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Leiden Series on Indonesian Architecture

Series editors Reimar Schefold and Peter J.M. Nas




Survey of vernacular architecture in western Indonesia

Edited by

reimar schefold, peter j.m. nas, gaudenz domenig and robert wessing

KITLV Press Leiden 2008

Published by: KITLV Press Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies) P.O. Box 9515 2300 RA Leiden The Netherlands website: e-mail:

ISBN 90 6718 305 5 2008 Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the copyright owner. Printed in the Netherlands

Reimar Schefold, Peter J.M. Nas and Robert Wessing Introduction Peter J.M. Nas and Akifumi Iwabuchi Aceh, Gayo and Alas Traditional house forms in the Special Region of Aceh Gaudenz Domenig Variation in Karo architecture Syamsul Asri Traditional houses and settlements in the Minangkabau heartland Marcel Vellinga Adjusting the popular image Diversity and dynamics in Minangkabau vernacular architecture Reimar Schefold The house as group Traditional dwellings on Siberut, Mentawai Alain Viaro Nias Island traditional houses Jan J.J.M. Wuisman Rejang houses Continuity and change in construction and meaning Nathan Porath and Gerard A. Persoon Lean-tos, huts and houses Forms of shelter among nomadic forest dwellers in Southeast Asia Lioba Lenhart Sea nomads mobile dwellings and settlements and their ideas of place and space 1 17

49 101 117


175 237





Fiona Kerlogue House form and ethnic identity Tradition and variation in house style in Jambi Province Sandra Taal The limas house of Palembang Gaudenz Domenig The Kerinci longhouse Ethnographic materials and comparative observations Bart Barendregt The house that was built overnight Guidelines on the construction and use of the southern Sumatran rumah uluan Pieter ter Keurs Beehive houses on Enggano Island, Western Indonesia Gaudenz Domenig Round houses of Indonesia A comparative study Robert Wessing Constituting the world in the Sundanese house Bart Barendregt and Robert Wessing Centred on the source Hamlets and houses of Kanekes (Baduy) Peter J.M. Nas, Yasmine Z. Shahab and Jan J.J.M. Wuisman The Betawi house in Jakarta The dynamics of an urban cultural tradition Atashendartini Habsjah Involution in dwellings Three cases from a Jakarta kampung Peter J.M. Nas, Leslie Boon, Ivana Hladk and Nova Chr. A. Tampubolon The kampong Reimar Schefold Adapted revivals Recent transformations in Indonesian architectural traditions About the authors Index


363 391


465 487

523 551



645 669 701 707

reimar schefold, peter j.m. nas and robert wessing

This volume presents the second part of the results of a research project on vernacular architecture in western Indonesia, which was sponsored by the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KNAW, Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences). The first part, titled Indonesian houses; Tradition and transformation in vernacular architecture, was published in 2003 as number 207 of the Verhandelingen van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde in Leiden, marking the start of the Leiden Series on Indonesian Architecture. Another publication belonging to this series and also part of the KNAW project is a monograph by Vellinga (2004), while book versions of the PhD dissertations by Taal (2003) and Barendregt (2005) are currently being considered for publication or already in press. In Volume One we described the history and aims of the project, and the ideas that guided the research done by a team of anthropologists and architects. One theme in the contributions to Volume One was the relationship between continuity and diachronic change. Starting from the assumption that the various architectural traditions within the Indonesian field of study are historically related, different local developments were accentuated and compared. This diachronic perspective is also evident in many of the present contributions, even in the article that does not actually deal with a vernacular heritage but rather with an urban slum. Whereas the first volume contained only selected cases, this second one aims at a systematic survey; it is an introduction to all relevant architectural traditions and developments of western Indonesia. Ideally, this would include the following aspects: A precise technical description of the prevailing building types, their ornamentation, the processes of their construction, and their spatial arrangements An account of the daily and ritual uses of houses in their relationship to the local social organization The symbolic role of a building and its spatial orientation as a repository

