The Gedung Merdeka is known to be one of the most prominent and luxurious buildings in the city of Bandung. Its sleek white exteriors and even more alluring interiors make it a great venue for many international conventions, conferences, art performances and political gatherings. But the outstanding building had to go through a long history before it came to be known as what it is now.
Construction on the Gedung Merdeka started in 1895 along Jalas Asia Afrika of Bandung City. It was originally built to be a meeting place for Europeans who lived in Bandung. Most of the constituents were tea plantation owners and Dutch government officials. This society came to be known as Societat Concordia in June of 1879. Meetings were often held in Warung De Vries while they sipped on afternoon tea.
In 1895, the society moved to a building opposite the Warung De Vries, the Concordia. The Concordia was about 8 square meters wide with materials made of wood. Their only source of light during the night was gasoline lanterns. The Concordia was located on the corner of Jalan Asia Afrika and Jala Craga. It was strategically located near the Cikapundung River where many thick trees grew, making it a comfortable and sheltered place to hold meetings.
In 1921, the Societat Concordia Building was rebuilt once more into a functional and structurally modern architectural structure. With a bigger covered area of 7,500 square meters, its designer was C.P Wolff Schoemaker. The art deco building had a complete façade lift that eventually made it the most luxurious and modern building in the country. The floors were made of Italian marble while the bar and common area were made up of cikenhout wood. The once gasoline lanterns were replaced with gorgeous crystal chandeliers. The building did not only accommodate the growing society but it was also a venue for various art performances.
By year 1940, the Societat Concordia went through another renovation with the help of Architect A.F Aalbers. This time, the structure followed a new internationally-inspired style marked by plasterboard and a flat roof. The facade of the building was then filled with lines and horizontal rudiments while the interiors were predominantly done in a style reminiscent of cubism. At some point in the Japanese invasion, however, the building’s name was changed into the Dai Toa Kaikan. It then functioned as a cultural center between 1942 and 1945.
When Indonesia proclaimed Independence in 1945, the building was then converted into the headquarters of the Indonesian youth in Bandung that fought off Japanese troops who did not want to surrender. By 1949 under the Indonesian government, the Societat Concordia Building was renovated and reverted to the Societat Concordia, a gathering place for Europeans once again, but this time with the participation of the Indonesians. It was then used for various art performances, parties and gatherings.
In 1954, under the decree of the Indonesian Government, the city of Bandung was to be inaugurated as the city of the Asian-Africans. The Societat Concordia was then selected as the venue for the conference for it was the biggest and grandest building in Bandung at the time. Furthermore, it was situated in the city center and close to the best hotels in the city such as the Preanger Hotel and the Savoy Homann.
Since then, the Societat Concordia Building has been renovated to accommodate even more international conferences. Renovation work was managed by the Department of Public works in the West Java Province. In 1955, the building was finally renamed to the Gedung Merdeka or the Independence Building by President Soekarno.