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History of Architecture 03

The Architecture of Indonesia reflects the diversity of cultural, historical and geographic influences that have shaped Indonesia as a whole. Invaders, colonisers, missionaries, merchants and traders brought cultural changes that had a profound effect on building styles and techniques. Traditionally, the most significant foreign influence has been Indian. However, Chinese, Araband since the 18th and 19th centuries European influences have been important.

Religious Architecture
Indonesian Architecture

Although religious architecture has been widespread in Indonesia, the most significant was developed in Java. The island's long tradition of religious syncretism extended to architecture, which fostered uniquely Javanese styles of Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, and to a lesser extent, Christian architecture.

A number of often large and sophisticated religious structures (known as candi in Indonesian) were built in Java during the peak of Indonesia's great HinduBuddhist kingdoms between the 8th and 14th centuries (see Ancient temples of Java).

The earliest surviving Hindu temples in Java are at the Dieng Plateau. Thought to have originally numbered as many as 400, only 8 remain today.

The name "Dieng" comes from Di Hyang which means "Abode of the Gods The temples are small shrines built as monuments to the god-ancestors and dedicated to Shiva.

The Prambanan complex near Yogyakarta; considered the largest and finest example of Hindu architecture in Java. Prambanan is a ninth century Hindu temple compound in Central Java, Indonesia, dedicated to the Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator (Brahma), the Sustainer (Vishnu) and the Destroyer (Shiva). The temple compound is located approximately 18 km east of Yogyakarta city on the boundary between Yogyakarta and Central Java province.

The architecture of Prambanan temple follows the typical Hindu architecture traditions based on Vastu Shastra (traditional Hindu system of design based on directional alignments) The temple design incorporated mandala (circle) temple plan arrangements and also the typical high towering spires of Hindu temples. Prambanan was originally named Shivagrha and dedicated to god Shiva. The temple was designed to mimic Meru, the holy mountain the abode of Hindu gods, and the home of Shiva. The whole temple complex is a model of Hindu universe according to Hindu cosmology and the layers of Loka.

Prambanan also recognize the hierarchy of the temple zones, spanned from the less holy to the holiest realms. Either the compound site plan (horizontally) or the temple structure (vertically) are consists of three zones:

Bhurloka (in Buddhism: Kmadhtu), the lowest realm of common mortals; humans, animals also demons. Where humans still binded by their lust, desire and unholy way of life. The outer courtyard and the foot (base) part of each temples is symbolized the realm of bhurloka. Bhuvarloka (in Buddhism: Rupadhatu), the middle realm of holy people, rishis, ascetics, and lesser gods. People here began to see the light of truth. The middle courtyard and the body of each temples is symbolized the realm of bhuvarloka.

Svarloka (in Buddhism: Arupadhatu), the highest and holiest realm of gods, also known as svargaloka. The inner courtyard and the roof of each temples is symbolized the realm of svarloka. The roof of the Prambanan temples is adorned and crowned with ratna (sanskrit: jewel). In ancient Java temple architecture, ratna is Hindu counterpart of Buddhist stupa, and served as the temple's pinnacle.

The World Heritage-listed Buddhist monument Borobudur was built by the Sailendra Dynasty between 750 and 850 AD, but it was abandoned shortly after its completion as a result of the decline of Buddhism and a shift of power to eastern Java. The monument contains a vast number of intricate carvings that tell a story as one moves through to the upper levels, metaphorically reaching enlightenment. With the decline of the Mataram Kingdom, eastern Java became the focus of religious architecture with an exuberant style reflecting Shaivist, Buddhist and Javanese influences; a fusion that was characteristic of religion throughout Java.

Borobudur is built as a single large stupa, and when viewed from above takes the form of a giant tantric Buddhist mandala, simultaneously representing the Buddhist cosmology and the nature of mind. The foundation is a square, approximately 118 metres (387 ft) on each side. It has nine platforms, of which the lower six are square and the upper three are circular. The upper platform features seventy-two small stupas surrounding one large central stupa. Each stupa is bell-shaped and pierced by numerous decorative openings. Statues of the Buddha sit inside the pierced enclosures.

Borobudur stupas overlooking a mountain

Traditional Vernacular Architecture

Indonesian Architecture

Each of Indonesia's ethnic groups has its own distinctive form of the traditional vernacular architecture of Indonesia, known as rumah adat. Rumah adat are at the centre of a web of customs, social relations, traditional laws, taboos, myths and religions that bind the villagers together. The house provides the main focus for the family and its community, and is the point of departure for many activities of its residents.

