Prof. Widagdo: The Ace of Interior Design


Prof. Widagdo is the interior
 designer behind the many national – scale projects including the majestic National Parliament Building. Earning his academic degree in Germany in 1964, he has inked his name in the history as the first interior designer in Indonesia. As a professional, he has long contributed much of his experience as well as his knowledge and skills to the development of interior design education in the archipelago. Recently, we paid him a visit to get up close with the interior design veteran.

Designer Profile – Prof.Widagdo

Interview by Rosiany T. Chandra and Barbara Hahijary

Photo by Barbara Hahijary and Widagdo doc.

When did you start to focus on interior design? Was it a popular industry back then?
I accidentally took this program due to the recommendation from the Indonesian Education and Culture Department.

So, I went to Stuttgart, Germany to study interior design at Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design. While
I was there, I met now-my-wife Rita Widagdo who studied sculpture art. I studied modernism, where everything is considered with objective and functional quality.

Interior design education was developed in 1930s in Germany. It was called “innerhausbau”, or inner space development. Gradually, interior design was considered as a part of architecture, later was known as “inner architektur”, and eventually was introduced as interior design as a discipline due to its design aspects.

As the key person of ITB’s Interior Design programme, what do
you emphasise the most in the programme?
I highlight that although this programme is included in the School of Fine Arts and Design, it is not a “literal” art, but more of a part of fine arts that include functions and adapt with the principle of modernism.

What do you think about the development of interior design in Indonesia?
Interior design is growing rapidly. In the beginning, people had no idea about interior design as a discipline. Along with the advancement of interior design education since 1970, many graduates have conducted their own practices. They collaborated with Indonesian overseas graduates to establish Indonesian Society of Interior Designer (HDII) that marked interior design as a profession, but also highlighted it as a potential industry. More developments are taking place until today.

What do you find most interesting in giving a lecture?
After teaching for more than 50 years,
I witness that many Indonesians have a passion for aesthetic. We have a good taste in design, thanks to our rich culture that makes us to be more emotional. We are facilitated with many types of raw materials that allow us to be innovative, creative and challenged to try new methods. This benefits us in advancing our education on design, including interior design.

Besides, the profession in Indonesia’s interior design industry was born from educational institution. It is different from most of the countries in the world where interior design is a product of economy.

Please tell us about how you designed the interior of the National Parliament Building.
The building that we know as the National Parliament Building was designed as an international conference building, namely Conefo Building. It was built in 1965. The construction work was paused due to unfavourable political condition.

When the late President Soeharto was in power, the government resumed the construction with Soejoedi taking role as the architect. The Conefo building then turned into the National Parliament Building. The building exposes the
unity of two beams covering a spacious conference hall. We designed it with many wooden elements that evoked
our locality, while leaving monumental accents in the front panel.

What are your wishes for interior design education in Indonesia?
I wish that they would bring high quality graduates that can contribute to the development of interior design in the nation. I encourage them to be on par with their counterparts from other countries.

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Barbara Hahijary
Barbara earned her bachelor's degree in architecture from the Interior Architecture Program of the University of Indonesia in 2013. Historical or heritage buildings, as well as utilitarian design, fascinates her as it is the interaction between people and architecture that remains her favourite topic to explore. Besides architecture, her interests include design, handcrafts, literature and social issues.