By Catherine Nguyen
Lanting houses in Banjarmasin (Bromo, P. 2013)
I’ve travelled to quite a few places throughout my lifetime thus far, however none have come close to the sound of Indonesia. Spread across thousands of islands consist of hundreds of cities, and despite that these neighbourhoods share the same umbrella name, they all have different needs, lifestyles and identities. When combined, they form the culturally rich, beautiful and lively country that is Indonesia.
Whilst the phenomenon of globalisation has proved us certain advantages especially in terms of travel, for places like Indonesia where their identities are defined heavily upon culture, it becomes a battle between modernisation and protecting celebrated traditions.
Banjarmasin, located south of Kalimantan, Indonesia, is a self proclaimed ‘City Of A Thousand Rivers’. The name is well earnt, considering the city has been developed on a delta with a total of 107 rivers, creeks and canals (Kusliansjah et al. 2016). Boasting also a ‘unique architectural heritage, natural splendour and colourful floating markets’ (Chandra, S. 2016), I was intrigued to learn about its historical development as well as the lifestyle of this Banjarnese community that I was envious of.
Mapping Indonesia (Nguyen, C. 2017)
To my (un)surprise however, countless articles surfaced to address this physical, economic and environmental transformation the city was currently undergoing, due to the increasingly urbanised and globalised culture (Lamarca, M. 2012). From a city that proudly flaunted their homes which were structurally designed to be harmonious with nature, they are now facing an identity crisis as they move from the waters onto land.
Presence of lanting houses in present Banjarmasin (Nguyen, C. 2017)
Of the 11 types of homes traditionally known in Banjarmasin, the Lanting house is the only one to be constructed on water. Once an ‘expression of Banjarnese culture’ (Dahliani et al. 2015) and definitive of the city’s way of life, it now ceases to exist- instead replaced with the growing preference for urban architecture as influenced by global trends. Historially built along the riverbanks of Matarpura, Kuin and Alalak they were used as both floating homes and stores- a fundamental aspect to the Banjarnese lifestyle (Kusliansjah et al. 2016). Progressively, with road developments and a growth in land-based settlements, its presence begun to cease. As of 2015, it was recorded that there were only 10 lanting houses left (Dahliani et al. 2015).
Contrastingly to land-based cities where the identities of their urban architecture and local culture are much more definitive and stabilised, tidal waterfront cities such as Banjarmasin are continuously facing uncertainty regarding their infrastructure, and constantly fear the loss of their identity and image as the tidal city.
The traditional lifestyle has not been entirely disregarded yet; there are still river markets floating around Banjarmasin and kelotoks* available for transportation- just targeted towards the tourists more than the locals. But how long will it be until everything becomes complete history?
(Basymeleh, I. 2008, Traditional floating market at the river in Banjarmasin)
*Kelotok = Indonesian wooden boats
Basymeleh, I. 2008, Traditional floating market at the river in Banjarmasin, photograph, Flickr, viewed December 2 2017, <https://www.flickr.com/photos/ismailbasymeleh/>.
Bromo, P. 2013, ‘NEGERI DI ATAS AIR’, Have A Cup Of Tea!, weblog, viewed December 2 2017, <http://nfitriah.blogspot.com.au/2013/09/negeri-di-atas-air.html>.
Chandra, S. 2016, Banjarmasin, Garuda Indonesia Colours, viewed December 1 2017, <http://colours-indonesia.com/en/travel/travel-indonesia/banjarmasin/>.
Dahliani, Muhammad F. & Hayati A. 2015, ‘Changes of architecture expressions on Lanting House based on activity system on the river’, History Research, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-8.
Kusliansjah, K., Siahaan, U. & Tobing, R. 2016, ‘Reinterpretation of Architectural Identity in a Tidal Waterfront City’, International Journal of Architecture and Urban Development, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 33-40.
Lamarca, M. 2012, Participatory Waterfront Design in Banjarmasin, polis, viewed December 1 2017, <http://www.thepolisblog.org/2012/04/participatory-waterfront-design-in.html>.
Michiani, M. & Asano, J. 2017, ‘A Study on the Historical Transformation of Physical Feature and Room Layout of Banjarese House in the Context of Preservation’, Urban and Regional Planning Review, vol. 4, pp. 71-89.