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Dossier : Paradoxical Southeast Asia

Colonial-Vernacular Houses of Java, Malaya, and Singapore in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Architectural Translations in the Rumah Limas, Compound House, and Indische Woonhuis
Imran bin Tajudeen


Cet article étudie la traduction spatiale et formelle issue du croisement entre l'architecture locale et l'architecture coloniale européenne en Malaisie et en Indonésie. Ce mélange a donné lieu à deux formes de maisons typiques du xixe siècle à l’époque coloniale: d’une part la Compound House, telle qu'elle est dans les dessins architecturaux, ainsi que son équivalent en Malaisie britannique, appelé Rumah Limas, constitué d’un seul étage surélevé ; et d’autre part la villa de style indonésien (Indische woonhuis), qui rappelle, tout en s'en distinguant, la maison de campagne (Indische landhuis) plus grande, courante à Java au xviiie siècle. Au-delà d’une discussion rebattue sur l’adaptation climatique et le style, ce texte relève des parallèles frappants entre les plans intérieurs et la composition formelle de ces maisons coloniales adaptées au style local, ainsi qu'avec les maisons traditionnelles malaises, sundanaises (Java occidental) et javanaises, dont les demeures urbaines javanaises. En outre, sont analysées deux traductions spatiales-formelles essentielles ainsi que le vocabulaire architectural qui y est associé : le portique néo-palladien comme anjung/surong malais ; et le pringgitan javanais, ou terrasse de transition, en tant que voorgalerij. Ces considérations font émerger différents discours qui viennent enrichir ou problématiser notre compréhension, dans les études existantes, de la présence des Européens dans les colonies.

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Notes de l’auteur

This research was supported by NUS MOE ACRF Start-up Grant R-295-000-096-133. Line drawings assisted by Hadi Osni.

Texte intégral

Introduction: Colonial-Vernacular Houses, Beyond Climate and Style

  • 1 For example, see Andrew Ballantyne and Andrew Law, “Genealogy of the Singaporean black-and-white ho (...)
  • 2 The two key exceptions that do consider the architectural typology of indigenous dwellings in the c (...)

1Architectural scholarship on dwelling types in colonial-era British Malaya (todays Malaysia and Singapore) and in the towns of Java (in Indonesia) have invariably reduced the interaction between “indigenous vernacular and European colonial in the formation of new transcultural dwelling forms to the narrative trope of climatic adaptation, according to which the veranda and, in the Malayan context, the raised floor are the aspects of indigenous dwellings that were incorporated and assimilated into colonial building designs because of their appropriateness to hot and humid conditions.1 Indigenous house traditions were not treated as architectural systems that interacted with European traditions.2 Such glosses do not satisfactorily account for the development of the two nineteenth-century colonial-era house forms to be discussed in this essay. The first, called the Compound House, had an equivalent single story, raised-floor form, the Rumah Limas (figs. 1-2), and both versions were found predominantly in British Malaya (todays Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore). The second house form is the Indies-style town residence (Indische woonhuis) (fig. 3), which is related to, but distinguishable from, the larger, eighteenth-century country house (Indische landhuis) in Java, and bears several points of comparison with Javanese houses, including the urban dwellings in merchants’ quarters (fig. 4).

  • 3 Helen Jessup, The Dutch Colonial Villa,” in Brian Taylor (ed.), Mimar Houses, Singapore: Concept M (...)
  • 4 Ibid., p. 179.

2Helen Jessup observes that the simple explanation” of climatic adaptation [does] not fully account for the stylistic details” of the Dutch Colonial” or Dutch Indies” dwellings on Java.3 As one example of the stylistic details” of the “neoclassical-indigenous amalgamin Java, Jessup refers to the miniature classical columns on the front emperan or veranda of Javanese urban dwellings in the historic Kampung Wuwutan (Bubutan) neighborhood in Surabaya,4 but there are aspects of translation and adoption in the colonial-vernacular house models that go beyond the fade or stylistic features. In fact, and building upon Jessups point, it is necessary to move beyond stylistic details” and the mimicry of European classical styles and consider a more precise typological perspective in the formation of the new amalgamswhether in the Javanese urban dwellings she referred to that are also found in other settings such as the merchant houses in the Kauman quarter of the royal cities of Yogyakarta and Surakarta in Central Java (fig. 4) or in the Indische woonhuis (fig. 3).

Figure 1: Single-story raised floor Rumah Limas and double story Compound House.

Figure 1: Single-story raised floor Rumah Limas and double story Compound House.

Top left (a): Rumah Limas with an anjong, the main house, and a kitchen house (1900, at Campong Java Road, for Osman); top right (b): six Compound Houses with surong and kitchen house (1884, at Jalan Sultan for Haji Drahman)—compare with plans of Indies-style houses in fig. 9. Above (c): Compound House, 1889 for Syed Aboo Baker, as an example of the frontal addition of layers of space to the house plan. Note: B = bedroom.

Source: Author, redrawn from Singapore Building Plans, 1884-1946, Singapore: Archives and Oral History Department [and] Government of the Republic of Singapore Government Micro-film Unit, 1984.

Figure 2: Rumah Limas, Rumah Gudang, and Compound House from Singapore.

Figure 2: Rumah Limas, Rumah Gudang, and Compound House from Singapore.