Reimar Schefold, Peter J.M. Nas and Robert Wessing

of (and eventually as an effective ritual instrument for) ideas about meaningful relationships in the surrounding cosmos Historical processes and the role that the construction or maintenance of a building can play in internal and external social interaction Of course such ambitious aims cannot all be realized within the framework of a single chapter. The point of departure in all the chapters is the morphological description of old and recent local building types and settlement arrangements, in which an effort is made to remain consistent with the terminology presented in the Glossary of Volume One. These descriptions, combined with the systematic arrangement of the contributions according to the location of the ethnic groups from west to east, form the framework of this volume. Otherwise it was left to each individual contributor to decide on which aspect to focus; the range of topics in this volume is therefore broad. Moreover, each author was invited to extend his or her presentation with a topic of his or her choice suggested by the field situation. Naturally this led to a diversity of highlights, including but not limited to: elaborate typological analyses with diachronic evaluations of technical details, socio-structural elucidations of spatial uses, and cosmologically oriented symbolic interpretations. In adopting this approach rather than following a preconceived inventory, this volume acknowledges the rich diversity of contexts and architectural solutions. It goes without saying that none of the individual focal points in the contributions represents a unique phenomenon. In this sense each chapter can also be read as an invitation to consider its special emphasis in other settings, an attempt that undoubtedly would reveal many local lacunae in our knowledge. Another reocurring problem to a certain extent unavoidable in the limited framework of an article-length contribution is the requirement to take into account local variation in architectural forms, variation that cannot be reduced to one single representative. Comparing contemporary variants can help establish alternatives to simple, sweeping speculations such as have traditionally surrounded the themes of the four comparative articles included in the volume, namely, evolutionary speculations concerning lean-tos (Nathan Porath and Gerard Persoon), diffusionist ideas concerning round houses (Gaudens Domenig), assumptions propagating ethnicity as the general cause of recent revitalizing tendencies (Reimard Schefold) and essentialist views, disregarding variation and changes of meanings in the concept of kampong (Peter J.M. Nas, Leslie Boon, Ivana Hladk and Nova Chr.A. Tampubolon). Certain omissions must be acknowledged from the start. While all contributions are based on recent fieldwork, none of them was recent enough to take into account the effects of the tsunami that devastated the northern parts of our research area in 2004. In addition, a lack of information has forced us to


pass over certain architectural traditions, notably that of Simeulue. Another omission in the present book is the Toba Batak, but Gaudenz Domenig described them extensively in Volume One. A remark by one of the contributors in Volume One, Gregory Forth, repeatedly met with supportive responses in readers reactions. He suggested that in addition to the seven typical features of a Southeast Asian type of house mentioned by Reimar Schefold, one should also consider spatial bifurcation, the lateral or longitudinal dual divisions that are so frequently encountered throughout Indonesia and are commonly articulated in gender terms. In adopting this suggestion, we found it is validated not only in the contributions to Volume One but also by observations in most of the present chapters. This feature is frequently associated with right and left, an opposition that has also been pointed out in other contexts by Rodney Needham. In surveying vernacular architecture in western Indonesia the deplorable state of most of the buildings becomes clear. The situation is paradoxical: on the one hand the Indonesian government has chosen architectural styles as markers of provincial ethnic identity, exemplified especially by the famous theme park Taman Mini in Jakarta. The above remarks should make it clear, of course, how dubious the underlying ideology of one province/one house really is. The governments interest nevertheless may signal a certain commitment to the architectural heritage in the rural regions of the nation. Sadly, however, this interest is not followed up with any genuine support of that heritage. Conservation and restoration, requiring materials from forests that have become ever more distant since the time of the original construction, are undertakings whose expense generally surpasses individual resources. Furthermore, the collective efforts that in the past were part of the building process have become difficult to sustain under the individualizing tendencies of modernity. The recent collapse of many adat houses on Nias, long considered earthquake-proof but over time weakened due to insufficient maintenance, are dramatic illustrations of the consequences. As a further argument for official support of vernacular building traditions it should be added that indigenous knowledge of construction methods with locally available material can be an important factor in promoting sustainable buildings in the future. We hope that this volume helps to attract attention to the admirable achievements of indigenous builders, and that it will help to generate awareness of the importance of supporting them and their creations. Before turning to the contents of this volume we would like to express our gratitude to two eminent Indonesian academics who contributed substantially to the project, although unforeseen circumstances prevented their contributions from being incorporated in the Leiden series. The late Prof. Dr. Parmono Atmadi of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta was a gracious host who, with his wife, opened his home to Reimar Schefold, Peter Nas and

