Nusantaran Architecture: A ‘Forced’ Traditionalisation of Indonesia’s National Identity?

Mrs Diah Asih Purwaningrum1,2

1The University Of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia, 2Institut Teknologi Bandung, Bandung, Indonesia

The Indonesian government has recently adopted the term ‘Nusantaran Architecture’ as a new representation of Indonesia’s contemporary identity and uses it quite extensively in the national tourism agenda. This term is used to capture the locality of the country, whose narration is developed around the idea of bringing back the indigenous culture as part of preserving the ‘authentic’ identity of the country. This, however, leads to ‘traditionalising’ architecture, elucidated in the Nusantaran Architecture Design Competition, whose most of the winners selected use traditional design elements to ‘localised’ the building. This design competition, however, is problematic not only for its top-down method employed but also for its direction in appropriating traditionalism in contemporary built form based on the architects’ arbitrary approaches. Since economic motive through ‘tourist gaze’ dominates the translation of identity, it portrays not only the hegemony of capitalism in the way the country imagines its own identity, but also the presence of Orientalist view as a legacy of colonialism. This paper aims to investigate the problematic implementation of Nusantaran Architecture through the design competition as an attempt to concretise the authorised version of the perceived identity, and to pinpoint the strong political influence that governs the whole identity construction process in adopting what is regarded as ‘given’ traditional architecture.


Diah A. Purwaningrum is a Ph.D. candidate in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at The University of Melbourne. Her research interests include design method, contextual design and Indonesian architectural identity. Her dissertation focuses on contemporary Nusantaran architecture from the perspectives of architectural academics and praxis.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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