Top left (a): the simplest form of the Malay Kampung House with a basic Malay Plan of a pair of rooms with galleries in front and to the rear, and a raised floor (panggung). Top right (b): the double-story Compound House with a walled undercroft (kolong), here in a simple version of the warehouse-dwelling called the Rumah Gudang. Above left (c): drawings that record the conversion of a raised-floor Rumah Limas into a two-story Compound House. Above right (d): the conversion of sheltered front staircase into the front sitting room vestibule, the surong.

Source: Author, redrawn from Singapore Building Plans, 1884-1946, Singapore: Archives and Oral History Department [and] Government of the Republic of Singapore Government Micro-film Unit, 1984.

Figure 3: Javanese merchants’ houses.

Figure 3: Javanese merchants’ houses.

A and b: two nineteenth-century Javanese merchant’s houses in Kauman quarter, Yogyakarta, showing the front hall/gallery with its own hip roof that precedes the main house, analogous to the pringgitan. The example on the left is flanked by two side buildings or gandhok. Above c and d: Javanese merchant’s house in Kauman quarter, Surakarta, bearing the date 1838. The last image shows the timber structure of the sokowulu (eight-column) hip roof building that precedes the core house. Only four columns are needed in this example since brick walls at the sides have replaced the four columns that would have defined the sides of this front hall.

Source: Author’s pictures.

Figure 4: Indische woonhuis with front halls/galleries resembling a small limasan-form pendopo/pringgitan (compare fig. 6).

Figure 4: Indische woonhuis with front halls/galleries resembling a small limasan-form pendopo/pringgitan (compare fig. 6).

Top: Indische woonhuis in Batavia (Jakarta), postcard photograph from 1905 with a front gallery with its own hip roof; an “outhouse” (bijgebouw) is visible to the right. Above: nineteenth-century Indische woonhuis in Cirebon, north coast (Pesisir) West Java.

Source: Author’s collection and picture.

  • 5 Ibid., p. 181.
  • 6 Jacques Dumarçay, The House in South-East Asia, trans. and ed. Michael Smithies, Singapore: Oxford (...)
  • 7 Anthony King, Colonial Urban Development: Culture, Social Power and Environment, London; Boston, MA (...)
  • 8 I have previously discussed some of these overlooked examples for Singapore and Melaka—see Imran bi (...)

3Besides Jessups remarks on a “neoclassical-indigenous amalgam as a model for domestic architecture” in the Netherlands East Indies (todays Indonesia),5 Jacques Dumarçay has also spoken of a particular kind of Malay architecture” that was under the inspiration of colonial architecture though separate from it,6 in reference to the Rumah Limas house type (fig. 1a, 2a). Anthony King meanwhile identified the terms compound” and godown” as examples of hybrid terms from Malaya7these terms lie at the heart of the Compound House (fig. 1b. 1c, 2c, 2d) and the associated Rumah Gudang (warehouse-dwelling) form (fig. 2b).8 These scholars have thus hinted at the intersections between indigenous and colonial architecture in the formation and spread of the urban vernacular dwelling types that form this articles focus, though regrettably without offering further analysis.

  • 9 Anthony D. King. The Bungalow: Production of a Global Culture [rev. ed.], London: Oxford University (...)
  • 10 An image of Penang appears in the study, but British Malaya is otherwise omitted. Ibid., p. 62.
  • 11 Ibid., p. 52-58, 203-206.
  • 12 Ibid., plate 27.
  • 13 Ibid., p. 49-59, 218-223.
  • 14 Madhavi Desai, Miki Desai and Jon Lang, The Bungalow in Twentieth-Century India: The Cultural Expre (...)

4Anglophone scholarship on colonial-vernacular dwelling architecture elsewhere has attended to the study of architectural translations beyond climate and style narratives in different ways. Kings global study of the development of the bungalow is primarily focused on the adaptation and appropriation of the new dwelling form by British colonists in India beginning in the seventeenth century and its spread to Africa and the Anglophone world—Britain, North America, and Australia.9 However, British Malaya is omitted from this seminal study.10 The existence oftraditional urban dwelling types” and regional diversity of dwelling forms in India and Africa are acknowledged, but the development of new colonial-vernacular dwelling forms among Indians and Africans does not receive detailed exploration,11 though there is discussion on mimicry ofclassical” elements on traditional dwellings by the comprador merchant class,12 emulation of British lifestyles and interiors by a new middle-class elite in India, and the consequences of the PWD vernacular of the colonial public works department for colonized populations.13 A more recent study on the development of new house forms in India derived from the colonial bungalow, while focusing on the twentieth century, gives a useful overview of specific instances of architectural translations in Indian urban vernacular dwelling forms from earlier periods.14

  • 15 Jay Edwards, “The complex origins of the American domestic piazza-veranda-gallery,” Material cultur (...)
  • 16 See note 34.

5The Indische woonhuis and the larger landhuis on Java has also received little proper study. Referring to the Dutch colonial house” in Batavia using an image of a landhuis or country house, Jay Edwards states that he has “not found a satisfactory account of the development of this important early colonial tradition, despite his citing of descriptive catalogues on such houses.15 The study of the smaller Indische woonhuis presents even greater challenges, since it has invariably been conflated with its larger predecessor.16

  • 17 James Deetz, In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life [rev. and expanded ed (...)
  • 18 Jay Edwards, “The complex origins of the American domestic piazza-veranda-gallery,” op. cit. (note (...)
  • 19 The Italian “piazza” appeared in the late seventeenth century, joined in the eighteenth century by (...)
  • 20 Jay Edwards, “The Evolution of a Vernacular Tradition,” Perspectives in Vernacular Architecture, vo (...)
  • 21 Jay Edwards, “Creole Architecture: A Comparative Analysis of Upper and Lower Louisiana and Saint Do (...)

