Indonesian Houses: Tradition and Transformation in Vernacular Architecture

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Edited by Gaudenz Domenig, Peter Nas and Reimar Schefold

The traditional houses and settlements of the several hundred ethnic groups of Indonesia are extremely varied and all have their own unique history. Underlying this rich diversity are fundamental similarities rooted in the ancient heritage that is shared by all the peoples in the Indonesian field of study. The multiplicity of ways in which this heritage is given shape in each local situation bears witness to an amazing creativity in adapting to regional circumstances and social changes. Inter-ethnic comparison of the architectural structures is a way to arrive at a better understanding of both the shared traditions and the diverging developments. In many cases, the variety of house forms will reflect successful attempts at one group's making distinct its buildings from those of neighbouring groups in an ongoing ethnic process of what could be called mutual contrasting, although sometimes by means of pseudo-traditions which have little to do with indigenous customs of the past.

The contributions to this volume are grouped into four sections. The first consists of essays describing approaches to the transformation and variation of houses. The second set presents applications of these approaches in case studies of specific Sumatran cultures. The third group widens the perspective through the inclusion of a number of cultures from outside Sumatra, namely from Flores, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Palu'e, and Roti. The final set deals not so much with houses as with settlements. In their pursuit of the cultural dimension of houses, the contributions focus on villages and towns, exploring their cosmological and symbolic organization.


Reimar SCHEFOLD is Professor of Anthropology and Sociology of Indonesia at Leiden University and Chairman of KITLV.

Gaudenz DOMENIG is an Architect-Researcher specializing in architectural and spatial anthropology with main focuses on Japan and Indonesia.

Peter NAS is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies at Leiden University.


Publication Year: 2004
536 pages, 244mm x 160mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-292-6, Paperback

NUS Press and KITLV Press