Reimar Schefold, Peter J.M. Nas and Robert Wessing

Robert Wessing while they visited Yogyakarta, and did much to facilitate the research on which Wessings contribution in Volume One is based. His untimely death sadly prevented him from finishing his article on the houses of Kampung Naga in West Java, the first draft of which contained fascinating information about the cultural life of Kampung Naga in relation to its architecture, and pointed to ideas about an integrative cooperation between the spirit of the hamlets founder and the ideas about local tutelary spirit, even in this time of modernization. We are glad that Peter Nas was able to integrate results of Parmono Atmadis work in the article on the kampong (Peter J.M. Nas, Leslie Boon, Ivana Hladk and Nova Chr.A. Tampubolon). Prof. Dr. Manasse Malo of the University of Indonesia and Trisakti University, in addition to his longstanding collaboration with Peter Nas, also offered us full Indonesian backing for the projects research and publication activities. He presented a paper on the Orang Betawi of Jakarta at one of the workshops before he took up his demanding tasks in the Indonesian Parliament. We are grateful to both these distinguished scholars whose ideas and enthusiasm have contributed substantially to our efforts. The contents of the volume In Aceh, Gayo and Alas; Traditional house forms in the Special Region of Aceh, Peter Nas and Akifumi Iwabuchi examine the houses of three ethnic groups in the Special Region of Aceh: the houses of the Acehnese themselves and those of their neighbours, the Gayo and the Alas. In all three the internal layout of the houses is studied, including how defined spaces relate to issues of gender and status. They note that while the houses show similarities, their patterns of use reveal differences in social structure between the groups; the Acehnese house is the residence of a single (extended) family while the Gayo and Alas houses are more like longhouses, even though they are based on clan or lineage membership. This difference is reflected in the matrifocality of the Acehnese household in contrast to the patrifocality of the other two. The authors also discuss the decorative features of the houses and the fact that, like other places where these kinds of traditional houses are found, the preference today is for modern, single-family, bungalow-type houses. The multifamily houses of the Karo Batak with their towering roofs have elicited an ambivalent response in Western travellers since the start of the twentieth century: they were admired for their monumental artistic design but denigrated because of their dark and unsanitary interiors. Construction and maintenance are very expensive. Gaudenz Domenig introduces his contribution Variation in Karo architecture with the comment that without external support the last examples of this great tradition will probably soon disappear.


Many of the buildings he investigated were already on the verge of collapse, a fact that actually made them more easily accessible. Domenig mentions several categories of buildings but concentrates on dwelling houses. He describes different types of dwelling houses with divergent decorative features, frequently within a single village. The functional complementarity of the construction elements that mutually safeguard each others stability is emphasized. Possible origins of the present forms are discussed, with reference to certain similarities with Mentawai. Although Domenig does not pursue this point, perhaps it could be added that one of the most conspicuous peculiarities of the Mentawai uma, the cantilevered carrying function of the tie-beams as described in Reimar Schefolds The house as group; Traditional dwellings on Siberut, Mentawai, is echoed in the characterization of the Karo king post, the (again cantilevered) outstretched arms of which hold the purlins in their hands. He further addresses certain social and symbolic aspects, including the pan-Indonesian significance of aligning timber posts and beams according to the direction of growth of the wood (defined by the root-ends and top-ends of the tree from which the timber originated), and the orientation of the house according to river courses and the movement of the sun. The longhouses of the Minangkabau people in the West Sumatran highland, with their spectacular roof design, represent a popular example in Indonesian vernacular architecture. They are discussed by Syamsul Asri and Marcel Vellinga. In Traditional houses and settlements in the Minangkabau heartland, Syamsul Asri discusses in particular the orientation of the roof ridge to Mount Marapi or a visible substitute when Mount Marapi is too far away. In pre-Islamic times the custom of orienting the house to the mountain was done for reasons of veneration, but nowadays it is only done out of respect for the wishes of the ancestors. Yet in some places houses no longer maintain this tradition and are oriented toward the road. Syamsul Asri also deals with several other aspects of the traditional house, such as the construction process, traditional measurements, layout, and the social and ritual use of different spaces. The Minangkabau traditional house is exceptional for its row of bedrooms located along the back used by women and married daughters. In front of these bedrooms is an aisle used by the women and sons-in-law, but also for ceremonial events such as weddings and funerals. Boys more than seven years old sleep in the prayer house. Syamsul Asri also points out the nested structure of the Minangkabau settlement with divisions between the highland and the coastal area and the division of the heartland into subregions and districts. He further describes the development of settlements from a forest clearing with temporary structures (taratak), to dusun, koto, and finally village (nagari). Such a nagari has a bounded territory, houses and permanent residents, a graveyard, bathing area at the riverbank, rice fields and a place to pray.