6The study of new, transcultural dwelling forms as outcomes of migration and colonial settlement is well-established in North America, and James Deetz has demonstrated the importance of considering the architectural contributions from non-Western building traditions in new building practicesfor instance, West African elements were incorporated into the design of Chesapeake houses in the framing dimensions and methods of assembly as well as the porch or veranda, and the house frame was not a distortion” of English structure as one scholar had mistakenly presumed.17 Jay Edwards’ investigations into Creole architecture” and vernacular architecture in the United States and the western Caribbean involves looking into the multilingual nomenclature and considerations of the multiple origins of the North American “piazza-veranda-gallery,18 which may be usefully compared with Kings clarifications on these terms19; detailed typological analyses of the grammar of house layout and formal composition20; and comparisons across present-day political boundaries for older colonial domains and migration links.21 These studies demonstrate the approaches and methods that account for complex architectural-cultural histories.

The Disciplinary-Categorical and Geographical Divide in Scholarship

  • 22 I have discussed these new models in Singapore and Melaka. Imran bin Tajudeen, “Beyond Racialized R (...)
  • 23 Major region-wide surveys of Austronesian-speaking portion of Southeast Asia include Jacques Dumarç (...)
  • 24 Malay and Javanese architectural traditions are detailed only in specialized monographs such as R.  (...)
  • 25 For the house samples selected as definitive for different Malaysian states for the Mini Malaysia o (...)
  • 26 K. F. Tang, Kampong Days: Village Life and Times in Singapore Revisited, Singapore: National Archiv (...)

7The new dwelling models that circulated as shared forms among the diverse colonial society in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, and Java were in part informed by Malay and Javanese vernacular traditions on a number of aspects: spatial layout, formal vocabulary, and the grammar of configuration for additional house parts.22 However, scholarship on the dwelling architecture of British Malaya and Java is divided into two areas of specialization, which have both been unable to adequately address the complex formation of the new nineteenth-century colonial-vernacular house models that form the focus of this article. First, book-length treatments of vernacular” or traditional houses and regional surveys in this mold have been the preserve of ethnographic and anthropological inquiry, which in the Southeast Asian context tends to focus on the careful documentation of rural, remote, or tribal traditions; consequently, the urban house traditions of indigenous diasporic groups such as the Malays and Javanese are neglected.23 Monographs on Peninsular Malay and Javanese architectural traditions likewise have not systematically documented or studied the diversity of house models of urban indigenous communities.24 State-supported scholarship on traditional vernacular or customary (adat) house architecture in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have also focused on fixing definitive types by Indonesian provinces and regions (daerah) or Peninsular Malaysian state (negeri) for nationalist open-air museum projects,25 or in the case of Singapore, on projecting stereotypes of rural hardship and primitive construction that are contrasted with modernist public housing programs.26

  • 27 Huib Akihary, Architecture en stedebouw in Indonesië 1870/1970, Zutphen: De Walburg, 1990; and Vict (...)
  • 28 For a critique of colonial racial bias in the study of urban form and architecture, see Imran bin T (...)
  • 29 See for instance Norman Edwards, The Singapore House, op. cit. (note 1), p. 16, 56, 66, 75, 96. For (...)
  • 30 This presumption is expressed through the restriction of discussions of “Malay influences” in Briti (...)
  • 31 See Joel Kahn, Other Malays: Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism in the Modern Malay World, Honolulu, H (...)
  • 32 Ansyah Girindra Wardhani and Moediartianto, “Kampung Melayu Semarang: the development of vernacular (...)

8Conversely, architectural historians have produced monographs on Netherlands East Indies colonial architecture,27 and on colonial bungalows” as the definitive architectural culture of British colonial cities such as Singapore and Penang,28 but such works focus upon European settlers, and the transcultural dwelling forms of the indigenous urban communities fall outside their scope of interest; or they have assumed the indigenous to be exclusively confined to rural existence,29 and that native life and architecture remained static.30 Such myths have persisted in writing on colonial architecture despite the emergence of social-cultural histories of indigenous urban communities,31 as well as field documentation of their colonial-vernacular houses and historical neighborhoods.32

9Besides the dichotomy between vernacularand colonialin the scholarship on colonial-era dwelling architecture, the political division of the Straits region into Dutch and English spheres of colonial rule in 1824 has divided British Malaya and Java into two spheres of knowledge production. Two flows of interaction are severed by this division into separate colonial-linguistic domains: the older typological links between the plans of the core house in Malay and Pesisir Javanese dwellings, as well as nineteenth- and twentieth-century migrations and the movement of types and features across colonial boundaries. Scholars working on either side of the colonial-vernacular binary divide typically do not discuss the cross-cultural architectural interactions and translations between Malay or Javanese vernacular traditions and British or Dutch colonial design.

