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Soft-Launch of ISEAS Library database: EYE OF THE ARCHITECT: THE MADE WIJAYA PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE

REGIONAL SOCIAL AND CULTURAL STUDIES PROGRAMME SEMINAR

Wednesday, 11 October 2017 – This seminar, in part a soft-launch of ISEAS Library database on Made Wijaya’s (alias Michael White) photographic archive, welcomed its four speakers: Dr Hélène Njoto, Visiting Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute; Mr Soedarmaji Damais, founder and head of Indonesian Arts Cooperation Body (BKKI); Mr Richard Hassell, co-founder of WOHA, and lastly, Professor Adrian Vickers from the University of Sydney who is concurrently a Visiting Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. They were greeted by a diverse audience that comprised of students, landscape architects from public and private agencies, researchers, as well as previous clients and friends of Made Wijaya. Hosting an insightful conversation with participants, the seminar addressed the importance of preserving and engaging with such archives for the study of landscape design and architecture history in Southeast Asia. 

 Dr Hélène Njoto, Visiting Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, kick-starting the seminar with three other guest speakers. From left: Mr Soedarmaji Damais, Professor Adrian Vickers and Mr Richard Hassell (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute) 

Dr Hélène Njoto’s prelude to the seminar was a survey of Made Wijaya’s photographic collection as it is now archived at ISEAS Library. She walked us through the online database of over 40,000 items, highlighting one of Wijaya’s gardens trademarks: the layering of vernacular architectural history. She demonstrated this by showing an “architectural history enigma” Wijaya liked to feature in his work, the Javanese and Balinese single-post and platform tree structures. She effectively showed how this collection not only documents Wijaya’s achievements but assembles an important number of photographs from fieldtrips throughout the world. Wijaya was concerned about sharing his sources of inspiration with future landscape designers, architects, and architecture history students, as his popular books have shown.  

 Mr Soedarmaji Damais, founder and head of Indonesian Arts Cooperation Body (BKKI), sharing his personal experience with Made Wijaya. (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

As a close and long-time acquaintance of Made Wijaya, Mr Soedarmaji Damais brought a personal note to the seminar as he shared stories about Wijaya’s first arrival in Bali, his assimilation as a Balinese and passion for the island and the way his garden designs were based on the search for connections with Chinese and other gardens. 

 Mr Richard Hassell, co-founder of WOHA, sharing insights to Made Wijaya’s impact and legacy in landscape architecture in the discipline and industry. (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

Mr Richard Hassell then introduced Made Wijaya from a practitioner’s perspective, sharing Wijaya’s architectural and landscape architecture legacies through projects, and his role as a role model and mentor. Mr Hassell saw the archive as a way to engage with Wijaya’s attitudes to landscape history, the basis of his creation and design of gardens; a knowledge imperative for current practitioners.

The final speaker, Professor Adrian Vickers, another close acquaintance of Made Wijaya, affirmed Wijaya’s remarkable visual sensibility. Using photographs from the archive, Professor Vickers illustrated how Wijaya’s eye and curiosity for details in both modern adaptations and pre-modern spaces nurtured his unique visual repertoire and syntax. Professor Vickers closed the session with a tribute to Wijaya’s personal wish to preserve aspects of otherwise lost cultures, emphasising the need to capture and document these vulnerable and impermanent landscapes.

 Professor Adrian Vickers from the University of Sydney and Visiting Fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, engaging with the participants during the Q&A session. (Source: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

The engaging Q&A session attempted to position Made Wijaya’s legacy in history, to uncover the conditions that triggered Wijaya’s passion for Bali and more generally for Indonesia. The discussion concluded with the disentanglement of Wijaya’s unique disposition as an architect and landscape designer, questioning whether “architect” was the best description for his contribution.

The Made Wijaya database at ISEAS Library is now publicly accessible online at ISEAS Library’s SeaLionPLUS. Upon registering, the archive can be explored by geographic regions or keywords. Made Wijaya’s video collections on ethnography (Balinese dance and rituals) can also be found at the University of Sydney.