Reimar Schefold, Peter J.M. Nas and Robert Wessing

In his contribution on the Minangkabau house, Adjusting the popular image; Diversity and dynamics in Minangkabau vernacular architecture, Marcel Vellinga stresses that these dwellings are still built today, partly with new materials, in an objectification of identity and status. He argues that the stereotyped image of the Minangkabau house is misleading, since it overlooks the vivid architectural dynamics in the highland. Vellinga provides examples for regional variation, in particular features of certain localities that are matched by other aspects of Minangkabau culture. A second type of variation affects differences in outward design and size coexisting within one region; this variation is related to local social differentiation, which Vellinga discusses in an extended case study that demonstrates the impact of commoner versus royal descent. In other instances it is wealth rather than noble descent that is propagated in a building. This has meant that recently some people have tried to raise their social position through conspicuous house construction. Since these houses replicate the stereotyped Minangkabau image, they contribute to the ongoing loss of traditional diversity. In The house as group; Traditional dwellings on Siberut, Mentawai, Reimar Schefold relates the traditional dwellings of the people of Siberut on the Mentawai Islands to their social and cultural order. Traditionally these people were grouped in patrilineal groups (uma) that together built and owned a communal house, also called uma, for ritual gatherings. As can be seen from the common name uma, the house is a physical expression of the groups unity. This also becomes apparent during the building process, in which all members of the group are expected to participate: as they construct the house, they simultaneously (re)construct the group symbolically, demonstrating the cohesion on which the survival of the community depends. This is confirmed by certain architectural details. It is also reflected in the way that the members of the group are distributed across the house when the community comes together there. Rather than staying together as small units, as it is done in other longhouse communities in Indonesia, individual nuclear families are divided and redistributed across male and female spaces. The degree to which the house is considered part of the surrounding environment becomes clear from the way that building materials must be oriented and joined, with the top-end of the lumber being clearly differentiated from the root-end, in order to create harmony both in the structure and in the group. This again is apparent in the final ceremony during the houses construction, when the building and the group are integrated (socialized) with each other. In Nias Island traditional houses, Alain Viaro discerns three related architectural traditions on Nias, distributed roughly in the north (oval houses), the centre (partly rectangular houses) and the south (rectangular houses) of the island. Construction details and differences among each of these regions are outlined in detail. Villages and houses were constructed with an eye toward


defensibility and reflect local social and political organization, which differ among the three regions. Viaro considers the posts on which houses are raised mainly a defensive measure and casts doubt on the symbolic interpretation favoured by anthropologists regarding the three vertical levels of the buildings. He furthermore questions what factors resulted in regional differences. He surmises that the oval form of the north is related to a wide dispersion of these structures and the rectangular form of the south to a more compact village structure. Viaro attempts to answer why the dispersed houses in the centre are rectangular, by looking at the principles of the construction methods themselves. The chapter closes with a look at the future of Nias architecture, especially in the wake of the recent (2005-2006) natural disasters that have struck the island. Destroyed traditional buildings have been replaced with cheap modern dwellings, and given the expense of building in the traditional style it is unlikely that the old forms will ever return other than as echoes in public buildings that incorporate their features iconically. In the Rejang area of Sumatra, Jan Wuisman in his Rejang houses; Continuity and change in construction and meaning found three types of dwellings that he characterizes (following local usage) as very old, traditional and ground-level houses. The very old ones, according to his informants, date earlier than the 1930s. Though there are considerable differences among them and especially between the first two types and the ground-level type, Wuisman sees the internal arrangement of their spaces and their use as having derived conceptually from each other, with variations attributed to economy-driven changes in post-marital residence patterns and the correlated changes in attitude toward the position of the individual in society. Typically, the spaces in all three types of houses are divided along gender lines, though the valuation of gender varies among them: in the very old type the womens section seems to receive some priority, but the opposite is true in the traditional type. The ground-level house in contrast shows a more balanced relationship between men and women. The rules that govern the use of space, both by the inhabitants and guests, reveal a pattern that differentiates the Rejang according to age, gender and marital status. These are the same rules that govern life in the wider community. The spatial use of the house reflects the way of life of the community. Accordingly, as community life changed so did the way that houses were constructed and used. Nomadic forest dwellers generally take shelter in lean-tos, raised huts and bark houses. In Lean-tos, huts and houses; Forms of shelter among nomadic forest dwellers in Southeast Asia, Nathan Porath and Gerard Persoon present data on such dwellings among several Southeast Asian peoples such as the Agta, Dumagat, Kubu, Mabri, Negrito, and Punan. The construction materials of lean-tos and bark huts are logs, poles, palm leaves, bark pieces, and rattan cords. The main elements of the house are the framework, floor, walls,