10As a result of the division of scholarship into distinct disciplinary-categorical and colonial-geographical domains, colonial-era houses in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore that typologically (rather than just stylistically) lie along a continuum between European academic/classical traditions and vernacular Malay, Javanese, and other local regional traditions are only partially understood in existing studies. This article discusses the translations and amalgams in colonial vernacular dwelling architecture through approaches that focus upon comparisons across the divides just mentioned, and deals with evidence from plans and spatial-formal configurations as well as nomenclature.

Typological Approach: The Language of the Plan

  • 33 Lee Kip Lin, The Singapore House, op. cit. (note 2), p. 33; Jon Lim, The Penang House, op. cit. (no (...)

11The colonial-vernacular house types from British Malaya (Malaysia and Singapore) and the Netherlands East Indies that King, Edwards, and others referred to earlier can be studied from two sources: building drawings, as well as surviving urban vernacular dwellings. These provide a record of the construction activity of indigenous urban groups, though these house types were also widely shared. On the basis of their typological traits, the two house types from British Malaya and Java are, respectively: the single-story raised-floor Rumah Limas (fig. 1a, 5a, 11) and its two-story version called the Compound House (fig. 1b, 1c, 4c, 4d, 10) found in British Malaya and Singapore; as well as the Indische woonhuis found on Java (fig. 3, 7, 9b, 9c) and the urban Javanese houses and noble residences built during the nineteenth century. These became widespread by the middle of the century and were built into the middle of the twentieth century.33

12There are striking parallels between the typical plan and interior layout of the Indische woonhuis (fig. 7b, 7c, 9b, 9c), the Compound House/Rumah Limas (fig. 1, 4), and the customary vernacular houses of Peninsular and Sumatran Malays, Sundanese (West Java), and Javanese (fig. 6). The fundamental feature of the plans of these three-bay houses is a central hall or passage connecting a front gallery (Malay serambi; Sundanese tepas; Javanese serambah/jogosatru) and a rear gallery or the back door, flanked by one or more pairs of rooms.

  • 34 The plan of the core house and overall massing of the smaller, nineteenth-century “Indies-style res (...)
  • 35 Anthony D. King, The Bungalow, op. cit. (note 9), p. 27; Lee Kip Lin, The Singapore House, op. cit. (...)

13Contrary to the gloss in existing studies, the eighteenth-century Indische landhuis (country house) did not possess the same interior layout;34 neither did the Georgian English houses and Anglo-Indian bungalows.35 The nineteenth-century Indische woonhuis and Compound House are distinct from these presumed precedents. It is unclear from available documentation and existing studies precisely when the plan for the Indische woonhuis and the Compound House assumed the standard layout just discussed, but a surviving house from the 1780s in Semarang (fig. 7c, 7d) provides an early example of the plan that became the definitive characteristic of the nineteenth-century Indische woonhuis and Compound House and is directly related to what Jacques Dumarçay calls the “Malay Plan (fig. 6a).

Figure 5: Spatial-formal elaboration and extension of palaces and houses.

Figure 5: Spatial-formal elaboration and extension of palaces and houses.

Top a and b: Istana Kenangan (1930) and Istana Hulu (1898-1903), Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia. Above (c): Rumah Serambi Melaka, Malaysia, with the addition of a front vestibule (surong) with the new hip-roof form (limas) to the front of the front gallery (serambi) of the core house with traditional gable roof (perabung panjang). Compare this with the Rumah Limas in fig. 1a, 2d, and 11.

Source: Author’s pictures.

Figure 6: The plan of the core units of Malay, Pesisir (north coast Java) and Inland Central Javanese traditional customary (adat) houses.

Figure 6: The plan of the core units of Malay, Pesisir (north coast Java) and Inland Central Javanese traditional customary (adat) houses.

Left to right: (a) Malay and Acehnese 16-column, 3-bay Rumah Serambi core house, showing the basic Malay Plan (based on Jacques Dumarçay and Abdul Halim Nasir); (b) Sundanese (West Java) house from Ciamis (based on Thomas Nix); (c, d, e): the plans of three Pesisir (north coast) Javanese houses from 1800 and 1810 showing location of rooms in relation to the four core columns (based on Totok Roesmanto); right (f): the plan of an inland Javanese house. Note: B = bedroom; R = room.

Source: Author’s picture.

Figure 7: Indische woonhuis interior layout.

Figure 7: Indische woonhuis interior layout.

Top a and b: exterior and interior of the Indische woonhuis serving as the core house at Ambarrukmo royal residence, Yogyakarta, completed 1859. The view of the interior layout, looking from the inner front hall (binnengalerij) shows a central passage between two pairs of rooms leading to the rear door to the gadri (Javanese for dining gallery). Above c and d: exterior and interior of a rare extant early Indische woonhuis dating from circa 1780s in Semarang, north coast (Pesisir), Central Java, with a gable roof to the main and rear houses. The plan of the interior of the main house follows the indigenous vernacular plan with a central passage that connects a front and rear gallery and runs between a pair of rooms (see fig. 6).

Source: Author’s pictures.

