The introduction of Islam to Indonesia did not lead to a new building tradition, rather the mosques appropriated the architectural forms of Indonesia with additional Muslim requirements. A place of worship and its religion thus blended into Indonesia. Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 4.50.29 pm

In the mid 1960s, approaching the demise of his political career, Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia and an architect, decided to build a national mosque in a “modern” monumental architectural style at the centre of Jakarta. (Kusno, A. 2000) The design of a timeless building now would be re-contextualised in a new era of independence afterall “Would we build a Friday Mosque like the Masjid Denmak, or Masjid Banten?” Sukarno challenged, “When it [Masjid Banten] was built it was already great. But if erected today how would it rank?” (Cited in O’neil 1993) Thus, design when put in a new context gives new meaning to itself. In this example that new meaning is independence with the result being the creation of the Istiqlal Mosque. It is the largest in South East Asia and a defining stand of Indonesia’s Independence from The Netherlands with Istiqlal being the arabic word for independence.

The Istiqlal Mosque (Courtesy of <>)

When comparing the design between two different contexts we can see that traditional Islamic architecture follows the building tradition of four central posts supporting pyramidal roofs. The characteristic of Islamic architecture in the past include multi-tiered roofs, ceremonial gateways, and a variety of decorative elements. Looking at the new design of the Istiqlal Mosque its context of design reflects the countries independence. The structure is as new and independent from the past as its context. It has seven entrances and two connected rectangular structures. The main structure has twelve supporting posts and is covered by a 45-meter in diameter central spherical dome with the number “45” representing the 1945 Proclamation of Indonesian Independence.

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Traditional Javanese Mosque
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The Istiqlal Mosque

Sukarno was breaking the traditional form of the local mosque when he favoured a “modern” look. This not only reflected the post World War II era of the time but also reflected a new “Indonesia.” At first, I questioned how a style of building could reflect a new context of a country yet it is most certainly the case as  “the modern image of Sukarno’s national mosque could be interpreted as a specific challenge to the previous architectural, cultural and political order.” (Kusno, A. 2000) Sukarno’s mosque was mapping Indonesia on the world map; it marked a new type of nation but also a new type of authority.

“Buildings” are not only tangible images of the aspirations of the societies that produce them; they are also an attempt to mould social attitudes (Kostof,S. 1995) The design of the Mosque exemplifies how a building when designed in a new context of style and time provides a different meaning.


A.K.Dey and G.D.Abowd. 1999, Towards a better understanding of context, Springer Publishing, Berlin

Kostof, S. 1995, A history of Architecture: Settings and Rituals, Oxford University Press, UK

Kusno, A. 2000, Behind the post colonial, Routledge, UK

*All imagery unless stated comes from; Kusno, A. 2000, Behind the post colonial, Routledge, UK.


Salas in his personal garden

Salas is a farmer residing in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, working and living on the permaculture farm; Bumi Langit. I had the pleasure of meeting with him as he taught us about the design system and social design principles which make up the foundation of permaculture farming. Permaculture is a system of agriculture based on a functional approach to design where the use of ecological principles and balanced landscape patterns provide diverse ecosystems where food can grow naturally. (Holmgren, D. 2002)

The growing of plants in soil

It is stated that the development of sustainable strategies for the management of dry lands is one of our most urgent global needs (Mollison, B. 1988) and permaculture farming is one of these sustainable strategies. This was reinforced by Salas as he told the story of how the owners came to farm on the land. In 2006 the soil was so hard they could hardly grow anything yet just thirty years prior in 1970, the land was “full of water and the soil was so very fertile.” It had gone hard as the previous owners instilled farming techniques from the government where they “introduce pesticides and farmers become lazy and the soil becomes more damaged and farming becomes more expensive. Overtime they want to plant more but they need a new pesticide and the price goes up, so the farmer becomes a slave of the government.” This exact type of “government farming” is what is causing unsustainable and unusable land. Permaculture farming “brought life back to the land in a slow process but now thrives.” By teaching and practicing permaculture design; they hope to resolve this issue of chemical pesticides and degradation of land.

