• Bangladesh!

    Bangladesh: Traditional houses. Go Now!

    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

  • Indonesia!

    Indonesia: Lombok. Go Now!

    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

  • Jordan!

    Jordan: Petra. Go Now!

    Tucked away in this Middle Eastern country, the famed city of Petra (pictured) links the past to the present culture. Explore Jordan!

  • Mongolia!

    Mongolia: Desert. Go Now!

    This vast country has a culture that spans past and present... a nomadic life shifting to a modern & sedentary society. Begin Your Journey!

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    Kyrgyzstan: Tian Shan Mountains. Go Now!

    The mountains, including the Tian Shan Mountains (pictured), give Kyrgyzstan a unique culture, partially formed from this isolation from the mountains. Go Now!

Architecture of Indonesia

Indonesian Architecture - Traditional homes
Traditional homes

Early Indonesian architecture consists of either wood structures which have not lasted or are based on Indian architecture. Among these early styles, only the homes have maintained their style to the present. As a very large and diverse country Indonesia has literally hundreds of styles when it comes to houses and every style tends to be local, but similarities exist. These houses, called rumah adat are almost always made from wood and are generally built on stilts to prevent flooding (except in Bali and Java). Although the rumah adat are decreasing in popularity for modern constructions, they still do exist and continue to be built on the islands.

In the islands' early years the Indians made a huge impact on the people and this included the introduction of the tjandi, a temple. These are most common on the islands of Java and Bali. These were popular, most likely, beginning in the 700s or 800s. Among these, perhaps the finest example in the Hindu tradition is Chandi Banon (near Borobudur).

The tjandis extend to Buddhist temples as well though. Borobudur (800s) is considered an evolution of the Hindu tjandi and is the largest Buddhist monument in the world, although it could also be classified as a stupa (funerary monument). After tjandis peaked with Borobudur, there was a slow decline in detail and grandeur as they slowly changed. Later tjandis include Tjandi Plaosan, Tjandi Sari, Tjandi Kidal, and Lara Jonggrang.

Islam arrived to the islands in the 1500s and this altered the architecture fairly substantially. This obviously demanded the building of mosques and other religious buildings that were not built before and which had specific requirements in their structure and content. This led to an odd combination of old and new as mosques had numerous features of ancient Indonesian architecture, but conformed to Islamic laws and requirements. The mosques in Sendangduwur, Yogyakarta and Kudus are perfect examples of these two styles uniting.

However, not all areas converted to Islam and those that didn't continued on a path of constructing Hindu, Buddhist, or local religious buildings. These can be found everywhere, but some of the more impressive are on Bali, including Besakih and Panataram Sasih. The Majapahit builders on Bali constructed numerous Hindu temples from brick at this time as well.

Since the 1500s though, most of the architecture has been either Islamic in influence or European-influenced. The Europeans, most commonly the Dutch, brought in stone work and concrete to build numerous structures in the islands. Early Dutch architecture is best seen in the capital of Jakarta, which received numerous Dutch buildings in the 1600s and 1700s. Quickly though the Dutch learned their styles and techniques, most particularly in terms of city planning bread mosquitos and diseases. In the 1800s the Dutch adopted many of their styles and city planning to improve hygiene as waterways were altered and styles were changed.

In the 1900s as independence movements arose and the people sought a stronger identity, there was a return to traditional architecture, most particularly in Java, although not all the people picked up on this movement. Although this push has been strong, most of the return has come in the form of smaller art forms, like paintings. Another effect of modern history and technology is the loss of many traditional tjandis and rumah adats. These traditional structures are being replaced by modern technology and European influence as concrete and glass tends to be easier to build and longer lasting.

Oddly, despite pushes to return to traditional architecture, Dutch and European architecture still dominated the country in the early 1900s and the city of Bandung is considered to have the world's largest collection of Art Deco buildings. In fact, Art Deco can be found extensively in every large city of the time with strong Dutch influence.

Since the end of World War II modern architecture has become the major style being built in the country and all major cities are littered with modern buildings. The greatest outside influence to these new constructions comes from the United States as the people actually call the style jengki, named after the word "Yankee."

This page was last updated: March, 2013