  • 36 N. John Habraken, “Forms of understanding: thematic knowledge and the modernist legacy,” in M. Poll (...)
  • 37 On this consistency in the Compound House, see Lee Kip Lin, The Singapore House, op. cit. (note 2), (...)
  • 38 These house plans can be studied in Revianto Budi Santosa, Omah, op. cit. (note 24); Ali Abdul Hali (...)
  • 39 On Peninsular Malay traditions see Roger N. Hilton, “The Basic Malay House,” Journal of the Malaysi (...)
  • 40 Roger N. Hilton, “Defining the Malay House,” op. cit. (note 39), p. 50-52.
  • 41 “One may write of STYLES of Malay house. The house that appears in these different styles can be re (...)
  • 42 Josef Prijotomo, (Re-)Konstruksi, op. cit. (note 39), p. 285.

14A caveat has to be inserted at the outset. The typological approach acknowledges that architectural articulation within a type has flexibility with specific, yet abstract rules on space, form, and structure.36 Consequently, while the plan and form of the Compound House and Indische woonhuis remained fairly consistent despite the variety of styles which may be applied to their façades, there are minor variations.37 Similarly, the plans shown in figure 1 for the customary vernacular house was typical, though there are permutations for internal partitions, such as the number of rooms.38 Further, while traditional house typology is defined in precise structural terms through the identification of core modules, their column formation, spatial layout, and roof form combinations,39 such definitions include regional model variations and the grammar of formal permutations;40 one scholar of Peninsular Malay traditional houses emphasizes that aspects of type are independent of style.41 The variety of Javanese customary building forms arising from structural format, tectonic articulation, and formal permutations are also recognized in indigenous construction manuals that were written in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a response to a perceived decline in knowledge on Javanese building and the infiltration of Dutch colonial architectural practices.42

  • 43 Jacques Dumarçay, The House in South-East Asia, op. cit. (note 6), p. 30; Dumarçay (p. 35) calls th (...)
  • 44 Thomas Nix, Bijdrage tot de vormleer van de stedebouw, op. cit. (note 2), p. 237. The simplest form (...)

15The “Malay Plan” cited by Dumarçay is based on the core house unit in Aceh, Indonesia,43 but this configuration of rooms and galleries is also found on Peninsular Malaysia and other Malay-culture regions of Sumatra and southern Borneo (Banjar), and there may be only one room to one side of the interior while a raised platform takes the place of the second room. In small Malay houses the rear gallery serves as the kitchen, but a separate kitchen building (Rumah Dapur) can be built, and the rear gallery serves as the private family room and the space for female guests. A formal model of the Sundanese house form possesses a pair of rooms in the tepas and another pair at the rear of the core house flanking a passage (gog) to the kitchen house beyond (fig. 6b).44

  • 45 Totok Roesmanto, “A Study of Traditional House of Northern Central Java: A Case Study of Demak and (...)
  • 46 Machi Suhadi, “Seven Old-Malay Inscriptions Found in Java,” in SEAMEO Project in Archaeology and Fi (...)

16The inland aristocratic Central Javanese residences (ndalem pangeranan) provide a notable exception: the passage to the rear is closed off by the shrine to the rice goddess Dewi Sri (pasrén/petanén) which sits between a pair of rooms (senthong; fig. 6f). Conversely, the layout of early examples of north coast (Pesisir) Javanese houses up to the early nineteenth century differs from the inland example (fig. 6c, d, e).45 In fact, the plan of these older Pesisir Javanese houses closely resembles the “Malay Plan.” This link between the plans of Malay and Pesisir Javanese houses’ core units is significant from the cultural historical perspective because the layout of later examples of Pesisir Javanese houses began to conform to that found in inland Javanese houses. The surviving early nineteenth-century plans therefore provide architectural corroboration for the epigraphic and literary evidence that Javas north coast or Pesisir has been a contact zone between Malay and Javanese culture and language since at least the seventh century.46

17The rules of spatial elaboration and extension of the Malay and Javanese customary house forms, and of Malay palaces and Javanese noble residences (ndalem) also applied in the Indische woonhuis and the Compound House. Additional layers of spaces may be added in front of or behind the pair of rooms that make up the house core, rather than to the sides, and it is also possible to increase the number of paired rooms flanking a central passage to two or, more rarely, three (fig. 1). Additional building units and vestibules are also added to the back or front of the house. The front surong vestibule may be added to the customary house form called the Rumah Serambi Melaka (fig. 5c), and the same may be done to a Compound House (fig. 2d).

18The typological elaboration of the Malay and Javanese house to create larger residences is done by extending the core house by arranging successive building units along a front-to-back axis, rather than laterally to form an impressive, long façade.. Thus, seen from the front, even very extensive traditional residences built in this mode appear rather modest. This principle is also seen in the Javanese ndalem (fig. 8), and in Malay palaces built entirely of tropical hardwood such as the eighteenth-century Istana Kuning, Kotawaringin, Borneo, Indonesia (1806-1811); Istana Tengku Long, Terengganu, Malaysia (1850; fig. 11d); and the temporary Istana Kenangan, Perak, Malaysia (1931) (fig. 5a). This form of building expansion was not applied in the larger civic residences built for the colonial authorities, which continued to emphasise long façades; but in the palaces for Malay rulers built in brick and ornamented after the fashion of European classicism, such as at Istana Hulu in Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia (1898-1903; fig. 5b), we find a succession of distinct, conjoined buildings extending to the back, in the traditional typological mode of creating larger residences. These latter examples of brick palaces were thus built according to the customary pattern for building layout and the configuration of a series of buildings, a “deep” aspect of architectural type that is outwardly masked by their European masonry façade expression and neoclassical ornamentation.

