Houses of Life

There are many amazing sights in Western Sumatra – dramatic looming volcanoes, vast lush jungles and wild raging rivers.

But for any visitor to the area it is the local people – the Minangkabau – who have created some of the most eye-catching sights to be found. The Minangkabau style of architecture is particularly unique and striking - their houses and ceremonial buildings have distinctive multi-tiered curved roof structures, with up-swept gables to mimic the horn of the buffalo.

It may seem that any human building is unnatural by its very nature, but Minangkabau culture and architecture is actually all closely based on natural principals – known locally as “Alam Takambang Jadi Guru” – meaning nature as teacher.

According to this natural philosophy, every component of nature -sun, moon, rivers and plants – has specific functions to provide sustenance and joy to human beings.

This has been translated directly into how the Minangkabau design their houses.

The dramatically curved gables that look like bull’s horns are not just ceremonial – they’re actually a practical and sustainable design for the local environment.

The high curved sloping roof structure not only looks dramatic, but is also designed to provide cool ventilation in the house, and quickly drain water during the intense rainstorms that strike Sumatra during the wet season.

And if you look closer at one of these remarkable structures, you will see the walls are often covered in intricate designs inspired by nature – geometric patterns of plants, the moon, sun and other celestial bodies.

In Western Sumatra houses are not competition with nature – they are dedicated to celebrating and learning from it.

Houses of life.


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