Reimar Schefold, Peter J.M. Nas and Robert Wessing

roof, doors, hearth, rooms, kitchen, house extensions, and storage spaces. They discuss the hunter-gatherer lean-to and bark house of the Sakai and Kubu of Riau (Sumatra) as major examples. The lean-to is made up of a leaf shield as protection against rain, sun and wind. Forked branches hold up the leaf shields 60 degree-angled frame. The bark house may consist of lean-tos arranged to form a triangular roof over a raised platform or a solid barkwalled box on posts with palm-leaf thatching. Porath and Persoon emphasize that the lean-to and bark house are not restricted to one particular culture, but are characteristic dwellings of many nomadic and semi-nomadic groups. Sedentary peoples may even use them as a field hut. In old evolutionary theory this dwelling form was considered the lowest stage of the evolution of the house. Porath and Persoon consider this view to be ethnocentric, as it presupposes the house to be a cultural achievement aiming at permanence, security and status. In nomadic societies, however, such permanence may not be appreciated and may even be perceived as a threat to the nomadic lifestyle. Nomadic peoples often associate permanent houses with proximity to others and exposure to the sun and consider them hot and dangerous. In Sea nomads mobile dwellings and settlements and their ideas of place and space, Lioba Lenhart examines the simple dwellings and ever-changing moorages of the Orang Suku Laut, or sea nomads of the Riau Archipelago. Ephemerality and change, basic features of the culture of the Orang Laut, characterize these people and their dwellings as they roam the seas from harbour to harbour in search of the necessities of life. Frequent changes of shelter, location and associations have produced a worldview marked by a lack of attachment to material possessions and a tendency toward social independence and equality. Both afloat and ashore Orang Laut shelters are no more than rudimentary constructions. While the hulls of their vessels are naturally sturdy enough, the roof is no more than some pandanus mats that can be opened and closed according to need. Below, some planks suffice to create two floors, one for living quarters and the other for storage. Housing ashore is equally rudimentary, consisting of an easily assembled or disassembled platform-plank hut, the walls and roof of which are made from the boats pandanus mats. Though occasionally planks or plastic may be used as well, at other times walls are absent altogether. The government has made attempts to settle the Orang Laut ashore in permanent dwellings, but this has been met with only limited success. Their independent nature and self-reliant attitudes do not make for an easy community life and they themselves predict that as soon as the governments efforts end they will abandon the new houses and return to their old pile-dwellings. In her contribution House form and ethnic identity; Tradition and variation in house style in Jambi Province, Fiona Kerlogue researched dwellings in three villages: Ulu Gedong in a district of Jambi capital, Kampung


Baruh in the district of Rantau Panjang, and Rantau Pandan in the district of Bungo-Tebo. The dwellings were chosen according to local perceptions about which were the oldest: some were considered to be 400 years old, others 200 years, and several were clearly of a more recent date. Kerlogue positions her comparative study against the tendency in Indonesia to choose one cultural item, such as the house, to represent each province, overlooking the fact that most provinces are inhabited by a multitude of different peoples, each with its own culture and traditions. This policy neutralizes cultural differences that have to be expressed in the context of the more artificial administrative level of the province. This is indeed true of Jambi, and although the houses are perceived as provincial cultural items that bear many resemblances, they are also quite different from each other. Resemblances include being raised on stilts, using no nails, having the girders set into a notch in the top of the posts, the decorations on the gable ends being associated with a ships sail, having corresponding building ceremonies, and the house belonging to the women and inherited by a daughter. Differences include the orientation of the house toward the points of the compass, the river, or the place where the ancestors came from; the various ways in which the afterbirth is buried; the meaning associated with the three floor levels; and variations in the structure and use of the house. Comparing the views on resemblances and differences of the oldest dwellings in the three villages, Kerlogue concludes that although people from the three villages regard themselves as more similar than different, the policy of choosing one house type to represent each province clearly negates the evident variety in local dwellings. All the house types are seen as genuine Jambi houses, but the Jambi house does not exist. She concludes that: Similarities in the way they [the people of Jambi] use their houses may suggest that behavioural patterns have been more readily affected by influences, adaptation and assimilation than house construction practices. In The limas house of Palembang Sandra Taal presents an elaborate description of this type of houses. She discusses its history and distribution in the city; construction and construction rituals; and rules for the orientation of the house, its internal partitioning, and the five (or currently fewer) floors that lie on different levels. Taal describes in great detail the ornamentation of the limas house, such as woodcarvings and paintings, for which it is renowned. Three decorations are especially remarkable: the large carved wooden panel above the double doors leading to the central inner part of the house; a set of thumb-shaped cement symbols on the roof ridges; and the simbar, a flower-like symbol in the middle of the upper ridge. Although there are various speculations, the meanings of most applied motifs are no longer known. Different influences are traced from South Sumatra, Java and China, and from Buddhism and Islam. In spite of all sorts of changes in building materials and in the partitioning, layout and use of space, limas houses are


