Soh Jia Yi
AR2221 AY2018-19 Sem 1 Assignment 1
Tutor: Dr Imran Bin Tajudeen
Tutorial Group: Friday 1200-1300 SR12 – TA: Chin Min Zhe
Building Chosen: Eastern Indonesia Islands – Atoni House
Vernacular Architecture – Understanding Atoni houses and social order within.
1 Introduction to Vernacular Architecture
In the book, “‘The Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World’, Paul Oliver defines vernacular architecture as: ‘… comprising the dwellings and all other buildings of the people. Related to their environmental contexts and available resources they are customarily owner – or community-built, utilizing traditional technologies. All forms of vernacular architecture are built to meet specific needs, accommodating the values, economies and ways of life of the cultures that produce them”.’ Vernacular architecture is therefore understood to serve the primary function of addressing human needs, where native with no training background in design, builds shelter and dwelling units for survival. Designing a home that one can seek comfort shelter in the developing region of the country.
The following writing will discuss and investigate on Atoni House, designed and constructed by the natives situated at Timor Leste, an island that is slightly off Indonesia. Through the understanding of Timor Leste’s people, land and culture, it will provide hints of the Atoni House, its construction, the social order and gender inequality within the dwellings and how architecture has been influenced by it.
Figure 1: Map of Timor Leste
2 About Timor Leste
Timor Leste, an island part of Indonesia that is bounded by Savu Sea on the north-west and Timor Sea on the south-east, in-between Indonesia and Australia. It is a developing country with small towns and several villages that is made up of non-homogenous population of people from different culture.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 1: Different profile types of TImor Leste Traditional houses of different regions
Besides those from Timorese, the population includes a handful of Chinese merchants, descendants of Arab migrants and Indonesians who are married to natives of Timor Leste. This non-homogenous population contributes to the “multi-layered cultural heritage” of the Timorese, which permeates into Timorese local architecture (figure 2), artistic endeavours and more. In addition to the multi-layered cultural heritage of the Timorese, according to a research done on Timore Leste women and land, it is understood that the females in Timor Leste plays an important role in the rural village. They up hold the identity of ‘women’s triple role’, which is known to be “reproductive” – by bearing children and raising them, “productive” – in actively taking care of the house and working to bring in income for the household and lastly “community” – roles by actively participating in rituals within the village. By carrying the identity of this role, the female is effectively responsible to bring income for their own family by working in the agricultural sector, or within the small town to sell crafts. However, these contributions by the women are evidently unrecognised due to the biasness against gender in Timor Leste, many believed that the male Timorese are productively the ones who have worked hard and making larger contributions to the household and the community. This resulted to the misunderstanding that men or males are to lead and make important decisions for the family within the Timorese community. The biasness against gender adequately resulted to the rise of social order within each household which in turn have influenced the architectural spatial configuration within the Atoni House of Timor Leste. This topic will be further discussed in the later part of the essay.
3 Introduction to Vernacular Architecture in Timor Leste – Atoni House
Timor Leste is categorised into 3 different regions, Western Timor, Central Timor and Eastern Timor, and each region adopts a slight difference in combination of the Atoni houses according to their cultural needs and beliefs. The 3 districts consist mainly of Uma Lulik, which is the holy sacred house, Uma Tidor which is the house for sleeping and lastly the Lopo Lopo, which is the barn where dried goods and grains of the community are stored.
Figure 3: Atoni House
The basic configuration of Atoni house in these 3 regions are categorised under Granary Vernacular Architecture. Granary Vernacular Architecture are dwellings that are usually constructed with 4 primary columns topped with a conical beehive like roof, usually compose of local materials like wood and bamboos for the body and roof structure of Atoni House. Bamboos are utilised to build the ‘external walls’ of the dwelling and the bamboo comes together through the skilled lashing by the native locals. As for the conical roof, round wooden rods are utilised to construct the roof, tightly secured with lashing and finishes off with simple grass thatching. As seen in the picture above (figure 3), the dwellings are portrayed to be of rounded elements and curved exteriors, however, from the inside of the dwelling, it utilises a rectangular roof substructure to hold up themselves , the layout plan of the Atoni House will be further discussed in the follow paragraphs. Through this understanding of the simple construction methods, it gives a clear understanding of how Uma Lulik, Uma Tidor and Lopo Lopo were constructed.
