Beyond Bali


    A Thousand Doors

      1-12-2016
     

    A Thousand Doors

    Admiring the beautiful exterior of Lawang Sewu.

    A Thousand Doors

    Although popularly known as a haunted house, Lawang Sewu becomes a destination for a family day out.

    A Thousand Doors

    A Thousand Doors

    The look of Lawang Sewu in the middle of the rain at night.
    A Thousand Doors
    Admiring the beautiful exterior of Lawang Sewu.

    A Thousand Doors
    Although popularly known as a haunted house, Lawang Sewu becomes a destination for a family day out.

    A Thousand Doors

    A Thousand Doors
    The look of Lawang Sewu in the middle of the rain at night.

    Hold your breath and join our contributor Taufan Wijaya as he explores a building that is rumored to be a haunted house...

    I can still recall the days when the great building Lawang Sewu looked eerie and abandoned with its dull old doorways. And for some reason, photographers liked to use it as a backdrop for their photos whenever there were carnivals around the area. Perhaps they wanted to use the building to show the location of the carnivals, no matter how neglected the landmark was. Or perhaps they wanted to show the contrast of an abandoned past and the lively current event in one picture.

    Lawang Sewu is an iconic building in Semarang, the capital city of Central Java, and has become the talk of the nation since it was first featured as a haunted house in a supernatural TV show. It was believed that this old building is home to many ghosts and dark spirits – a common tale for abandoned houses, especially with one the size and with the history of Lawang Sewu. Today, many people still believe that it is haunted and many claim to have spotted ghosts in it.

    Regardless of the ghost stories, Lawang Sewu remains an interesting building that architecture and history enthusiasts just have to see. So, are you ready to take a look around? Come and join me...

    A Tour Around
    Lawang Sewu is not exactly an old building. In fact, it could actually be considered a modern building as it was built in the early 20th century to serve as an offi ce for a train company named Nederlands- Indische Spoorweg Maatschappij (NIS). A poster in Lawang Sewu shows that the construction of the main building started in 1904 and it was finished in three years.

    Lawang Sewu is the work of Prof. Jacob F. Klinkhamer and B.J. Ouendag. However, unlike other historical buildings where the record of workers involved in the project or specific materials used are explained in detail, at Lawang Sewu the record is limited to its blueprint. However, looking at the structure, I could see that the building is made of quality materials, and that it was designed as a grand two-story structure.

    The Lawang Sewu complex consists of building’s A, B, C and D as well as the small building E – they were built in stages and finally completed in 1919. All these buildings were designed with a specific door style and tall windows, creating the illusion of a thousand doors. In the Javanese language, a door is called “lawang”, and that is how the name was derived – Lawang Sewu means a Thousand Doors.

    The entrance of the building is at the corner of the L-shaped main building “A,” which sits at the intersection of what used to be called Bodjongweng, where Tugu Muda stands today. Building “A” has two towers at the main entrance that were used to store water for the officers. There is a red dome on top of the two towers, just like the dome of Gereja Blenduk, the oldest church in Semarang. This building was also designed with dark brown woodwork, which gives a dramatic contrast to the white walls.

    These buildings circle a courtyard with a massive shady tree where visitors can sit, relax and admire the exterior of Lawang Sewu. Sitting on a bench park I couldn’t take my eyes off the stained glass windows that gives an elegant touch to the main building. One of the ornaments on the windows is that of a flying wheel – perhaps it was the logo of the Spoorweg Maatschappiz (train) company.

    There is a tunnel beneath building “A” but it was closed for restoration during my visit. Buildings “A” and “B” are also connected by a shared corridor on the second floor, with the rows of doors and windows of both buildings giving a dramatic touch with porticos and archways that almost look like another door.

    Alive Again
    Lawang Sewu has served different purposes since it was first built. After the NIS and the fall of the Dutch government Japan took it over, but then it was reclaimed once again by the Dutch before it was finally taken by the Indonesian army. During the invasion of Japan the basement of building B was used as a prison – and legend has it that is when the ghost stories started.

    Lawang Sewu was finally returned to PT. Kereta Api Indonesia (PT. KAI), the national railway company, and was left abandoned for quite some time before being restored in 2009. There is a historical locomotive placed on the front lawn that not only serves as a decoration and a photo spot for tourists, but it also represents PT. KAI daop IV Semarang, the company that operates and maintains Lawang Sewu now.

    Today, Lawang Sewu is more than just a historical place to visit, as the building often hosts special events. During my visit for instance, the main corridor of building B was used for a photo exhibition, an event that has become quite common here. The small building before the exit gate is also utilized as a library, where visitors can read about and see the illustrations of the history of trains in Indonesia. Old photos of Lawang Sewu are also on display, and visitors can see how the site looked in the early years.

    For an entrance fee of only Rp. 10,000 (and an extra fee for the tour guide), no wonder that Lawang Sewu attracts the young and old and is always crowded with visitors, especially during the weekends and holidays. Many visitors come with their families – the place is pretty huge so kids can play and run around, while the unique windows and doors become the perfect background for teenagers to take their obligatory selfies. Looking at how lively the building is now, I believe that Lawang Sewu is no longer an abandoned building. In fact, it has been meticulously restored and is still standing strong in all its glory, and has its own charm that is unbeatable by the new buildings surrounding it.

     

     
    Taufan Wijaya

       Contributor : Taufan Wijaya


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