Post A – Indonesia Architecture and Its identity

“The context determines the architectural style, building material selection, site layout, which is very important in creating an effective design. “   – Mohd Firrdhaus Mohd Sahabuddin

A vast variety of cultures formed distinctive styles in many things across Indonesia. Cultural, religious, political and environmental matters shaped Indonesia’s unique culture and it appears in a variety form of mediums, such as art, music and social conventions. These mediums over time, reflects the cultural, economic, historical and technological context of the area.

Climate and cultural aspects formed residential architecture (Prianot et al, 2000). The extreme environmental conditions are taken into considerations during architectural design in Indonesia. Many houses are built on stilts to allow breezes during hot tropical temperatures. The elevating design prevents the houses from flood and mud. The steep roofs allow rain to quickly drip off during tropical storms. Many of the elements are designed to deal with the local surroundings and its style is something that you may never encounter in Western countries as it is designed to specifically fit the local context. The architecture cleverly appreciate climate, which in turn become part of the cultural understanding in creating built form (Ahmad, 2005).

house built on stilts with black bamboos as material. Sturdy, inexpensive and comfortable for the humid weather. source:
house built on stilts with black bamboos as material. Sturdy, inexpensive and comfortable for the humid weather.

Diversity is the outstanding feature of Indonesian architecture (Sadali, 1979). It has been strongly influenced by their traditional and also foreign cultures during colonial period. Indonesia’s polymorph culture lies in its ability to absorb foreign or regional influences and adopting these into new forms and expressions (Herrle, Wegerhoff, 2008). While under administration of Dutch people, a lot of their building types and construction methods were imported and adapted to Indonesia. By the end of the nineteenth century the traditional style of Indonesia’s architecture has started being influenced by European style (Prijotomo, 1996). The emerging of indigenous architecture style and Dutch influences formed a style of architecture that became suitable for the local tropical humid climate. European elements such as arch and tower were joint with traditional designs, which responded well to the Indonesian climate. Ventilations in walls, larger windows solved the lightness and airflow issues.

The Dutch colonial style as seen in an East Javanese Bank Office in Surabaya.  source:
The Dutch colonial style as seen in an East Javanese Bank Office in Surabaya.

A design often associates with many elements and its background gives it identity that differs the design from others. The artistic aspects and functions of one design are shaped by cultural and social phenomenon. Indonesia’s architecture style is a result of thousands of years of tradition and mixture of imported elements from foreign countries that resulted something works perfectly for the local environment.



Prianto, F. Bonneaud, P. Depecker and J-P. Peneau, 2000, Tropical-Humid Architecture In Natural Ventilation Efficient Point Of View- A Reference of Traditional Architecture in Indonesia, International Journal on Architectural Science, Volume 1, Number 2, p.80-95, 2000, viewed 26 April 2015, <;

P, Herrle. & E, Wegerhoff. 2008, Architecture and Identity, Transaction Publishers, London.

Prijotomo, J. n/a, When West Meets East: One Century of Architecture in Indonesia (1890s-1990s), Architronic, viewed 26 April 2015, <;

Sadali, A, 1979, In Search Of An Islam-Initiated Architectural Identity in Indonesia, Architectural Transformations in the Islamic World, October 9-12, viewed 25 April 2015, <>

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