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"It was hard for me to believe that I was actually travelling to the Orient, fulfilling a wish that I had always cherished but not thought achievable..." 

February 28, 1923 | Port of Genoa, Italy



















Exactly a century ago, Hendrik Petrus Berlage (1856 - 1934), one of the Netherlands' most renowned architects, saw one of his biggest dreams—a trip to the Dutch East Indies—come true.
In Genoa, he boarded a steamer, the SS Grotius, bound for Batavia, which he reached in just over three weeks. He then spent the next three months traversing Java, Bali and Sumatra by train, car and boat. It truly was a journey of a lifetime: while travelling, the architect sees himself falling in love with the archipelago. He diligently jotted down his impressions and observations in a journal which he would eventually condense into 147 pages and publish in 1931.















Titled Mijn Indische Reis ('My journey to the Indies'), Berlage's book is a remarkable publication filled with stunning sketches and even a dozen poems (!). It is also a powerful exhibit of Berlage's pronounced ideas on culture and society. He addresses his views on historic and contemporary architecture and his culture-philosophical contemplations and foresight, as is expected from the master builder and mentor. However, Berlage also offers the reader an intimate glimpse into his personality. He shares surprisingly candid statements and feelings on Western superiority, embarrassing compatriots, colonialism, tourism, and identity. His observations get bolder throughout his trip: wonder makes way for admiration, and astonishment finally evolves into bewilderment.


Apart from a single rave review in a trade magazine, little is known about how Mijn Indische Reis was received, whether or not it found a wider resonance, and if people actually managed to read it between the lines.


Decades later, there was a renewed interest in Mijn Indische Reis. Dutch architect Joris Molenaar retraced the trip and reprinted Berlage's travel sketches with commentary in 1991. In 1996, Max van Rooy, a Dutch journalist, architecture expert and Berlage's grandson, joined forces with filmmaker Ike Bertels to make a documentary. Titled De Hollandse Tropenstijl ('Dutch Tropical Style'), their film was guided by Berlage's journal. More recently, in 2011, Dutch architect Herman van Bergeijk spotlighted Berlage's trip in a meticulously researched book, Berlage en Nederlands-Indië ('Berlage and the Dutch East Indies'). Yet, these initiatives were primarily architecture-focused; other aspects of his journey were not or hardly touched upon. But not for long...

Berlage tropenkostuum aankomst BERL_ph410.jpg
Berlage Schets Kotagede


‘’Rarely has it been so hard for me bid farewell to a country I shall never see again." 

May 27, 1923 | Singaraja, Bali, Indonesia












It may have been hundred years since Berlage went on his adventure to the then-Dutch East Indies, but his observations in Mijn Indische Reis are again—or should we say, still—incredibly relevant.

We—a seven-strong bilateral team of professionals working in the cultural and creative sectors—strongly feel that reviving Berlage's 1923 trip is a great way to address today's hot topics in the Netherlands and Indonesia. These talking points include (de)colonisation, cultural identity and diversity, and sustainable building.  

Tapping into a growing interest in (colonial) history and heritage in Indonesia and the Netherlands, Berlage's journey could also bring a fresh perspective to the special connection between our two countries and allow us to rediscover and enjoy this important piece of our shared (intangible) cultural heritage together. 

So, high time to dust off Mijn Indische Reis and translate it, literally and figuratively: to Bahasa Indonesia and English and to the 21st century as Berlage di Nusantara

Our 'Indische Reis 2.0' is not a summary nor a complete analysis of Berlage's trip: it is a carefully curated new edition of the old journal. We studied the diary entries in great detail and put together an abridged version where Berlage's most interesting quotes and thought-provoking passages take centre stage. We selected the most eye-catching and fitting out of the 64 (!) sketches and searched for photos, letters, postcards and other visuals of buildings, situations and places he writes about.
Yogyakarta-based illustrator Upit Dyoni further brought a travelling Berlage to life through gorgeous drawings. We also added historical context and commentary and dived into some compelling questions. Not to find all the answers but to continue Berlage's legacy. Our purpose is to continue spinning the threads of his thoughts where he left them.  

Apart from publishing a new book, we are also taking Berlage's sketches and quotes as a starting point for a series of podcast interviews. We invite people from different walks of life and generations in Indonesia and the Netherlands to share their thoughts on Berlage's trip with us and you. We also ask them to contribute to our book by sharing their perspectives with us through their medium of choice. 

And that's not all! A series of exhibitions and activities to further bring Berlage's adventure to life are also in the making.

Last but definitely not least, we invite you (yes, you!) to join Berlage's—and our!—journey by following us on social media, subscribing to our email updates and sharing your feedback with us. 


 And so, a century later, Berlage's journey continues. All aboard! 

Berlage di Nusantara - Mijn Indische Reis - sketches
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Berlage di Nusantara - Illustration.jpg






Meet the team behind Berlage di Nusantara:


Petra Timmer

Editor-in-chief, Architectural & Historical Research


Ester van Steekelenburg


Editor, Creative Concept & Project Management 


Upit Dyoni

Annemarijn de Boer

 Musch Agency


Graphic Design 




Loes van Iperen


Editor, Social Media (Content Creation & Design), Website


Angeline Basuki


Editor, Project Management Indonesia, Translation & Social Media Moderation

Helia Vons

Helia Vons

Editorial Support & Sourcing Visuals 

Lea Pamungkas

Lea Pamungkas & Taalcentrum VU

Translation Berlage Quotes

Lea Pamungkas:

Dutch to Indonesian

Taalcentrum VU:

Dutch to English



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H P berlage Train Berlage di Nusantara.jpg


Do you have a question about Berlage di Nusantara? Would you like to collaborate or be involved in some manner? Have ideas you want to send our way? Anything else you'd like to tell us?


Please feel free to reach out; we love hearing from you! 

Thanks for your message! We'll get back to you as soon as possible.

The historical photos, sketches and other visuals featured in Berlage di Nusantara, on social media and our website have been sourced from the Berlage archives at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Royal Tropical Institute and private and public collections in The Netherlands and Indonesia. All efforts have been made to trace the owners of the images used. Yet, there may be cases where we have not been successful. Anyone who believes they may have a copyright claim should contact us. 

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