The Shalimar: A Fragment of Historical Treasure


PHOTO BY Bagus Tri Laksono

Looking back in time can provide us with a rich source of ideas and inspiration which remain relevant today. The design world has a great respect for heritage buildings, including those found in Indonesia, a country rich through the amalgamation of diverse cultures, both local and international. One example of a heritage building that has been kept intact, albeit serving different functions over the years —from a community centre to an office, before finally being turned into a hotel— is The Shalimar Boutique Hotel in the city of Malang. Featuring a remarkable design with a strong Dutch colonial touch, just like the original structure, the hotel has been renovated and rearranged in a combination of Peranakan and Javanese styles in order to provide guests with a traditional sense of luxury and comfort.

Designed by Ir. Muller for the Freemasons, the original structure was completed in 1933. During the colonial era, the building served as a ‘Societeit,’ a place for Dutch nationals residing in Malang to get together to eat, sing and dance. After Indonesia gained its independence, the building became the property of Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI). With the development of RRI, the radio station needed a bigger place as its headquarters and thus in 1993 it decided to offer the building to private owners.

One of the people who were asked to take over the building was the current owner, who later turned it into a hotel called the Malang Inn. Two years later, following a government regulation that prohibited establishments from using foreign names, the hotel was renamed The Graha Cakra. After being in business for almost two decades, The Graha Cakra was closed for renovation and has now reinvented itself as a five-star boutique hotel, The Shalimar. The hotel’s renovation work has managed to preserve the main form of the original hotel because the owner and management team are both steadfast about preserving the hotel as one of the main heritage buildings in Malang.

It is the team’s wish to turn The Shalimar into an establishment that offers Indonesian Dutch Hospitality, a colonial heritage concept whose continuing existence should be actively safeguarded. In order to fulfill this wish, they appointed a renowned designer who is recognized as one of the best interior designers in Indonesia, and who is well-versed in the preservation of heritage buildings - Hidajat Endramukti of Endramukti Design. This turned out to be a perfect choice as Hidajat not only completed the renovation project with flying colours and added a new wing to the hotel, which makes the layout of the hotel compound more appealing, but he also managed to perfectly preserve the hotel’s heritage elements.

As a result of the restoration work, there are several delightful aspects of design for guests to enjoy, from the strengthening of the hotel’s original character to the amalgamation of styles, all of which were well-planned and brilliantly executed by Hidajat and his team. The existing appeal of the main building, which is designated as a heritage structure and therefore cannot be altered physically, is wonderfully maintained as one of the hotel’s key focal points. To balance the overall look and to suit the style of the main building, the north wing, which was added in 1993, underwent several changes. The same treatment can be seen in the hotel’s west annex, which was built between 2013 and 2015.

The design philosophy combines the original Dutch colonial architecture with Peranakan and Javanese architectural styles, is applied throughout the hotel’s interior and decorative pieces. The main entrance was moved from the corner to the middle of the structure to heed feng shui calculations, and Hidajat managed to create an outstanding design execution by adding a porte-cochere with a top that also serves as a balcony which is located next to the ballroom. Going inside the main entrance, we encounter a large decorative Javanese gebyok (wooden partition) in a brown shade that leads guests into the reception area.

To the left of the lobby area is the Zestien Terrace and Lounge, a dining and chill-out spot that is designed in a semi-alfresco fashion with strong Peranakan flavors. A bit further on is the elongated swimming pool that is slightly hidden from prying eyes to ensure swimmers’ privacy even if the Zestien is filled with guests. Also next to the lobby is the de Hemel Restaurant, a dining area that features a strong Dutch colonial atmosphere complete with a stage and a grand piano for entertainment. The colonial-style pillars are tastefully combined with several Javanese elements, making the restaurant one of the most delightful public areas in The Shalimar.

The most dramatic element of this remarkably-designed eatery is a corridor that separates the restaurant area from the Soga Boutique and the library next to it. The corridor has a semi-open design and is decorated with a variety of plants as accent. There are also colonial-style vertical columns along the corridor, providing guests with a singular experience as they walk along the corridor to access the newly-built north wing. In contrast with the thoroughly European look of the de Hemel Restaurant, the library that is located between the boutique and the hotel’s office has a warmer interior design that successfully employs the colours, furniture-style and melancholic lighting typical of Peranakan and Javanese architectural styles.

The rooms can be accessed from a pair of staircases and elevators that are positioned on the right and left of the main building. There are 44 rooms in total, 8 rooms fewer than the old design before the hotel was renovated. The rooms are categorized into four types: the Deluxe Room, the Executive Room that comes complete with a sofa and a workstation, the Royal Suite is equipped with a living room and a private balcony, and the largest, President Suite that has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living room, plus a dining table and a vast pantry.

Masterfully combining three different styles, The Shalimar stands in a class of its own as a boutique hotel in Malang. The combination of styles is superbly implemented in both the architecture and the interior design of the hotel through exquisite details, which proves that the collaboration between the exterior and interior design of a building can be wholly synergised without sacrificing the essence of their heritage. Far from looking dilapidated and frightening like typical old buildings from the colonial era, the hotel presents a thoughtful design executed in a historical setting. This is the result of a shared philosophy and vision between the owner and designer of the hotel, providing guests with an incredible sensation during their stay there.

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Anton Adianto
Anton Adianto graduated from Parahyangan Catholic University majoring in architecture. His passion for writing, watching movies, listening to music, uncovering design, exploring the culinary world, traveling, delving into the philosophy of life, meeting people and disclosing all matters related to technology feeds his curiosity. Currently he resides in both Jakarta and Bandung.