Thresholds: The Pringgitan/Voorgalerij and Seketheng

  • 47 Revianto Budi Santoso, personal communication, 1 Jul 2017.
  • 48 Naniek Widayati, Settlement of Batik Entrepreneurs in Surakarta, Bulaksumur, Yogyakarta, Indonesia: (...)
  • 49 The Kalang are a group who were formerly woodcutters, carpenters and housebuilders, carriage owners (...)
  • 50 Ikaputra, Kunihiro Narumi and Takahiro Hisa, “Preserving traditional architecture: noble residentia (...)
  • 51 On the bungalow and its spread through India, Africa, North America, Australia, and Britain, and th (...)

19The spatial-formal character of the front gallery of the Indische woonhuis depends on the house’s roof orientation. In houses with a series of hip roofs oriented parallel to the house front (fig. 3), the front gallery (voorgalerij) possesses its own, separate hip roof. This spatial-formal attribute bears a correspondence with two types of Javanese front buildings. First, it replicates the limasan-form front hall (pendopo) of the smaller, compact houses of Javanese merchants in the old Muslim quarter, Kauman, of the royal cities of Surakarta and Yogyakarta (fig. 4),47 and in the merchants’ districts of Laweyan in Surakarta48 and in the sixteenth-century former royal capital of Kota Gede.49 Second, it resembles the pringgitan, a gallery with its own hip roof located between the front pavilion (pendopo) and core house or dalem ageng in the fully-developed Javanese ndalem (fig. 6f, 8a, 8d, 9a).50 Climatic adaptation does not provide a satisfactory explanation for why this typological feature, corresponding exactly with the Javanese limasan-form small pendopo or the pringgitan, should be reproduced for the front gallery/hall of the Indische woonhuis when a lean-to roof or a combined hip roof with the main house would have sufficed. This conspicuous spatial-formal characteristic distinguishes the voorgalerij of such examples of the Indische woonhuis as being derived from the Javanese pringgitan rather than the veranda of the British and French colonial bungalow traditions.51

  • 52 This is also the roof orientation of some Rumah Limas and Compound Houses, where we find a single, (...)
  • 53 Josef Prijotomo, (Re-)Konstruksi, op. cit. (note 39), p. 133-5.

20Alternatively, the Indische woonhuis may feature a single hip roof whose main ridge is perpendicular to the house façade (fig. 7a, 8b).52 In such examples, the front gallery is no longer housed under a separate hip roof. However, one such Indische woonhuis provides an interesting case of the articulation of the pringgitan space for a monarch’s residence in the Ambarrukmo buildings in Yogyakarta (fig. 8b). The house was built in 1857-1859 to serve as a royal lodge (pesanggrahan) and was subsequently supplemented by a front hall/pavilion (pendopo) with the customary tall peaked hip roofs (joglo) bearing the date 1897 (fig. 8b). With the addition of the pendopo, Ambarrukmo became a noble residence (ndalem), which, as reviewed earlier, comprises a sequence of spaces arranged along a front-to-back axis. A kind of abbreviated” pringgitan was appended to the Indische woonhuis by the addition of a structural frame (pamidhangan) that reproduces the eight-column (sokowulu) structure of a hip roof (limasan) pringgitan building,53 here expressed by four columns with double beams connected to the front wall (fig. 8c). This articulation is repeated to produce a rear gallery, called the gadri in noble residences. Here, the addition of the teakwood structural frame to define a typological space may be read as an attempt at creating a facsimile of actual examples of a pringgitan constructed with the eight-column (sokowulu) hip roof (limasan) building. One example of a particularly large pringgitan is found in the Purwodiningrat noble residence (ndalem), Surakarta, built in the reign of Pakubuwana IV (r1768-1820; fig. 8d). The example of the Indische woonhuis at Ambarrukmo demonstrates how the grammar of house layout from Javanese tradition was not merely manifest as additional spaces, but through the precise architectonic structural-spatial articulation of the pringgitan and gadri whose significance can only be fully appreciated from a knowledge of Javanese domestic architecture.

  • 54 The difference is noted in Thomas Nix, Bijdrage tot de vormleer van de stedebouw, op. cit. (note 2) (...)

21Another aspect of the configuration of the Indische woonhuis that echoes the Javanese traditional layout is the distinctive configuration for ancillary buildings and the threshold wall that separates the front and inner compounds of the house. In Compound Houses the ancillary buildings are confined to the rear (fig. 1b, 1c, 2c, 2d), but those of the Indische woonhuis typically surround the core house in a C-plan formation, usually lining the perimeter of an inner, rear compound—and only the front ends of the side buildings, bijgebouwen, are visible from the street front beyond the compound threshold (fig. 2a, 9b, 9c). This configuration is distinct from that found in Dutch country houses (Nederlands buitenverblijf)54; and instead echoes the layout of the Javanese ndalem where side houses (gandhok) and the kitchen building (pawon) line the perimeter of the inner compound surrounding the core house (dalem ageng) (fig. 8a, 9a). Even in compact Javanese houses in the merchants’ quarters, gandhok are built flanking the core house for additional rooms (fig. 1).

Figure 8: Javanese noble residences with traditional building forms and with Indische woonhuis.

Figure 8: Javanese noble residences with traditional building forms and with Indische woonhuis.