4 Different Models of Atoni House in Timor Leste regions
center272171004.1 Eastern Timor – Eastern Atoni
Figure 4: Eastern Atoni – Communal Uma Lulik plan & sketchup model
In East Timor, the Timorese of this region rely heavily on agricultural activities and fishing, resulting to the combination of Uma Tidor and Lopo Lopo for each household in East Timor. Additionally, Uma Lulik is known as the holy sacred house that hold high importance to the Timorese. Therefore, it is unavoidable that the Uma Lulik have to be constructed within each region.
However, as the holy house was not part of the composition, a different kind of Uma Lulik was designed for the community. The communal Uma Lulik was carefully crafted and configured in Eastern Timor, having slight difference to the conventional Uma Lulik. The communal Uma Lulik was designed with only 2 primary columns in the middle of the dwelling that supports the roof, the inner ring constructed with bamboo to create an indoor space, secondary columns on the outer ring of the communal Uma Lulik to provide additional support to the roof. As seen above (figure 6), the secondary columns sitting on the peripheral supporting the conical roof has resulted to a semi-outdoor space, creating the chance for lingering and gathering without having to enter deep into the communal Uma Lulik.
4.2 Central Timor – Middle Atoni
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 2: Eastern Timor – Middle Atoni’s Lopo Lopo
Similarly, Central Timor is also heavily reliant on agricultural activities within its region. However, instead of having the same composition of houses as East Timor, each household in Central Timor adopts Uma Lulik and Uma Tidor. In addition to that, several households share a Lopo Lopo to store their dried goods and grains. With each family sharing a Lopo Lopo for storage, the idea of how trust and close-knitted relationships within the community of Central Timor is strong. Additionally, the Lopo Lopo (figure 5) has a raised platform with a conical beehive roof, reducing the physical contact with any wild animals or having the goods damaged by bad weather conditions. With the platform for storage raised up, the underside of the Lopo Lopo becomes an habitable space, a space for the community to gather together, drawing similar qualities to a pavilion in our current context. The Lopo Lopo designed by the Central Timorese allows for double usage of spaces within a dwelling, an innovative way to save space and cost for construction but also unintentionally craft this ambience space.
4.3 Western Timor – Western Atoni
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 3: Western Timor – Western Atoni Uma Lulik
Lastly, Western Timor is a region that focuses heavily on traditional textile, crafts and pottery making, therefore it is largely composed of Uma Lulik and Uma Tidor. A Lopo Lopo was not needed as the Timorese are able to store their goods on the attic level of the dwelling. Uma Lulik in Western Timor is slightly more interesting as compared to the other 2 regions as it is designed with an attic held up by the 4 long primary columns within the dwelling house. In addition, the conical roof of Uma Lulik is constructed and thatched all the way to the ground, covering the entire holy house. By having the roof of the Uma Lulik extending all the way to the ground, it could suggest that the holy house in this region requires high level of privacy. Unlike the previous 2 regions, this Uma Lulik in Western Timor does not cater for a communal gathering space to allow for interaction to actively occur. However, it could also be possible that the Timorese utilises open spaces within the community as active gathering space, reducing the need to construct for one.
