At 8:00 am on the the 11th of November, at the age of 83, the prince Tjokorda Raka Sukawati passed away in Denpasar. Preparations for his cremation began straight away in order complete his funeral before the Galungan season coming up next week. The cremation will be held tomorrow, Tuesday the 9th of December 2014. Though done at short notice, it is nonetheless a royal affair! by Rio Helmi
Tjokorda Raka Sukawati was more commonly known as “Tjok Sosrobahu” after his most famous invention, used in the construction and placement of highway flyover supports. The massive disruption to traffic, necessary during the many months of construction of flyovers, was a problem Tjok Raka Sukawati was determined to solve. He came up with the idea of minimizing the space needed by constructing the horizontal supports for the highway beside the existing road, which are then hydraulically lifted and turned 90 degrees by a mechanism capable of handling a 450 ton load, before being placed on the top of the vertical supports to form the flyover pylons.
President Suharto personally came up with the name Sosrobahu, a character in the Mahabarata epic. “Sosro” means a thousand in Old Javanese, and “Bahu” is shoulder. The Sosorobahu technique was subsequently used by US engineers building a bridge in Seattle and has been patented in several countries. In fact Tjokorda Raka Sukawati had quite a career behind him by the time he came up with the “Sosrobahu” idea, inspired by an incident when he was working on his car and the hydraulic jack slipped on an oil patch.
Left: Tjokorda Raka Sukawati at his graduation from ITB in 1962. Right: in his later years. photos courtesy the Sukawati family
In 1962 he got his engineer’s degree from ITB in Bandung, Indonesia’s leading technical institute at the time, and the alma mater of many outstanding Indonesian architects and engineers.
His first job was as structural inspector for the construction of the Triga nuclear reactor in Bandung. In 1964 he worked on the construction of Bali’s airport, and a year later was put in charge of overseeing the operations of the airport for the government corporation Hutama Karya. In the same year he set up the tech faculty at Bali’s Udayana University, at the time when Pro Ida Bagus Mantra, who later became governor of Bali, was the rector.
Still with Hutama Karya, he continued to work on the airport expansion project as well as filling the role of Dean at the technical faculty of Udayana. In the following decades he had an illustrious career with Hutama Karya, and finally in 1988 came up with the Sosrobahu solution. He retired in 1999. He is survived by his second wife, a son and a daughter.
Preparations for the cremation. Photo ©Rio Helmi