Carter Manny Award

  • Building Commodities: Environments of the Colonial Plantation in East Sumatra, 1869–1942
    Robin Hartanto Honggare

M. Mazaraki, Plantation field with tobacco plants at their early stage, the topographical terrain being imposed by a Cartesian grid to enable temporal planning and calculability, Serdang, ca. 1905. Courtesy Leiden University Libraries: Southeast Asian & Caribbean Images (KITLV)

Robin Hartanto Honggare, Columbia University, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, is the recipient of the 2022 Carter Manny Research Award.

By the early twentieth century, private enterprises and state authorities had transformed East Sumatra, a coastal district in the Netherlands Indies, into a primary site for testing and producing global cash crops, such as tobacco, rubber, and oil palm. This dissertation traces the conversion of native land into plantation fields and the creation of an extensive network of buildings sustaining commodity production in this region. Central to this intermingling of world commerce and colonial pursuit was how architecture mediated extractive practices by reconfiguring soils, plants, peoples, and microbes across space and time. Examining processing facilities built by Dutch and American manufacturers, labor recruitment offices in Java and Hong Kong, and botanical research stations in the region’s center, this research argues that the plantation system, the main source of capital in the colony, constituted spaces in which environmental techniques and imaginaries altered the living milieu in most profound ways.

Robin Hartanto Honggare is a PhD candidate in Architectural History at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He graduated with a BArch from Universitas Indonesia and earned a master’s degree in critical, curatorial, and conceptual practices in architecture at Columbia University. Building on his focus on the architectures of cultivation and histories of colonial modernities in Southeast Asia, his current research explores commodity buildings and their entanglement with environmental techniques and imaginaries in the Netherlands Indies. His work has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the American-Indonesian Cultural & Educational Foundation, and Het Nieuwe Instituut, where he is also involved in the Collecting Otherwise working group.