Photo: Irwan Kurnia/Indonesia Tatler

Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, was the first metropolitan in Southeast Asia. Growing along the banks of the Deli River by the second part of the 19th century, the city boasted a Thomas Cook office way before the legendary tourism firm even opened its bureau in Singapore.

Medan also has a living museum heralding centuryold colonial buildings. Architecturally, the buildings are grouped into three colonial architectonic styles: Eclecticism (before the 20th century), Dutch Rationalism and Traditionalism (the 1900s-1920s), and Modernism (the 1920s-1930s).

The majority of the buildings are elegantly located at the colonial district, the core of the city where the most important government buildings and infrastructures stands. One of the vintage buildings is the new headquarters of Deli Maatschappij, a trading and distribution company established in 1869 and dealing in timber, construction products and serving the tobacco industry.

This whitewashed building on Jl. Tembakau Deli stands majestically right in the centre of a large piece of land in the city’s old colonial district. The big letters Vereenigde Deli Maatschappij etched on the architrave of the second floor are barely readable, but the grandeur remains.

More than a hundred years after its construction in 1911, citizens of Medan still call the building by its old Indonesian name, Kantor Maskapai Deli: the Deli Company’s Office. Often, passers-by stop, look and enjoy the view of a vintage building locked between high-rise construction in the background and another tall building on the left flank.

They are perhaps wondering when the exotic serendipity will vanish and the nice surroundings disappear due to development.

Haji Anif, who acquired the building a few years ago, has confirmed that the two-storey landmark will stay and the serendipitous surroundings spared from destruction in the name of progress. Haji Anif ’s  ejuvenation programme, with great care to the details of the century-old construction, took some years, and now the former headquarters of the Deli Company is ready, trim and attractive to function as a grand mansion suitable for a tobacco baron.

Standing right in front of the roofed porch is a bronze statue of tobacco magnate Jacobus Nienhuys, the founder of the Deli Maatschapij, which accentuates the 20th century colonial building.

An asphalt black entrance way that curves passing by the front porch is in high contrast to the velvety green lawn that surrounds the two-storey building. A city landmark as shown on a vintage postcard on auction at eBay, the former headquarters of the Deli Company has sturdy four-sided columns that encircle the exterior of the first floor.

The row of columns continues to the second floor, except that the pillars change shape into a more vintage design of a classic Corinthian column. On each side of the building, a tympanum functions as the centrepiece for the colonnade and exudes a symmetrical ambience common in Greco architectural design.

Just like the works on the exterior, in the interior the rejuvenation project pays emphasis to the details.

Along the passage way from the entrance to the main hall, century-old furnishings emphasise its aged glory and elegantly click with the richly patterned marble floor. Brass-footed Victorian marble synchronises with the three-tiered brass candelabra, and so does the late Victorian glass cabinet placed on the righthand side of the doorway to the main hall of  the building.

The wood and glass doorway design that marks the early modernism in Europe features a curved tympanum and so do the two wooden and glass panels that flank the opening. 

In the main hall—the core of the beautifully preserved building—dark teakwood stairs with mahogany steps and mahogany railings connect to the second floor. Carved on the wall that flanks the wide landing is an 80-centimetre-wide circular window that provides additional natural illumination to the vast space, while the main source of natural lighting comes from a wide and coloured tempered-glass dome cupola.

The pleasant ambience flows easily to the second floor. Hues of browns set by the teakwood floors dominate the dining room, as well as the cigar room and the family room.

Dark leather settees go well with the deep brown surroundings of the cigar room. The Persian carpet, the wall panels and even the frame of two paintings that adorn the walls displayed exotic hues of brown. The same arrangement colours the family room that possesses an impressive vista over the big airy veranda on the second floor.

A set of carved teakwood and rattan sofas adds a touch of local culture to the modern furnishings. In the main dining room, the brass candelabra, the heavy curtain, the peach-coloured seat cushions and draperies orchestrate a fluid coordinates of beiges and browns.

Tags: Medan, Hajj Anif, Building Restoration