Until the late 1940s, many European nations derived part of their international prestige from their colonies. Despite their highly political and emotional connotations, the infrastructure, planning and architecture realised under European colonial rule between 1850 and 1970 became a significant aspect of these former colonies national identity after independence.

Since the 1980s, a modest body of work on architecture and planning describing the emergence and significance of this particular heritage on local, national and international levels has emerged. Simultaneously, policy makers and the general public have increasingly recognised the value and the need for preserving European colonial architecture. Limited in number, these studies illustrate that colonial built heritage is a transcultural phenomenon of global importance.

Acknowledging this phenomenon, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) initiated the creation of a repository for sources about European colonial architecture and planning designed between circa 1850 and 1970.

The content of this repository focuses on and is related to the creation of civic architecture that is European in style or designed by European or European strained architects: buildings, town plans, gardens- and landscape architecture. Vernacular architecture, and structures and infrastructure designed and created by civil engineers are largely/primarily excluded. Consequently, the repository does contain data about railway stations, for example, but not about railway tracks. Read more…

While acknowledging the many and varied nuances of European overseas domination, the repository uses the adjective ‘colonial’ as one almost invariably associates ‘colonial’the word with the basic feature that is at the core of the data in this repository: they it relates to architecture created tropical or subtropical zones outside of Europe at a time when the countries in which they were built were dominated and ruled by Europeans.

By using ‘colonial’ rather than alternatives that are ultimately no less generic and inadequate but certainly more confusing to a general audience, for example ‘mutual’, ‘shared’, ‘common’, or ‘expansionist’, the repository hopes to appeal to the widest possible audience.

By offering objective data, the repository hopes to satisfy the curiosity and demands of academics, policy makers, designers and an audience interested in European colonial architecture and town planning. To this end, the repository is designed in such a way that itas to generates rather than answers questions, and to foster (academic) debate about European colonial architecture and its relevance in a globalised world. Read more…

To allow for the uncovering and understanding of connections, similarities and dissimilarities in the development of European architecture beyond Europe in the widest possible sense, the repository applies bold interpretations of ‘colonial’ and ‘architecture’. The rationale behind this is that although narrow interpretations of these concepts may cater to some user needs more accurately, narrow interpretations would also force the exclusion of material that at second glance turns out to be relevant and important. Given the emerging nature of European architecture beyond Europe as a field of interest and research, such an approach at this point seems inappropriate.

By offering its users a relatively wide variety of data related to the built heritage in areas of European overseas domination, the repository hopes to demonstrate the rich , and varied nature of European architecture built and created beyond Europe in European dominated territories.

Data about European colonial architecture from before circa 1850 is excluded from this repository. The reason for this is threefold. The first reason is that from circa 1850 onwards the European presence overseas was in general increasingly motivated by expansionist and controlling rather than mercantile motives. As colonial societies and empires emerged, notions of European cultural, racial and moral superiority rose to the fore and European customs, languages, dress and manners were increasingly emphasised. It is the emergence of these differences from circa 1850 that is was used to frame the period of the repository.

The second reason is the gradual professionalization of architecture and town planning from the mid-19th nineteenth century onwards in most European countries. The emergence of professional associations and journals and the emerging debate about the very nature of architecture and town planning, were pivotal to the emancipation of architects and town planners and consequently, to the emergence of modern architecture and town planning.

The third reason to exclude pre 1850 sources is that, even though developments in the late colonial period obviously can not been seen in isolation, sources from the pre-1850 period are and have already been given considerably more attention in research and publications than sources from the post-1850 period.

The repository contains digitised versions of text documents (books, journals, reports), photographs, films, maps and archival material. The first version of the repository, launched in 2014, contains mainly documents about architecture and town plans in Dutch colonies.

As the creation of the repository’s content is an ongoing process, content will gradually be added. This will be done by digitising sources and by linking the repository to existing digital infrastructures such as databases, library catalogues, etc.

As the repository is purposefully created with the user in mind, the guiding principle for adjustments to the repository’s content will also be user driven.

As the repository aims to provide objective information, descriptions of the objects are kept to a minimum and the provenance of all objects is mentioned. Occasionally, references to descriptions elsewhere may be provided.

The Getty’s Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) is an effective tool for a uniform and efficient registration of and access to collections and anticipating its development into a truly multilingual vocabulary, the repository uses Getty’s AAT.

The repository and the repository’s data model have been developed, built and hosted by TU Delft Library, Delft.

The repository has been set up according to the protocols of Open Access Policy. In accordance with the guidelines of this policy the documents in the repository are downloadable in PDF (for full text) and JPG (for images).

- Fedora Commons:metadata & data storage.
- Islandora: middleware.
- Apache SOLR: index & search.
- Drupal: website management.

IslandoraDrupalFedora Commons

Het Nieuwe Instituut voor architectuur, design en e-cultuur, Rotterdam
For the repository, Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam digitised two of its Indisch archives, created in the former Dutch East Indies. In the future, more archives will be added.

Universiteit Leiden Bibliotheken (UBL), Leiden
Since 2014 Leiden University Libraries holds and manages the colonial library collection of the Royal Tropical Institute (Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen, KIT) in Amsterdam and all library collections of the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, KITLV) in Leiden. The former libraries of KIT and KITLV have contributed considerably to the creation of this repository by lending materials for digitization and sharing metadata and digital images from their collections. Leiden University Libraries intends to continue their efforts as a partner in the creation of this repository.

Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, Amsterdam
The collection of the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam (Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen) in Amsterdam contains nearly half a million photographs. The museum selects and shares relevant photographss for this repository.

Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Hilversum
The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision collects, preserves and discloses Netherlands audiovisual heritage created by and for a variety of makers and purposes: leading Dutch documentary makers, radio and television, entrepreneurs, cultural and social organizations, and scientific and educational institutes. For the beta version of the repository a limited number of moving images has been uploaded.

Rijksdienst voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD), The Hague
The Netherlands Institute for Art History administers a unique collection of documentary, library and archival material on Dutch and Western art from the late Middle Ages to the present. RKD is also the translating partner for Getty's Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT) for the Netherlands and Flanders..

European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST), Brussels
COST is one of the longest-running European frameworks supporting cooperation among scientists and researchers across Europe. COST Action IS0904 European architecture beyond Europe provided a relevant and scholarly context for the creation of the repository.

Rijksdienst voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie (RKD)European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)Getty’s Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT)Linked Open Data Getty Vocabularies

Crowd sourcing
Thanks to the much appreciated input from Universitas Gadjah Mada (Gadjah Mada University, UGM) in Yogyakarta, Universitas Katolik Petra (Petra Catholic University, UKP) in Surabaya and Paguyuban Pelestarian Budaya Bandung (Bandung Society for Heritage Conservation) in Bandung, all in Indonesia. TU Delft Library was able to geo-reference a considerable number of projects in the repository.

Universitas Gadjah Mada Jogjakarta (UGM)Universitas Kristen Petra (UKP)Paguyuban Pelestarian Budaya Bandung