Salas showing us his plants

Salas provided an extremely in-depth discussion as I asked about the amount of white rice that is consumed in Indonesia. He understands that people “know you have to eat the rice or eat the vegetables but you never identify what kind of rice you have to eat, what kind of vegetables you have to eat. They [the supermarkets] don’t explain it in a clear way.” He believes we are misinformed in our knowledge of foods and the only way to rectify such is to educate the people which is what he believes permaculture farms have the ability to do; just by understanding the beauty of its system. Salas was extremely passionate about his choice of lifestyle as I asked him what he eats and his response was “I eat what I grow on this farm as I am responsible and know it is all clean, all organic.” I think the most interesting thing I learnt was how naturally the system worked as he shows us his garden where “this carnivorous attracting flower is planted next to an omnivore attracting vegetable so that the bugs are naturally repelled.” I found it extremely purposeful that within the system of permaculture the output of one component provides the resources for another and no component is included unless it has more than one function.(Mollison, B. 1988)

This is considered a good plant as bugs eating plants is natural and we should only want to eat natural.

Salas’ passion and dedication to his permaculture farming was extremely insightful and by the end of the interview I was convinced and ready to move onto the farm. Whilst he doesn’t push for anyone to do anything, he believes that through education people can make their own choices and permaculture farming “is the life they want to choose as a free person and it does the most good for our land.”


Multiple Authors. 2015, Permaculture Design, Australia, viewed April 6th <>

Mollison, B. 1988, Permaculture: a designer’s manual, Rundles PublishingAustralia.

Holmgren, D. 2002, Permaculture, Permanent Publishers, Australia

*I have an audio recording of Salas giving his consent for this interview and the information he shared to be included in research and on this blog. This can be made available upon request.

**All photographs in this post were taken by the author.


‘Preman’ is an Indonesian colloquial term for a member that is part of an organised gang or otherwise known; a gangster. Preman have long been part of urban life in Indonesia with reports finding that ‘the confluence of crime syndicates with perceived legitimate political authority has a history extending as far back as the Medang Kingdom.’ (Cribb, R. 1990) The roles of gangsters were particularly dominant during the Indonesian Revolution (1945 -49) as they adopted political roles of local authorities with the rights to carry out powerful crimes. During this same time the roles of a gangster was also idolised as a new type of crime thriller emerged – the mob films. This desirable sub-genre of film was a result of the Great Depression as it glorified the elusive underbelly of the United States during prohibition. In a society disillusioned with the American way of life the films quickly grew in global popularity, especially in Indonesia.

Civilians in firing range (Cribb, R. 1990)

Fast track twenty years to 1965; The Indonesian government is overthrown by the military and any person who is opposed to the military dictatorship can be accused of being a communist. Over one million “communists” were murdered within a year as a direct result of this inquisition with army sourcing paramilitaries and gangsters to carry out the killings.

The Act of Killing (2012) is an award winning documentary by Joshua Oppenheimer which documents these killings during this dictatorship as it follows two former Indonesian gangster and their associates as they reenact the war atrocities they committed. It is quite confronting as “they proudly tell the stories about what they did.” (Oppenheimer, J. 2013) To understand why, Oppenheimer asked the men accountable to recreate the killings in whatever way they wished. Drawing on the influence of the Mob films they grew up watching, they chose to recreate the killings to be like the Hollywood films they so greatly admired.

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Congo in his younger years as he states “I would wear jeans to kill.” (Oppenheimer, J. 2013)

Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry are the two gangsters responsible and before leading the most powerful death squad in North Sumatra they were scalpers selling tickets outside the movie theatres in Medan. As they recreate the scenes of the killings we learn how Anwar “killed people who didn’t want to die, I forced them to die.” He also shows his methods where he states “I was influenced by gangster films where they always kill with wire. It’s faster with wire because the victim can’t grab it.” It is quite confronting to be said so casually and it has you think on the impact which Hollywood and popular culture can influence.

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Recreating a killing scene as gangsters torture victim (Oppenheimer, J. 2013)

Watching the film you witness the longstanding corruption which has solidified into a core principle of the country as many powerful people continuously remind the audience that the term “gangster” in their society means “free man.” Further more, a leading newspaper publisher brags about how he manufactured evidence against suspected Communists, providing long lists for the death squads. (Boone, S. 2013) This corruption has stayed in place as ever since committing their atrocities, the perpetrators and their protégés have run the country, insisting they be honoured as national heroes by a docile (and often terrified) public. (Oppenheimer, J. 2013)

This is an extremely interesting aspect of Indonesia history which I had never even known to happen. This film brought to light not only the factual history but shed light on this part of Indonesian culture. Alongside the study of the influence the Western world has on Indonesia the insight into the aspect of Premen and the corruption in the culture is ever so daunting and eye opening.


Cribb, R. 1990, The Indonesia Killings of 1965 – 66: Studies from Java and Bali, Centre of Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University.

