit Concordia building on Braga Street (1921), where the Asian–African Conference was held in 1955 (today known as Gedung Merdeka),  the Hotel Preanger (1929), the Pasteur Institute of Indonesia, the St. Peter Cathedral, and Villa Isola (1932), all located in Bandung.

His own house, built in 1930 in a northern residential neighborhood of Bandung, epitomized his architectural vision.  The building had been under threat of being demolished in 1995, only rescued after the intervention of the Bandung Society for Heritage Conservation.  The adaptive reuse of the building, now converted into a bank, was carried out in 1996 with the help of local architects and students.  The conservation of this local heritage has been awarded one of the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation in 2000.

In 1922, he became the professor of the Technische Hoogeschool Bandoeng (Technical College of Bandung).  While professor, he mentored Sukarno, who would become the first President of the Republic of Indonesia.  With assistance from the young Sukarno, Wolff Schoemaker renovated the Hotel Preanger in 1929.  Under Schoemaker's assistance, Sukarno also designed several houses in Bandung.  One of Schoemaker's most significant works was the Villa Isola, built from 1932 to 1933 for the Dutch media tycoon Dominique William Berretty.  Schoemaker's design was influenced by indigenous Javanese philosophy; the orientation of the building is according to the north—south axis, where the building faces Mount Tangkuban Perahu to the north and the city of Bandung to the south.  The building incorporates many circular shapes, such as a spiral staircase in the main lobby and an arch-shaped window in the family room.  Schoemaker traveled to Holland in 1939, where he took a post at the Delft University of Technology until his retirement in 1941.

Schoemaker died in Bandung in 1949 and was buried at the Pandu cemetery.

Wolff Schoemaker was considered one of the best Indonesian architects of his time. Throughout his career, he explored the relationship between European designs and Indonesian vernacular expression.  His work developed a new modern language of forms based on tropical conditions and principles.


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