The Jakarta Post
A traditional Betawi house stands on Bidadari Island, Thousand Islands regency. (kompas.com/Jessi Carina)
Architecture plays a pivotal role in forming the unique traits of traditional houses.
According to kompas.co, the Betawi people have two forms of traditional houses, the rumah panggung (stilt houses) and rumah darat (houses built on the ground). These two architectural forms have different features according to where they are located.
The stilt house is synonymous with Betawi people that live along the coast or in swampy areas. Meanwhile, the rumah darat is the choice of those who live inland.
A traditional Betawi house consists of three spaces: the amben, a public space or living room; the pangkeng, a private space that consists of the family room and the bedrooms; and the srondoyan, a service space otherwise known as the kitchen. The homeowner's socioeconomic status determines how these three areas are placed.
Another unique feature of the traditional Betawi house is the roof, which comes in different shapes like an equilateral triangle or a pyramid. These shapes have earned Betawi houses the nickname “kebaya house”, as they resemble the pleats on a kebaya (traditional blouse).
Traditional Betawi houses also have a concrete floor, stairs inside the structure and a covered porch.
Embedded within these different features are philosophical and sacred meanings.
Stairs, for instance, symbolize the sanctity of entering a house, and are seen as balaksuji, or an element that helps avert disasters.
In the olden times, the Betawi people built wells in front of their houses, as it was customary to cleanse one's feet with water before climbing the steps and entering the house.
However, as the times change, balaksuji are no longer be found in modern Betawi houses. Those that remain exist in kampung mosques and are considered to be a sacred bridge to the podium where the imam delivers his sermons. (anm/wng)