Oppenheimer, J. 2013, The Act of Killing, Denmark, viewed 15th March, 2016 <>

Boone, S. 2013, The Act of Killing, US, viewed 17th March 2016 <>


Pollution in the ocean (Launay, C. 2015)

‘Historically the most common form of waste disposal was via waterways where up until the 1970’s it was legal to dump waste into the oceans with it being the most cheap and convenient practice.’ (Derraik, J. 2002) Reading up on water pollution after witnessing countless drains, waterways and rivers in Indonesia being blocked or filled more so by rubbish than water has shown how few implementations there are for proper waste management, especially when it comes to waste being swept to the ocean.

Man trying to row through debris (Griffiths, S. 2015)

Overall, plastic is the number one source of pollution in the ocean (as it does not degrade, only breaking down into progressively smaller pieces) along with oil which is the fastest source of deterioration, posing a significant health threat to the entire marine ecosystem. ‘The threat of plastics to the marine environment has been ignored for a long time, and its seriousness has been only recently recognised.’ (Stefatos, A. 1999)

Rubbish floating in the Holy River Ganges, India. (Doust, G. 2016)

A design initiative to this problem of waste disposal in the oceans has been developed by two Australian surfers from Perth, Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski who have created the Seabin. The Seabin is essentially a floating bin that sucks rubbish into it like a vacuum, catching everything floating from plastic bottles to paper, oils, fuel and detergent.

The designers behind the Seabins; Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski (Seabin Project, 2015)

How it works is similar to a pool skimmer box; ‘the bin is attached to a pump which keeps it docked in the water of marinas, private pontoons, inland waterways, residential lakes, harbours, water ways, ports and yacht clubs (controlled water environments where high levels of human activity are present) and this pump creates a flow of water that sucks all floating rubbish and debris into a natural fibre bag, before pumping the water back out.’ (Garty, L. 2015)                            

Diagram of how the Seabin works (Seabin Project, 2015)

It is built from recycled materials, with the pump running on shore power electricity costing around $20 a month to run however they are looking into alternative eco friendlier power sources. The bin is emptied like a rubbish bin on land, therefore people can see what is being caught, (what you are swimming in, what the fish are eating, what you are eating through the fish) and the goal is for the plastic that has been caught to be up-cycled into developing more Seabins.

The Seabin in action as it vacuum sucks rubbish floating on the waters surface (Seabin Project, 2015)

Pete and Andrew are Product Designers who were in the industry of making plastic products before realising there was no real need for what they were creating. They were fuelled by their passion to develop something better, something which would help. Growing up by the ocean, they realised it was in dire need of help and they had one mission: to keep the oceans tidy.       

The product was initially funded by their own savings however they wanted it to be built in the most sustainable and ecologically responsible way so they turned to crowd funding through Indiegogo (raising $270,000 USD.) Along with this Ceglinski stated “we also went to the METSTRADE show, which is the biggest trades show in the world for the marine industry and we’ve also been in contact with lots of mariners and governments around the world.”

Rubbish collected by the Seabin (Seabin Project, 2015)

The latest news states that “we’ve signed a partnership with Poralu Marine, a french industrial global leader of aluminium facilities for marinas, for the development, manufacturing and worldwide distribution of Seabins with first unit expected to start operating by the end of 2016.”

‘The concept aims to complement the more expensive option of using trash boats, vessels that drive around harbours scooping up rubbish with nets built into them.’ (Gartry, L. 2015) Whilst it will not be a quick solution or solve the bigger problems of “garbage islands,” the Seabin will be beneficial to minimising and controlling further waste being released into the ocean.

You can keep up to date with project on their website

or their instagram: @seabin_project

And you can view their promo video for the Seabin in full here;


Danluck, M. 2008, Garbage Island, Journeyman, England

Derraik, J. 2002, The pollution of the marine environment, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 44, Issue 9, September 2002, Pages 842–852, <>

Garty, L. 2015, ‘Seabin’ designed by Australian Surfers to clean up marinas, reduce ocean pollution, ABC News, Australia, viewed March 13th, <>

Griffiths, S. 2015, The ocean vacuum, Daily Mail, UK, viewed March 13th, <>

Jonathon, A. & Charles G. 1996, Waste water management for coastal cities, Springer, New York.

Launay, C. 2015, Study Shows 5 Countries Account For as Much as 60% of Plastic Ocean Pollution, The Inertia, Australia, viewed March 24th, <;

Stefatos, A. 1999, Marine debris on the seafloor of the Mediterranean Sea, Elsevier Science Ltd, UK

Turton, A & Ceglinski, P. 2015, The Seabin Project, Web & Seo, Australia, Viewed March 13th, <>