Reimar Schefold, Peter J.M. Nas and Robert Wessing

still often found in the area, although more and more infrequently. In the 1820s, after the abolition of the sultanate, many former nobles were unable to maintain their houses. In the course of the nineteenth century affluent traders started to construct limas houses for themselves, which had been impossible before because they had been reserved for the nobility. The current renewed interest in the limas house is motivated largely by tourism. In addition, rich Minangkabau living outside the region sometimes buy and renovate these monumental houses to boost their identity and prestige. According to Taal these new developments should be perceived as aiding the survival of the limas house rather than as a threat to its authenticity. In contrast to architectural forms among many other peoples of western Indonesia, the houses of Kerinci in the highland of central Sumatra have not yet received the scholarly attention they deserve. Because of their extraordinary length, however, these houses have been widely known for a long time, even earning the nickname railway carriage houses. We originally planned to devote a separate monograph to these houses but unfortunately this could not be realized. It was a happy coincidence, therefore, that it was possible to engage a local team, headed by the adat specialist Depati Alimin, that complemented the results of a short survey by Gaudenz Domenig and Reimar Schefold that had been carried out in the planning phase of the present project in 1995. Domenig presents the material in an architectural analysis in The Kerinci longhouse; Ethnographic materials and comparative observations. In the first part of the contribution he describes the various types of buildings in Kerinci and then presents the structure of a longhouse with its successive family sections, in each case comprising several bays. Four vertical components are described and analysed: the substructure with massive posts that reach to the roof and carry the floor and the ceiling of the dwelling spaces. These are situated next to each other, separated by walls and consisting of a front and a rear section. The ceiling forms the floor of the attic, and a second, partial attic floor is added higher up, where it is supported by the king posts and transverse collars. The lower attic has sleeping places in addition to those in the dwelling department, whereas the upper attic is a highly sacred space. In the second part Domenig applies the typological method that he outlined elsewhere in his analysis of the Nias house (Domenig 1992) and draws upon certain construction details in order to outline the development that in his view has led to the longhouses of today. Beginning as adjacent houses with their gables oriented toward the village square, the railway carriage-like structures featuring a continuous ridge are made possible by a 90-degree turn of the roofs. In his contribution The house that was built overnight; Guidelines on the construction and use of the southern Sumatran rumah uluan, on houses of the southern Sumatran highland, Bart Barendregt focuses on the interpre-



tation of various constructions as repositories of memories about ordered social and religious relationships. He starts with the example of a haunted house, a building with supernatural origins, that at present is deserted precisely because it recalls ancestral knowledge to a degree felt to be threatening. Barendregt interprets the different types of houses in the highland communities, just as their cultural diversity, as transformations on a common structure. Like everywhere in Indonesia, the building process involved communication with and permission by the spirits of the locality. Travelling carpenters and skilful carvers accomplished the construction, whose components and equipment were made to accommodate ritual uses by distinct exogamous kin groups. He describes the symbolic connotations of form and orientation of the dwellings and highlights their role in shaping gendered spaces, in which the oppositions of inside/outside and of higher/lower floor levels in relation to bride-givers and bride-receivers appear to be especially significant. The contribution ends with a description of the ways in which recent, more egalitarian and more orthodox Islamic tendencies have led to simplified constructions. The actual uses of these houses, though, still echo the ideas that are objectified in the remaining old buildings. With his contribution Beehive houses on Enggano Island, Western Indonesia, Pieter ter Keurs brings into focus a less well-known cultural region of Indonesia. Having been isolated for centuries and nearly dying out towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Engganese people present anthropologists with many puzzles. One of these is their traditional architecture with its famous round houses that disappeared more than a hundred years ago. While Domenig in his comparative analysis Round houses of Indonesia; A comparative study concentrates on the local genesis of this formal peculiarity in various regions of Indonesia, Ter Keurs emphasizes the social and symbolic meaning of the houses and details of their construction. He notes the special significance of the human figure in house decorations particularly as a representation of the slain enemy from a headhunting raid, which on Enggano just as in many other Indonesian cultures was meant to secure the well-being and fertility of the married couple that lives in the house. Because the genetic relationship of Indonesian architectural traditions has been acknowledged for many years, it is striking that there is a set of divergent forms in the extreme west and east of the archipelago that have a very different appearance: a round or oval shape. They are found to the west and north of Sumatra in Enggano, Nias and the Nicobar Islands and in the east on some of the Lesser Sunda Islands, especially Flores, Timor and Lembata. In search of an explanation, various speculations have been offered that attribute these formal characteristics to foreign, pre-Austronesian influences. In Round houses of Indonesia; A comparative study Domenig shows that this easy assumption is not justified. He characterizes the round forms