5. Understanding the spatial configuration of Atoni House, the rise of social order and gender discrimination
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 4: Layout plan of a tyoical Atoni House
Within the internal configuration of Atoni House (figure 7), the primary columns indirectly demarcate spaces of different usage. The furniture within the habitable dwelling also aids to further colonise spaces for specific activities like cooking, sleeping and gathering (harak manba’at: agreement platform). Additionally, the spatial layout of Atoni house also draws a clear distinction of the internal and external spaces, where the north end of the Atoni house – nai oe teke (fixed water jar) is located is usually utilised by the females, it is believed that there is where cooking happens within the household. Differing from the female, the male Timorese usually hang out by the mone (outside), referring to the yard, where the entrance door is located. Therefore, it means that men are the dominating ones and will be the ones attending to the guests, with the female hid away at the back of the household. However, at times where there are no guests, the female Timorese of the household can bring her work out to the yard, where work can be done with the aid of naturally lighting. Although females are allowed to utilise certain spaces, it is still arguably that serious social order is happening within the household based on their assigned roles based on the plan layout study.
Figure SEQ Figure * ARABIC 5: Section of a typical Atoni House
Studying the above (figure 8), the section highlighted in pale red on the left is associated with the inner section of the house, where the female Timorese will usually linger and carry out their house chores, cross-referencing back to the plan (figure 7). On the opposite hand, the section coded pale blue is associated with the front half of the inner section and outer section of the house, where the male Timorese of the household will carry out their activities and welcome guests by the door in times of events. Through the sectional study of the Atoni house, it became more evident that male Timorese are granted access to more spaces in the household. Based on the sectional studies, it is also questionable why female Timorese are not granted the ease of access to the attic as the attic is relatively considered part of the inner section of the architecture layout, stretching across where both genders are able to access.
Based on the preliminary study of the plan and section, the assumption of why males are allocated to the attic, front half of the inner and outer section of the dwelling could be highly due to the long social beliefs of Timor Leste. As mentioned in previously Timorese believes that males are the leaders and decision makers of the house therefore, portraying them in a way that they are the “face” of the family. Because of this strong belief, the social order and gender discrimination becomes one of the subtle factors each dwelling abides to in Timor Leste.
This rigid configuration resulted to a ‘right-left (ne’u-ali’) and ‘male-female’ (mone-feto) rule established within the village, expressing the ideology of superordination (male) and subordination (female) within the dwellings. Based on the plan and sectional studies, the spatial distribution for the respective gender is deemed unequal, the ratio of spaces comparing men to women was estimated 3 : 1. This evidently shows that the social order and gender discrimination against Timorese women has greatly influenced the architecture configuration in Atoni Houses. In addition, with that influence on architecture, additional discrimination against women in several aspects of life kicked start, one classic example is Timorese women receiving unequal ‘rights to obtaining food and adopt an adequate living’ as compared to men even though they play a more important role in Timor Leste. This cycle of discrimination from social beliefs to architecture to daily lives becomes endless.
Therefore, it is questionable if Architecture can put forth the effort and stop the endless cycle of discrimination against Timorese women. It could be one of the mediators to reduce the discrimination against women through understanding that the dwelling crafted by the Timorese should be more comfortable for all to inhabit. As women are of high importance to contributing to the household through the ‘triple role’ of reproductive, productive and community, Timorese women should then be granted fully access to the dwelling. Although it is not easy to change perception of social beliefs, architecture should not adopt the negative influence and bringing down a human’s rights and dignity. Houses designed should be a space that those who inhabit should be able to seek full comfort, and not be burden by any form of discrimination.
After the in-depth studies of the Atoni House in Timor Leste, vernacular architecture within a region varies based on the cultural and daily needs of the Timorese. The vernacular architecture of Timor Leste serves its primary function of giving shelter, allowing many to seek physical comfort. The different model of housing accommodating to different needs and adopting a semi-outdoor space craft meaningful spaces within the region, creating spaces for Timorese to gather and build relationships with one another.
The Atoni houses adopted a simple vernacular form to shield from the harsh sun, however, the internal layout is heavily influenced by the social and cultural beliefs of the Timorese, resulting to a serious problem of social order and gender discrimination against hard working Timorese women. Although the vernacular architecture of Timor Leste was able to perform its basic function of fulfilling the needs of the Timorese, it is arguably that the architecture should not only positively affect the form, but also effectively designing a comfortable and proper habitable house for Timorese women which will effectively reduce the discrimination against them.
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