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A comparative study of vernacular settlement and dwelling culture: A case study in Kerala, South India, and Minangkabau in Sumatra, Indonesia

  • School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University


This paper discusses several aspects of vernacular settlements in Kerala and Minangkabau. The framework for the study is architecture as part of holistic system of landscape. The inquiry is directed to explore simultaneous correlation between social organization, settlement configuration and the architecture of ancestral house in both regions of Kerala and Minangkabau. The comparative study is directed to elaborate the aspects of agreement and difference by which contextual conditions underlining the design could be identified. In general both vernacular settlement organization in Kerala and Minangkabau acknowledge the concept of network of villages, called Nagari in Minangkabau and Tara in Kerala. The activities of settlement are generated by the corporate house-hold unit managed under matrilineal descent-group, or Saparauik in Minangkabau and Taravad in Kerala, which is institutionalized architecturally in ancestral maternal house, or Rumah Gadang in Minangkabau and courtyard house in Kerala (naluketttu, ettukettu or Patinjarukettu). Several maternalancestral houses were traditionally organized in communal assembly of male-head care-takers in settlement level which is called kuttam in Kerala and Ninik- mamak in Minangkabau. Originally the organization was clan-based but following the length of a historical process, it underwent contextual transformations, and therefore made distinctions. The topic is expected to raise a discourse about a subtle transitional difference between Indian and Indonesian culture. The discourse would provide base for a critical review on geopolitical-based scholarly classification in the traditional and vernacular architecture studies in general, such as Southeast Asian architecture and Indian architecture, and on discourse of cultural diffusion such as "Indianized Southeast Asia". This topic of this paper would emphasize the importance of settlements formation as factors that define architecture and its theoretical classifications. Theme 2: Interdisciplinary Social Science Practices Of human life-ways: anthropology in its contexts. © Common Ground, Indah Widiastuti, Ranee Vedamuthu, All Rights Reserved.
... A number of Indonesia researchers such as Yulianto Prihatmadji, Yuswadi Saliya, and Prijotomo have conducted studies on vernacular architecture. Their research focuses on Nusantara architecture while Widiastuti & Vedamuthu (2009) have studied Minangkabau architecture. Similarly, Gantini et al. (2014) focus on Balinese architecture while Santoso (2019) has studied Javanese traditional houses. ...
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Undeniably, vernacular architecture contributes to sustainability and harmonious cultural life. One of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to make human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Therefore, there is a need for in-depth studies related to vernacular architecture looking particularly at how they contribute to sustainability. This research examines the sustainability of vernacular architecture at Praigoli Village, Wanukaka District, West Sumba Regency, East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia. The objective is to explore vernacular architecture for sustainable human settlements. The research used the naturalistic paradigm with a qualitative method through a case study research. Based on the exploration of the tangible and intangible evidence, the paper concludes that the concepts of vernacular architecture of Praigoli village reflect a unity between humans and the universe. Central to it is the respect for the characteristics of the Sumba Nature, the embodiment of Marapu culture, and respect for the position of women as mothers and the universe. Community members produce vernacular architecture in the Praigoli traditional village based on the knowledge and skills possessed as traditional heritage from their ancestors and the transfer of knowledge and expertise from generation to generation. The paper demonstrates that several aspects influence sustainability of vernacular architecture: socio-culture, economics, and environment.
The architecture between mountain and river discusses about the concept of indigenous vernacular villages in Indonesia, as a representational character of settlement-architecture in insular Southeast Asia. It typically demonstrated a cultural landscapes formed by villages with row of houses standing on stilt with overwhelming roof designs, shaded by volcanoes, and fronted by paddy field and a plain that stretch from mountain feet toward river. Mountainous terrain, volcanoes, dendritic rivers, and maritime background generally characterize the ecology of archipelago in tropical belt. Paddy farming is the main agricultural livelihood, marked by granary as basic model to elaborate building’s typology and settlement arrangement. Compounds of houses and granary in various spatial compositions mark the arrangement of settlement in a landscape. The design of houses shows resemblance or expansion from granary structure. More than needs and commodity, paddy and rice are also conceptual sources of many social values, symbols, and mechanism, by which social stability maintained. The wholesome of ecology, settlement and architectural design, and social and communal values forms a conceptual character of cultural landscape of paddy farming society in Southeast Asian archipelago. The archaic concept of village in Indonesia is called “wanua” – an Austronesian term that means a land and home. Typically, several wanuas develop a confederation which hierarchically comprises of core village(s) or the earliest settlement, peripheral villages, further expansion of the settlement, and migrant land or settlements outside the cultural boundary. These villages laying on hinterland and migrant land ecological-wise demonstrated network of villages, organized in various operations, such as kinship, temple network, and water management. Some cases are drawn to illustrate the settlement concepts, which are the Nagari settlement with the rumah gadang residential architecture of the Minangkabau in West Sumatra and the desa concept with the Uma residential architecture of the Bali Aga people in Bali. Keywords Nagari • Banua • Minangkabau • Bali Aga • Wanua • Settlementarchitecture • Jero Kahyangan • Mountain and river
One of the central dynamics shaping agrarian change, and one seldom highlighted, is the structure and ideology of kinship and clientage in peasant communities. This article examines the importance of kin ties in the maintenance of nonwage labor relationships in a wet-rice farming community in West Sumatra, Indonesia. In this village patron-client ties are primarily organized on the basis of matrilineal kin ties through and between women. Elite women and their client kin are both bound to and invested in a complex relation of land, labor, and obligations that supports the continued interdependence of landlord/tenant and helps keep agricultural wage labor from becoming the dominant relation of production in the village.