Reimar Schefold, Peter J.M. Nas and Robert Wessing

as convergent transformations that were developed from smaller structures with sacred connotations, partly as a response to local environmental factors. Traces of these can still be found today and one can explain certain details of the buildings by applying the typological method mentioned earlier. The study on the Sundanese house takes as its point of departure the idea that the house reflects the larger world and is loaded with cosmological meanings. The Sundanese house is a post-and-beam construction raised on stone plinths and plaited with bamboo matting. In Constituting the world in the Sundanese house, Robert Wessing argues that the building of this house should be understood as the recreation of the cosmos on a small scale. With this in mind, he focuses his analysis on the supernatural world of the Sundanese, including its nature spirits, its ancestral spirits (both long dead and recently dead), its views on human and non-human fertility, and the superiority of bride-givers over bride-receivers. This discussion is followed by an elaborate analysis of the rituals and offerings that occur during the construction process, which substantiate the values of this spiritual world. Wessing describes the floor plan of the house, concentrating in particular on male and female spaces. This horizontal partitioning of the house may be understood in two ways: as a basically female space that progressively encompasses the whole house, or as spaces balanced between male and female that are considered equal partners. Besides the horizontal division, the vertical oppositions of the hole underneath the centre of the house and the ridge beam on top of the house, as well as between the hearth and the attic, are also relevant in rituals. This leads to a three-dimensional image of the Sundanese house connected with the world of the spirits and the conceptualization of fertility and bride-receiving. He shows that the construction of the house should be seen as an intricate process of the partitioning of spaces according to cosmological beliefs and the rules of the supernatural world. Because of their ascetic, pre-Islamic lifestyle, the secluded Baduy community of Kanekes in southern Banten, West Java, is still deeply respected even in high governmental circles of Indonesia. The green and quiet watershed territory of which they are the religious guardians is like an oasis within the hectic modern surroundings. Bart Barendregt and Robert Wessing start their presentation in Centred on the source; Hamlets and houses of Kanekes (Baduy) with a description of the territorial subdivisions. A group of three villages in the southern, highest part of the territory, the inner Baduy, represents the most orthodox section. Their neighbours to the north, following the same religious regulations but less rigid in their application of these, are called outer Baduy. There is a third group, composed of people who have left the Baduy territory proper and live in adjacent areas, but ever they still feel committed to the traditional way of life. The sacred shrines of the population are situated in the forested hills to the south of the inner Baduy hamlets;



this upward direction informs the spatial arrangement of the Baduy settlements. The houses are simple H-frame post-and-beam constructions and resemble houses elsewhere in West Java, though the building process and habitation patterns are regulated by strict religious prescriptions. Granaries have a sacred connotation, as do the gable finials. Architectural consideration of complementary oppositions like male-female, outside-inside and publicprivate is instrumental in guaranteeing fertility and cosmic well-being. In The Betawi house in Jakarta; The dynamics of an urban cultural tradition, Peter Nas, Yasmine Shahab and Jan Wuisman explore the houses of the Orang Betawi in their historical and cultural context. The Betawi ethnic group only came into being in the course of the nineteenth century, as a blend of various Indonesian and non-Indonesian peoples who had come to colonial Batavia as workers, traders and slaves. There they mixed both genetically and culturally, becoming a distinct, recognizable group. Betawi houses have features in common with those of the surrounding Sundanese but also have many distinctive characteristics. The study analyses three types of Betawi houses: the Rumah Gudang, the Rumah Joglo and the Rumah Bapang, which are distinguished primarily on the basis of their roofs, which indicated social status. Regardless of roof type, all of these rectangular houses were internally divided into three sections that became more private as one moved farther into the house. The outermost front part was basically a male space used by visitors, while the innermost part of the house was associated with women and their concerns. The division between these two gendered areas was clearly marked in the central hall that bisected the house in half from front to back. Certain features indicated a concern about the courting behaviour of young women especially, yet recognized that courting was both inevitable and necessary. Since Indonesian independence, Betawi houses as well as Betawi culture have declined, a kind of renaissance starting only when their touristic and iconic value for the city of Jakarta was recognized. Efforts have been made to preserve the Betawi houses that still exist, but commercial interests have generally prevailed, and what Betawi-ness remains tends to be iconic and a remnant of a past that has basically been lost. In Involution in dwellings; Three cases from a Jakarta kampung, Atashendartini Habsjah turns our attention yet further to the urban setting, focusing on the process of internal subdivision leading to overcrowded housing conditions in a Jakarta slum in Jatinegara. Calling this division a process of involution, she sees it as the only way that people are able to cope with housing under circumstances of poverty and increasing demographic pressure. Three case studies of dwelling histories are presented. The main causes of densification are the reduction of living space by floods that destroy parts of houses, the obligation to divide the house between inheriting parties, and the selling of parts of the house for money to cover medical costs or because of unemploy-