Top a: Ndalem in Yogyakarta with tall peaked hip roofs (joglo) sheltering the front hall (pendopo) and the core house (dalem ageng), and an intervening transitional space pringgitan sheltered by its own narrow hip roof; the threshold extends beyond the house to the compound as a boundary wall screening off the interior compound, visible to the right. Middle (b): Ambarrukmo buildings, Yogyakarta, Indische woonhuis as core house completed 1859 and subsequently enlarged and supplemented by a front hall (pendopo), completed 1897. Bottom left (c): post-and-beam frame (pamidhangan) replicating the eight-column (sokowulu) building for a pringgitan in an 1859 Indische woonhuis Ambarrukmo royal residence and resort, Yogyakarta. Bottom right (d): large eight-column (sokowulu) hip roof pringgitan building of Purwodiningrat noble residence (ndalem), Surakarta, built in the reign of Pakubuwana IV (r1768-1820).

Source: Author’s pictures.

  • 55 This is beyond the scope of the present discussion. For images and descriptions, see Ali Abdul Hali (...)

22Examples of Indische woonhuis with this distinctive configuration of threshold wall and ancillary buildings may be seen in the Bintaran neighborhood of Yogyakarta (fig. 9d), where the threshold divides the house plot into a front yard into which the front gallery projects forward, and an inner compound beyond public view. Such thresholds (seketheng) demarcating the boundary between a public front and inner, private quarters of building and compound alike is a common feature in Javanese architecture—observable not only in the Javanese ndalem, where it is aligned with the pringgitan between the front pavilion and the core house (figs. 8a, 9a) but also in a number of fifteenth- to eighteenth-century Javanese palaces, mosques, and mausoleum complexes, and in eighteenth-century Malay palaces in the Riau Islands and the Peninsula.55 In compact Javanese town dwellings, the seketheng may be abbreviated as a side doorto the tight compound, flanking the front pendopo (figs. 1a), and this feature may also be observed in the Indische woonhuis (figs. 2b, 7c). The shared grammar of the compound wall threshold observed across these examples indicate the translation of a fundamental aspect of Javanese vernacular spatial vocabulary into the layout of the new Indische woonhuis, marking the latter as a product of a distinctly Javanese architectural milieu. The urban Javanese dwellings of the early nineteenth and twentieth century also expressed this deep spatial characteristic, even as it increasingly sported European-style masonry articulation and columns, usually of the Doric order, on the front gallery (figs. 1).

Figure 9: Tresholds.

Figure 9: Tresholds.

Top left (a): the schematic layout of the typical Javanese residence or dalem showing the location of the threshold between public front and private inner domains of the house and compound. Top middle and right (b, c): the location of similar thresholds in the basic Indische house form, and in more elaborate examples, for instance in the 1850 residence for the West Java Governor (now Jakarta City Hall) and for military officers housing from the same period. Above (d): map of a number of Indische houses, Javanese Ndalem and the palace of the minor prince of Yogyakarta, Pura Pakualaman, Yogyakarta, based on a map of 1925, showing the thresholds of the house compounds.

Source: Source: Author’s picture; c) after Nix 1949; d) redrawn from a map of Yogyakarta 1925.

Compound” and Limas”: Nomenclature, etymology, and migration of ideas

  • 56 Anthony King, Colonial Urban Development, op. cit. (note 7), p. 73.

23In an early study of what he termed the colonial third culture,Anthony King noted how words used in the colonial setting can be divided into four categories: besides those adopted from the metropolitan culture, from the indigenous, and from the meeting of the two, a fourth category consists of words that are diffused from the colonial third culture of other areas in the colonial territorial system.” He specifically points out terms from South-East Asia, especially from Malaya,” citing compound” as an example.56

  • 57 Whereas the English word “compound” already possessed a primary meaning of “put together, combine,” (...)

24The second meaning of the word compound, denoting a morphological entity (viz. a house compound), is indeed recognized by linguists as etymologically derived from the Malay term kampung(spelled kampong” andcampong” as English loan words); it is said to have entered English via earlier Portuguese and Dutch adoption, and spread across the British colonies to India and Africa.57 Several building plans from Singapore explicitly use the term Compound House, for instance in a set of drawings from 1884 to build Six Compound Houses” for Hadjee Drahman (fig. 3b). The Malay origin of the key term in the name Compound House” lends further credence to the architectural clues pointing to its earlier emergence before it appears in the late nineteenth-century drawing record.

  • 58 In Pesisir Java houses, the front and back of the limasan roof are extended by lean-to roofs at a l (...)
  • 59 This term is still relatively alien in Malay. Thus, for instance, the authoritative study by Ali Ab (...)

25The terms limas (Malay) and limasan (Javanese) for the hip roof provide further clues. The Compound House, Rumah Limas, and Indische woonhuis invariably sported the hip roof. This roof form, the limasan, was part of the repertoire of Javanese tradition.58 In contrast, Malay (and Acehnese) houses traditionally used only the gable roof form (perabung panjang; see fig. 5c); the hip roof form was introduced with the adopted Javanese term limas (figs. 3a, 4),59 while the equivalent of the maligi variant form was called limas bungkus (see fig. 4a).

  • 60 Kelantan and Terengganu possess a model named Rumah Potongan Belanda (Dutch-style house), while Pat (...)
  • 61 Barbara Watson Andaya, Perak, the Abode of Grace: A Study of an Eighteenth-Century Malay State, New (...)
  • 62 The Rumah Limas also spread to the Sumatra coastal plantation belt around Medan, where it has today (...)

