The Traditional Architecture of Indonesia

Barry Dawson + John Gillow

Thames and Hudson 1994
A book review by Danny Yee © 1998
In The Traditional Architecture of Indonesia Dawson and Gillow restrict themselves to rural and domestic architecture, with traditional village rumah adat taking centre stage. They don't cover temple complexes or royal courts at all — there is just a passing mention of Borobodur, for example. Even with this restriction, it is hardly possible to do justice to their subject in just eighty three pages of text (the remainder of the volume is taken up by an index, a glossary, a map, and pages and pages of glorious colour photographs). They provide a fairly thorough survey, however, moving roughly west to east across the archipelago and at least touching on most of the regions and major ethnic groups.

They also manage to find room for considerable detail with some of the more notable and striking forms: the boat-shaped rice barns and houses of the Toba Batak, Niassan omo sebua, Balinese house compounds, Toraja tongkonan, Dayak longhouses, and Ngada totems and villages, among others. And they take a broad approach, covering not just architectural forms but also materials and construction techniques (which also receive treatment in a separate chapter), connections with religious beliefs and practice, the historical and economic background, and the influence of modern "pan-Indonesian" building style.

The Traditional Architecture of Indonesia is an attractive and informative volume in the best Thames and Hudson tradition. It should have something to offer anyone curious about Indonesian culture, not just those with specifically architectural interests.

October 1998

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%T The Traditional Architecture of Indonesia
%A Dawson, Barry
%A Gillow, John
%I Thames and Hudson
%D 1994
%O hardcover, large format, colour photographs, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 050034132X
%P 192pp