NOW! JAKARTA | The Art of Javanese Traditional Architecture

The Art of Javanese Traditional Architecture

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As a reflection of its culture and history, the architecture of Javanese homes is much characterized by hierarchical rule, that is, in the form of rooftops and layouts. Enter limasan – a four-sided sloping trapezoidal roof with two pointed locations at the top, designated for higher status Javanese families. In an intricate weaving of society and tradition that dated back to the ancient Mataram Kuna Kingdom between the eighth and ninth century, limasan architecture has managed to remain as relevant today as ever.

Picking up on that unique heritage, notable archaeologist Mitu M. Prie has released a book that discusses in detail the history and philosophy behind limasan, as well as its influence on architectural styles in other regions of Indonesia, such as Bali, Palembang and Timor Tengah Selatan. The idea dawned on her while doing a study on the ancient Majapahit house, back in her days as an archaeology student at the University of Indonesia. Having added volumes of research later, she was then ready to launch the book, entitled Pancaran Limasan (The Brilliance of Limasan).

Written in English and Bahasa Indonesia and published by Red & White Publishing and Tembi Rumah Budaya, the book carries a global mission to provide a window into Javanese architecture. NOW! Jakarta caught up with the author during her book discussion in Kemang, South Jakarta.

What inspired you to write Pancaran Limasan?
It is reflected by the book’s vision and mission. The vision is to promote the idea that an ancient cultural masterpiece is still alive and the fact that it has contributed to our present time. Cultural identity is very crucial for both the present and the future. It’s a local genius in how it remains relevant in every aspect of life. As for the mission, the book is meant to reveal limasan as one of the cultural “signs” that is not much known yet. The book is meant to provide authentic knowledge about limasan and is written in a popular, modern yet informative manner, so that the current generation can enjoy it.

I hope that the public would gain a thing or two from this topic as it has something to do with our cultural heritage. This book is based on authentic researches and scientific references and it pays attention to artistic detail, focus, information, presentation and objectives, so that everyone, Indonesian or foreigner, can enjoy its knowledgeable content.

What did you find to be your most memorable experience while writing the book?
[That would be] my dedication and appreciation for this country’s cultural roots, especially because I love my academic background, archaeology, so much. It has helped me uncover the identity of limasan as a part of our authentic cultural richness. I am proud of it, and it is my intention to share the information with the wider public through Pancaran Limasan.

Any obstacle or challenge?
It was tough to sort the abundance of information and focus it on the very special features of limasan. I also had to think about the technical aspects of the book, such as the number of pages, the deadline and the writing style. How did I deal with those issues? Well, I just kept working on it because this is my passion.

Did you get any help?
I had a team that helped me with the book packaging, including coming up with the graphic designs, building illustration sketches, digital photo process and translation.

In hindsight, what did you gain from the whole experience of writing a book?
I find Pancaran Limasan to be quite good and informative. I wish I could add more information to it, but then it would mean adding the number of pages and thus adding the cost of publishing. Because Pancaran Limasan was intended to be kind of a coffee table book, ideally it shouldn’t be too “heavy” for the readers. It is all about the priority scale.

Any plan to write more books in the future?
I want to keep writing as long as I live, especially because I want to help reveal and inform the public about Indonesian civilization, especially in relation to art and culture.

Twitter: @MMPrie


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