Reimar Schefold, Peter J.M. Nas and Robert Wessing

ment. Other factors stimulating densification are the large number of children and the pressure of other people in the city who need lodging. These factors lead to the permanent alteration of dwellings, in the sense of dividing, adding and losing spaces. Damaged constructions are often quickly and cheaply fixed, remaining unstable and sometimes dangerous. The conditions with regard to light, odour, noise, humidity and temperature are plainly substandard and unhealthy. Notwithstanding these negative characteristics, it is also clear that the slum has the major advantage of being located near the city centre and near a bustling market offering ample opportunities for employment. The last two contributions conclude the whole research project with analyses of current development trends in vernacular architecture and settlement patterns. The kampong, written by Peter Nas, Leslie Boon, Ivana Hladk and Nova Tampubolon, takes a look at the concept of kampung and what the term has meant over time and in many places across Indonesia. Beginning with an analysis of the concept of kampung itself, the authors describe the range of its meanings from place of origin, to palatial compound, to urban settlement, and finally to slum. To illustrate the reality behind these abstract concepts, four case studies are presented: a kampung in Jakarta that changed from a rural settlement into an urban high-rise; a Yogyakarta slum that underwent urban renewal through the efforts of its residents and a famous architect, aided by a number of volunteers; the mythic settlement of origin of the Minangkabau; and a traditional kampung in West Java that struggles to maintain its roots in the face of social change and the demands of tourism. These examples illustrate the sense of rural origins and cosmic centeredness inherent in many Indonesian peoples feelings about their kampung, but also the changes that have come about with the development of urban and even megalopolistic societies. They also highlight the various roles and possibilities inherent in both top-down and grassroots development schemes. The top-down approach led to improved housing but also to the alienation of some of the old residents, while the grassroots approach led to a greater integration of the people with their environment, without resulting in a mega-development project. Reimar Schefold, in Adapted revivals; Recent transformations in Indonesian architectural traditions, presents an overview of the different forms of change taking place in traditional houses mainly in Sumatra. He discusses a number of examples such as the Sadan Toraja, Toba Batak, the village of Abai in the western Sumatran highland, Sungai Beringin in the region of Payakumbuh, Mentawai, Padang, Banda Aceh, and Rejang Lebong. In the Rejang Lebong area, as in several other regions, traditional houses were less elaborate and as a consequence have almost completely vanished. Where they are still extant, maintained, or even subject to revival, ethnic pride is often credited as playing a central role. Although this is certainly true in some



instances, Schefold presents a number of other factors shaping current transformations in traditional architecture. Besides genuine ethnic expression, he mentions collective and individual competition for status, state policy on the integration of ethnic groups, privately motivated Disney-fication to support and encourage tourism, aesthetic motivations, and invented traditions as a counterweight to the levelling tendencies of globalization. These wide-ranging factors are often interrelated in complex ways. For example in Mentawai, people have responded to the demands of tourism and at the same time have acted on their own desires to continue their cultural heritage. In Padang, interethnic strife seems to be negotiated with original ethnic loyalties and aesthetic motives, while in Banda Aceh anti-globalization motives in combination with ethnic feelings and aesthetic considerations have led to recent experimentation in traditionally inspired architectural expression. This overview of the contents of the present volume gives an impression of the great variety of vernacular architecture and settlement patterns in western Indonesia. The Southeast Asian type of house appears in many diverse local variations; possible environmental, social and ideological motives for this diversity are elaborated in the contributions that follow. More specifically, each of the authors has opted to highlight one of many possible additional points of interest. These display a wide range of topics that suggest new avenues of research for many of the other cultures examined in this volume. Although this second volume on Indonesian houses is one product of a multifaceted research project that has taken more than ten years to complete, there still remain challenging and exciting research questions for the future study of vernacular architecture and settlement patterns in western Indonesia.
Bibliography Barendregt, Bart 2005 From the realm of many rivers; Memory, places and notions of home in the Southern Sumatran Highlands. PhD thesis, Leiden University. Domenig, Gaudenz 1992 Typologie als Methode diachronischer Bauforschung; Konstruktionswandel im Hausbau auf Nias (Indonesien), Zeitschrift fr Ethnologie 117:143-88. Schefold, Reimar, Peter J.M. Nas and Gaudenz Domenig (eds) 2003 Indonesian houses; Tradition and transformation in vernacular architecture. Volume 1. Leiden: KITLV Press. [Verhandelingen 207; Leiden Series on Indonesian Architecture.]

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Between ideal and reality; Images of Palembang. PhD thesis, Leiden University. Vellinga, Marcel 2004 Constituting unity and difference; The meaning of vernacular houses in a Minangkabau village. Leiden: KITLV Press. [Verhandelingen 220.]