26More importantly, specific names or qualifiers for the Rumah Limas houses in different Malay-speaking regions allude to origins in Perak and Riau and involve a connection with the Dutch (Hollanders, in Javanese, Wolanda, whence Malay Belanda)60; the names appear to preserve the memory of an earlier, eighteenth-century origin for the various Rumah Limas models connected with the Dutch presence in Riau and Perak,61 and possibly involving the agency of Perak Malays and Bugis planters in Riau preceding the division of the Straits of Melaka region in 1824 into Dutch and British colonial domains.62 In Perak, this roof form is simply called Limas Perak (see figs. 11a, b), while in Johor the same form is called Limas Riau. This older, Dutch-influenced Malay form, to which was applied the Javanese-derived term limas, may have been the precedent behind the earliest Anglo-MalayCompound Houses designed and constructed by British architects.

Figure 10: Early examples of the Compound House with surong.

Top a: Sultans Palace (c. 1840) at Kampong Gelam, Singapore. Top b: Archbishops House (1859), Singapore. Above c: Alatas Mansion (1860), Penang, Malaysia. Above d: Istana Jahar (1855), Kota Bahru, Malaysia.

Source: Author’s pictures.

Anjung/Surong as Palladian Portico?

  • 63 Julian Davison, Black and White, op. cit. (note 1), p. 62.
  • 64 Ali Abdul Halim and Wan Hashim Haji Wan Teh, The Traditional Malay House, op. cit. (note 24), p. 11 (...)
  • 65 Roger N. Hilton, “The Basic Malay House,” op. cit. (note 39), p. 135.
  • 66 Both terms are also found in Minangkabau (West Sumatra) and Bugis (South Sulawesi) customary houses (...)
  • 67 Chen Voon Fee, “Architectural Styles of the Planter’s Bungalow,” in Peter Jenkins and Waveney Jenki (...)

27A defining feature of the Compound Houses is the front sitting room vestibule called the surong in Malay. One author exclaims that this so-called sitting verandah was arguably the definitive feature of the Singapore house for much of the colonial era” (fig. 3a, 3b, 10).63 Yet, remarkably, this prominent and definitive feature has no specific English name. The same central front vestibule defines the Rumah Limas, which, despite developing regional variations following its rapid assimilation into the Malay house repertoire,64 was invariably characterized by a protruding reception room and a five-ridged roof (fig. 11).65 The two Malay terms for this central projecting vestibulethe anjung and surong66distinguishes between, respectively, front and side vestibules serving as entrance reception space, and sitting rooms that are situated independently from entrances (see figs. 3a versus 3b; fig. 11a versus 11b, 11c).By the middle of the nineteenth century, the front vestibule had become such a ubiquitous form on Rumah Limas that one scholar refers to the typical Malay-style central anjung which leads directly to the serambi.67

28The connection of this colonial building type to indigenous vernacular building culture extends beyond mere formal-spatial correspondences. Building drawings from Singapore record projects to convert the single-story raised-floor (panggung) Rumah Limas into the two-story form called the Compound House (see fig. 2c). Other drawings also show that the anjung or surong may be added to a house later rather than at the outset, thus conforming to the vernacular traditions system of house elaboration (see fig. 2d). The Rumah Limas and Compound House are therefore not merely localized versions of the early nineteenth-century Georgian, neo-Palladian house, since a processual perspective shows that the system of house addition and the function of vestibules in the house vocabulary of formal articulation is integrated with indigenous ideas about house construction and expansion.

Figure 11: Rumah Limas with anjung and surong.

Figure 11: Rumah Limas with anjung and surong.

Top a: Rumah Limas Perak, with surong or front sitting room on the left; a side anjung with the sheltered entrance stairs is seen in the foreground. Perak, Malaysia. Top b: Rumah Limas Perak, with a front anjung with the entrance stairs. The undercroft (kolong) has been walled in. Kuala Kangsar, Perak, Malaysia. Above c: Villa Sentosa (1923) in Kampung Morten, Melaka, Malaysia. Above d: Istana Tengku Long (1850, 1904), originally in Besut, Terengganu, Malaysia.

Source: Author’s pictures.

  • 68 Lee Kip Lin, The Singapore House, op. cit. (note 2), p. 30-37.
  • 69Jendela” is a Luso-Malay term derived from the Portuguese janela, which is distinct from “French w (...)

29The surong front vestibule on Compound Houses has typically been explained as a neo-Palladian portico, but this gloss is problematic: some examples do feature a colonnade topped by a pediment, but in numerous examples, the vestibule assumes a form departing completely from the Palladian Greek temple-front facsimile. Already in three early bungalows dating from the 1830s by the colonial architect G. D. Coleman at the Padang in Singapore, the colonnade” is curtailed to the lower floor supporting an upper floor balcony above a porte cochère.68 In contemporary examples from the mid-nineteenth century, the form of the front vestibule in Compound Houses depart considerably from the Palladian portico and follow the Malay pattern of the anjong and surong. Thus, in place of the colonnade we find either an open balcony with balusters between corner pillars, which is typically called the balai peranginanliterally pavilion for breezes”—or the projecting upper floor may be enclosed by walls punctured by large windows all around, for<