Traditional Indonesian homes are not architect designed, rather villagers build their own homes, or a community will pool their resources for a structure built under the direction of a master builder and/or a carpenter.

With few exceptions, the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago share a common Austronesian ancestry (originating in Taiwan, c. 6,000 years ago), and traditional homes of Indonesia share a number of characteristics such as timber construction, varied and elaborate roof structures. The earliest Austronesian structures were communal longhouses on stilts, with steep sloping roofs and heavy gables, as seen in the Batak rumah adat and the Torajan Tongkonan. Variations on the communal longhouse principle are found among the Dayak people of Borneo, as well as the Mentawai people.

Batak rumah adat

Torajan Tongkonan

CONSTRUCTION AND MATERIALS: The norm is for a post, beam and lintel structural system that take load straight to the ground with either wooden or bamboo walls that are non-load bearing. Traditionally, rather than nails, mortis and tenon joints and wooden pegs are used. Natural materials - timber, bamboo, thatch and fibre - make up rumah adat. Hardwood is generally used for piles and a combination of soft and hard wood is used for the house's upper non-load bearing walls, and are often made of lighter wood or thatch. The thatch material can be coconut and sugar palm leaves, alang alang grass and rice straw.

CONCEPT: Traditional dwellings have developed to respond to natural environmental conditions, particularly Indonesia's hot and wet monsoon climate. As is common throughout South East Asia and the South West Pacific, most rumah adat are built on stilts, with the exception of Java and Bali. Building houses off the ground on stilts serve a number of purposes:

it allows breezes to moderate the hot tropical temperatures; it elevates the dwelling above storm water runoff and mud; it allows houses to be built on rivers and wetland margins; it keeps people, goods and food from dampness and moisture; lifts living quarters above malaria-carrying mosquitos; and reduces the risk of dry rot and termites.

The sharply inclined roof allows the heavy tropical rain to quickly sheet off, and large overhanging eaves keep water out of the house and provide shade in the heat. In hot and humid low-lying coastal regions, homes can have many windows providing good crossventilation, whereas in cooler mountainous interior areas, homes often have a vast roof and few windows.

Batak architecture (North Sumatra) includes the boat-shaped jabu homes of the Toba Batak people, with dominating carved gables and dramatic oversized roof, and are based on an ancient model. The Minangkabau of West Sumatra build the rumah gadang, distinctive for their multiple gables with dramatically upsweeping ridge ends.

Toba Batak

Rumah gadang

The homes of Nias peoples include the omo sebua chiefs' houses built on massive ironwood pillars with towering roofs. Not only are they almost impregnable to attack in former tribal warfare, but flexible nail-less construction provide proven earthquake durability.

Traditional house in Nias

EXAMPLES: The Riau region is characterised by villages built on stilts over waterways.

Unlike most South East Asian vernacular homes, Javanese rumah adat are not built on piles, and have become the Indonesian vernacular style most influenced by European architectural elements.

EXAMPLES: The Bubungan Tinggi, with their steeply pitched roofs, are the large homes of Banjarese royalty and aristocrats in South Kalimantan.

Traditional Balinese homes are a collection of individual, largely open structures (including separate structures for the kitchen, sleeping areas, bathing areas and shrine) within a highwalled garden compound.

EXAMPLES: The Sasak people of Lombok build lumbung, pile-built bonnet-roofed rice barns, that are often more distinctive and elaborate than their houses (see Sasak architecture).


EXAMPLES: Dayak people traditionally live in communal longhouses that are built on piles. The houses can exceed 300 m in length, in some cases forming a whole village.

EXAMPLES: The Toraja of the Sulawesi highlands are renowned for their tongkonan, houses built on piles and dwarfed by massive exaggerated-pitch saddle roofs.

EXAMPLES: Rumah adat on Sumba have distinctive thatched "high hat" roofs and are wrapped with sheltered verandahs.

The Papuan Dani traditionally live in small family compounds composed of several circular huts known as honay with thatched dome roofs.

EXAMPLES: The Toraja of the Sulawesi highlands are renowned for their tongkonan, houses built on piles and dwarfed by massive exaggerated-pitch saddle roofs. Rumah adat on Sumba have distinctive thatched "high hat" roofs and are wrapped with sheltered verandahs. The Papuan Dani traditionally live in small family compounds composed of several circular huts known as honay with thatched dome roofs.