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Learning from Mangunwijaya

Workshop programme, exhibition, documentary, symposium
Initiated by Sally Below, Moritz Henning, and Eduard Kögel
Curatorial team: Avianti Armand, Putu Ayu Pramanasari Agustiananda, Sally Below, Moritz Henning, Eduard Kögel, Setiadi Sopandi, Nensi Golda Yuli

Learning from Mangunwijaya, 25 years after his death, focuses on the architectural work of the Indonesian Catholic priest, writer, political activist, and architect Yusuf Bilyarta Mangunwijaya (1929–1999).

In his architectural practice, which was strongly influenced by his studies at RWTH Aachen University in West Germany in the 1960s, Mangunwijaya sought to translate the universal principles of modernism into an authentic, indigenous expression. He was a forerunner in collaborative and sustainable architecture that responded specifically to the needs of the local environment – an ethos that remains relevant today. Significantly, his architecture embodies his socially conscious approach; his architectural legacy is inseparable from his commitment to the common good.

A critical analysis of his work, focusing on its potential for the future, can therefore provide crucial inspiration for a more sustainable architecture, not only in Indonesia and the region but also on an international scale. Through a student workshop, exhibition, documentary film, and online symposium, this project reflects on Mangunwijaya’s work and demonstrates its relevance in addressing contemporary questions and offering solutions to present-day issues.

Learning from Mangunwijaya was initiated by the Berlin-based founders of the platform Encounters with Southeast Asian Modernism as part of its programme, and jointly curated with the Museum Arsitektur Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Department of Architecture, Universitas Islam Indonesia, Yogyakarta, Indonesia.


The German-Indonesian team has organized an extensive programme commencing on 3 May 2024, including a workshop for students from seven universities from Germany, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.

Opening on 31 July 2024, the exhibition Learning from Mangunwijaya will take place at the Langgeng Art Foundation in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The exhibition will showcase the workshop outcomes and highlight Mangunwijaya’s formative years as a student in Aachen.

An online symposium in autumn 2024 will reflect on his work and working methods in a contemporary context, discussing their relevance to current regional and global developments.

Parallel to these events, a documentary will be produced, exploring the social, cultural, aesthetic, and ecological dimensions of Mangunwijaya’s architecture.

Workshop host:

Department of Architecture, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Planning, Universitas Islam Indonesia, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Participating universities:

Department of Architecture, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Planning, Universitas Islam Indonesia, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Department of Architecture and Planning, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Department of Architecture, University of Indonesia, Depok, Indonesia
Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, Bauhaus University Weimar, Weimar, Germany
School of Architecture, Kalasalingam Academy of Research and Education, Krishnankoil, India
Faculty of Architecture, Rangsit University, Bangkok, Thailand
Department of Architecture, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
National University of Singapore, Singapore


Indonesia’s population is spread across countless islands in the vast archipelago. With diverse local cultures, climates, and natural resources, the country boasts a rich variety of building materials and distinctive building traditions. These contribute to a sense of place, environmental sustainability, and cultural identity, while also promoting economic self-sufficiency for local communities. However, the introduction of modern technical infrastructures in the early 20th century has often forced the communities to adapt to industrialized and standardized material and building regulations.

The last hundred years have shown the irreversible environmental damage that can result from technological progress. The reliance on industrially produced materials and the globalized construction industry have often displaced traditional building practices, causing significant harm to ecosystems. What is needed today are buildings, construction methods, and materials that specifically meet the needs of their users, enabling them to live and work with dignity and health.

Mangunwijaya addressed these issues more than 50 years ago. To this day, he remains an important figure of identification in Indonesia, known to the general public (under the name Romo Mangun) for his social activism as a priest and for his novels. Within professional circles, he is regarded as a pioneer of alternative Indonesian architecture.

In 1959, shortly after being ordained as a priest, the Indonesian Catholic Church asked Mangunwijaya to study architecture in order to reform the country’s church architecture, which had been shaped by its colonial past. From 1960 to 1966, he studied at RWTH Aachen University, where distinguished professors such as Gottfried Böhm, Eleanor von Erdberg, and Willy Weyres taught.

After returning to Indonesia, Mangunwijaya designed some 80 buildings, urban projects, and other structures between 1967 and 1998. He also taught at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta. Following his teaching career, he wrote the book Wastu Citra, regarded as one of Indonesia’s most significant works of modern architectural theory.

Mangunwijaya received the Aga Khan Award in 1992 for his Kali Code River Redevelopment Project in Yogyakarta (1980–1985). In 1995, he was awarded the Ruth & Ralph Erskine Award in Sweden in recognition of his commitment to serving underprivileged sections of the population.

Learning from Mangunwijaya is dedicated to Eko Prawoto (1958–2023).

The project is made possible through the support of the German Federal Foreign Office.