a cursory, short and incomplete meditation on joglo & what makes a home

day: sunday, may 12 2024 3:21 PM

Here I am at the peak of a blistering Balinese (running in tandem with the Southeast Asian heatwave) summer heat, seated cozy (alas again, in my perpetual bubble) in the loft of a cafe in Canggu. The air conditioner is blasted on, and the café is an Instagram postcard and a deliberate fusion of a mock Mediterranean and tropical Balinese café. Peering through the white glass windows against the unfinished cement walls, I watch dispassionately as the winds caress and rustle the trees.

Today I learned that joglo is a type of traditional vernacular Javanese house, and it refers to the shape of the roof. Across the café, a modern (perhaps tourism induced?) interpretation of a Javanese house stands undisturbed. It resembles the traditional joglo, with its extended sheet roof, and it's pyramid-like roof evokes the mountain. Akin to the Japanese, the Javanese believe mountains are sacred objects to be revered.

The Architectural Structure of Joglo House as the Manifestation of Javanese Local Wisdom

I trace the contours of the Pacific Ring of Fire, where its people revere and fear Mother Nature for her majestic, silent, and modest beauty, which underlines her volatile, changing whims. The stretch of the ring of fire is a transform boundary. As plates are pushed down and subducted, magma arises, and with geological transformation comes dispassionate destruction.

I speak (based on loose, faulty observations) of homes and houses as their physical extensions change over time throughout their lifetime; material repairs and architectural replacements are incrementally made; contractual ownership transfers; and perhaps sometimes their physical location shifts. Eurocentric views perceive houses (e.g., castles, lords' mansions) as stable and permanent, built for posterity and for future centuries. In short, houses are furnished and built according to a place-centered paradigm. And yet, in a place where homes are perched on top of transform boundaries, the Javanese architecture of a joglo is an example of how even supposedly fixed inanimate objects can be moved and made mobile. With dispassionate destruction, survivors plough the volcanic ashes and mineral-rich lands again, in wanton desire and futile hope to remake the land, adapt it, and tame it back into their own.

Is it a hopeless, wistful conception to believe placemaking is a curated (conscious and both subconscious) manifestation of our self-agency? To make and remake our own cultural and inward identities in a fast-changing world where big tech and its innumerate agents of power dictate and socially code what we should feel, taste, and believe. To live a nomadic life is an attestation to change. Identity making is no longer specified in a place or a coded immutable, and our thoughts, tastes, and lives are made and remade again in the interplay of our specific materialities and their diverse qualities, properties, and relations to how we experience and adapt.

Maybe to live against the mercy of their unflinching nature is to flow and go as a river*—to be dam or to be dammed.


- The Architectural Structure of Joglo House as the Manifestation of Javanese Local Wisdom

- Javanese Architecture between Heritage and Mobility (tandfonline.com)

- * Go as a River by Shelley Read