Archeologist Mitu M. Prie unveils her study of traditional buildings in Indonesia in her new book “Pancaran Limasan” (Brilliant Limasan), launched at Dia.Lo.Gue art gallery in Kemang, South Jakarta, on Thursday (26/01).
The book tells the history of limasan — a traditional Javanese-style house with two big roofs made from four roof sections called Kejen and Brojong — as it developed in Bali, Palembang (South Sumatra) and across Central Java.
Limasan, like the pyramid, is built upon a rectangular plan.
Mitu also explores how buildings in Europe had used the limasan style as part of their architectural design, especially in the Dutch East Indies era and up to Indonesia’s independence.
“The idea for the book came to me when I studied Majapahit reliefs during the Wilwatika period. During my research I found out that most of the reliefs depict residential buildings in the shape of the limasan.”
“That was when it clicked for me that limasan has been an instrumental part of our civilization for a very long time,” Mitu added.
Before the 1970s, most Javanese houses were built in the limasan style, since other styles like the joglo or the loji were reserved for the aristocrats and Java’s rich traders.
One of the most distinctive characteristics of the limasan house is the design of the building’s frame and a front section that features a full-size open terrace.
The spacious porch is the largest open space in a limasan house, usually used to receive guests and as a place to hang out with friends and family.
Nowadays, the limasan is not only found in traditional buildings but also in modern buildings like hotels, apartments and art spaces.
During the research for her book, Mitu visited many temples in Indonesia including Prambanan and Borobudur in Central Java and Muaro Jambi in South Sumatra.
“Whenever I visit temples and study the reliefs, my curiosity is piqued,” she said. “Reliefs have a complicated way of telling their stories but that’s the beauty of it.”
Mitu said Pancaran Limasan is the first book to provide a complete study of limasan as an artwork and as one of the pillars of the Indonesia’s architectural style.
“This book is based on authentic archeological data and traditional ethnographic research on this unique artchitectural style,” she said.
Published by Red & White Publishing and Tembi Rumah Budaya, Pancaran Limasan was initially launched in Yogyakarta last year.