Indonesian Culture: Joglo Houses

posted on : October 11, 2017

Joglo Houses in Bali

An ancient building left behind traces of life from the past. Silently telling us tales of an everyday life separated by a gap of time. Even new buildings restyled into ancient architectures are capable of escorting us to a trip down the nostalgia lane. Sometimes, just passing by a road with old buildings on both sides—roads that you visit for the first time in your life—can strike a sense of nostalgia. On top of that, traditional houses are an excellent way to relieve the lives of people in the past. It reveals their lifestyle. How they go on about their everyday routine. It gives us a silent insight into their everyday lives.

Indonesia is not short of heritages and remains of the past. Among ancient houses, Joglo is a type that stands out even in present times. Known to locals as “Omah Joglo”, the house’s style is among the ones still commonly found in modern day Indonesia. The traditional architecture is still incorporated into many aspects of modern life. Have you ever fly to Indonesia arriving at the Soekarno-Hatta airport? You’ve probably noticed a certain type of roof style that stands out. The airport is one of the most common examples that incorporate elements of the traditional Joglo architecture. A large terminal building and even some of its small compounds use Joglo type roofs. Another example is Pendopo Agung Sasono Utomo, the grand hall of Taman Mini Indonesia Indah recreational park, which is modeled after Istana Mangkunegaran. Modern buildings with various purposes today are restyled into that of Joglo.

In Javanese hierarchical society of the past, roof styles are an indication of someone’s social standings. Joglo houses are associated with the Javanese aristocracy, known as “ningrat”. A protruding rectangular cone standing tall in the middle, Joglo has the steepest roof compared to other types of Javanese houses. Lavish wooden cravings and ornaments lining the walls to the corners are parts of the building’s decorations. In the past, Joglo houses are mostly made out of teak wood, with the exceptions of the floors and roofs.


The spread of Joglo style buildings are not exclusive to Java. The favorite escape of many, it’s not rare to find Joglo style buildings in Bali, notably among others. In particular, Bali shares a culture deeply rooted to the Majapahit reign of Hinduism with Java as its center. So there’s no surprise if you find a lot of things on the two places similar, despite Bali and Java’s difference in religious majority in present times. Needless to say, these similarities extend to architectures as well.

Wooden carvings are an inseparable part of the traditional Indonesian buildings, especially ones where ningrat, the royal family and nobility reside. Expect intricate carvings depicting patterns that you can find in batik as well. It is noteworthy that the both Balinese and Javanese have profound similarities when it comes to the arts of wood carvings (much less so in other parts of Indonesia, say, Sumatera). It is to be expected Joglo houses where the aristocrats reside aren’t short of elaborate carvings. Even the door panels are lavish with carved patterns. A type of classic door known as “Pintu Gebyok” (pintu means “door” in Bahasa) shall be your royal entrance.

Three major parts of the Joglo houses are known as pendopo, pringgitan, and dalem. Pendopo is a type of pavilion, which functions as a space for meetings and important events. It serves as a space to hold art performances such as Wayang Kulit, gamelan, and various kinds of traditional dances. It is also a common space for ceremonial purposes. If you’re familiar with Balinese architectures, pendopo is a Javanese equivalent of Balinese pavilion known as “bale”. The building is similar in structure and shares similar functions. The next part of the Joglo house is pringgitan, its function is to receive guests, while dalem is a place where the family dwells. In Bahasa, dalam means “inside” or “deep”. Here, it simply refers to the inner domain of the house. This is where all the house works and chores happen, and where the household members rest.


Thanks to the rise of tourism industry, a number of holiday resorts, villas, and restaurants also utilize Joglo as the style of their buildings. Aside from the luxury and the idea of an “escape” these places offer, just being inside a traditional type of house can make you feel surrounded by memories. Memories you’ve never even had. Simply the brain’s chemical reactions known as a sense of nostalgia. And for many, it’s the charm point of ancient style houses. Clearly, just reading wouldn’t satisfy—it is far from enough when it comes to experiences like this. It’s something you need to get a taste of, first-hand. Something you need to get exposed to in real life.



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