The Importance of Identity in Architecture (Indonesia)

Nusantara architecture, also called Indonesian architecture, is architecture that is designed by considering aspects such as cultures, beliefs, social, and environment in Indonesia. Nusantara architecture is not limited to traditional and vernacular versions of Indonesian architecture. Modern Indonesian architecture is also considered as nusantara architecture as long as it still considers those aspects within the design. Nusantara architecture is important because it becomes the physical proof of Indonesia’s identity and differentiates it from other countries’ architecture. Identity becomes important in architecture because the development of universal design that emphasize equity in architecture. This doesn’t mean architecture everywhere will be the same, instead architects are challenged to implements the equity while still having identity in the design.


Within the past few decades, Indonesian architecture has changed considerably. From traditional architecture, to colonial architecture (most of it was because of the Netherland’s influence), to post Indonesian independence architecture until it becomes Indonesian architecture now. There are many misinterpretations regarding merging cultures and beliefs aspects into architecture in architecture nowadays. We do not just merge a traditional roof to a modern building without any alterations. This can result in unsuitable facade and inefficient overall design. There is also architecture that implements social and environment aspects blindly. For instance, we cannot simply make a building’s facade from glass when the design is for a building in tropical climate because this can cause severe discomfort for user and energy usage inefficiency. Architecture education is the key to lower the probability for these complications from happening.

In Indonesia’s architecture education generally, consideration of these aspects is taught and supported within the curriculums. The main problem is the lacking implementations in student’s designs (mainly happens in bachelor degree students). The reasons of this case are vary, from lacking the spirit to study, lacking of exercise in implementing these aspects into architecture to difficulties in understanding what lecturers are saying. Reasons kept aside, architecture education need to emphasize the importance to implement nusantara architecture into the students’ designs. This is crucial because architecture students are future architects; we do not want future architects roaming around with architecture designs that lack in identity.

Identity is important because it is a thing that is sought after as long as humans are alive. This is also applied to a building. When the building is designed for Americans, the building’s basic identity will goes to American Architecture. Visually, the building will please the viewers. But when it comes to users, it is a different story. Indonesian won’t be comfortable while using this building because it follows American’s standard. American’s staircase height (20 cm) won’t be comfortable for Indonesian who usually has staircase height about 17-18 cm.

Usually, students fail to understand that for a design to have identity as Indonesian architecture, we also need to understand the essence or the main concept of cultures, social, beliefs, and environment in Indonesia. We need to understand the culture of Indonesia’s traditional housings to implement the concept into our design. For instance, implementation of micro cosmos and macro cosmos in traditional architecture can also be seen in modern houses. Usually, Indonesia’s modern houses still has wide porches that connects user to the environment (macro cosmos) and inside the house itself (micro cosmos). There are many more concepts that can be merged into our designs. As architecture students and future architects, we need to know and implement Indonesia’s cultural, belief, social, and environment aspects into our designs to emphasize our identity because without an identity, the architecture will only be a building without meaning and uniformity that’s not pleasing to the eyes anymore.


One comment

  1. mahasiswiarsitektur · September 10, 2017

    Hello, Salsa. It’s nice to see your post about Indonesia’s Architecture nowadays. I agree with your statement about the misinterpretation about “architecture”, especially about people’s beliefs. I found that some places in Indonesia don’t care about this because of their culture. Besides, the architecture itself will affect the value of the place and its development. If people come with their non-contextual and ego, the value of the whole place can be changed, too, and I think this is not a good way because the identity you’ve told on your post.

    And I guess, the main problem is about the poor education of architecture, and this is our challenge to make people realize the importance of architecture education for every people.

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