Rumah Joglo

Sometimes progress isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Most of the people killed in the Jogya earthquake in 2006 died as a result of heavy concrete and brick walls collapsing on them (most builders in Indonesia don’t bother to use steel reinforcement rods which make walls much much stronger).

But if they had been in a traditional Joglo house instead they would probably have been okay.

An expert in structural and earthquake technology at the Public Works Ministry, Suwandojo Siddiq, said pictures of 200 damaged houses in Yogyakarta showed they were all constructed from concrete, while more traditional building materials such as woven bamboo would be far less dangerous in an earthquake.

The Joglo design is the most popular traditional house design in Central Java. Its design can be applied for residential and public buildings. But even the Joglo design is rarely built according to its original design anymore:

Timbers have become very expensive. Moreover, cultural changes have also contributed to the modification of the original design, for example: handmade porous clay tile roofs are replaced by metal sheet roofs, timber plank walls are replaced by brick walls, woven bamboo ceilings are replaced by plywood, and wider wall openings are introduced.

One of the most well known buildings to suffer damage from the quake was the truly magnificent 9th-century Prambanan Hindu temple complex. But what’s incredible is that the temples are still standing at all: many of the modern houses surrounding the temple complex simply collapsed like cards.

Prambanan Temple

I wonder how many of today’s buildings will be around in 1,100 years time?


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