Monday, March 05, 2007

The Influence of Social Interaction in the Spatial Planning and Organization of a Traditional Terengganu Malay House

Organised by: University Trisakti, Indonesia in collobration with Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Indonesia, University of Technology, Malaysia and Toyohashi University of Technology, Japan

Syed Abdul Haris Syed Mustapa1, Husrul Nizam Husin2 and Kamarul Syahril Kamal3
123University Technology MARA, Malaysia

In general, the Malay Traditional House is a reflection of the Malay community’s way of living. However, looking at micro scale, the Malay Traditional House in each state of Peninsular Malaysia has its own distinctive cultural elements transformed and portrayed into built form. This paperwork intends to discuss the physical characteristics of the Terengganu House in the aspect of its built form and the influence of external variables or similarities of characteristics possess by South East Asia architecture. The main objective of this paperwork is to highlight the social interaction within the traditional Terengganu Malay House, thus in return will increase awareness and appreciation on our social value and custome. In choosing the Terengganu house, a more specific space planning, architectural characteristics and culture are under observation. The distinctive characteristic of Terengganu House lies in its individuality to stand out as a regal form; be it in the aspect of scale and proportion, craftsmanship, technology and its intrinsic value. In short, the Terengganu House is a product of assimilation, adaptation, influence and evolution. In addition to this, the Terengganu House represents the earliest vernacular sample of the Malay Traditional Architecture. The single unit of the first prototype, known as Rumah Bujang had been developed to the latter style to suit the socio-cultural background. A typical Terengganu House is discussed as special study for this paperwork. This paper intends to create a greater level of awareness of concept of a traditional Terengganu Malay House in relations to the associated social interaction including rituals and customs of the Malay people. This study takes a close look on the social interaction factor in the overall spatial planning and spatial organization of the `Rumah Tiang Dua Belas' type in Terengganu. It is not within the scope of this study to cover other variants.

Keywords: Social Interaction, Traditional Terengganu Malay House, Rumah Tiang Dua Belas, Spatial Organization, Spatial Planning.

1.0 Introduction

In general, various traditional houses can be identified in Peninsular Malaysia. They are classified mainly by their roof shapes. The basic house forms in Malaysia are the bumbung panjang, bumbung lima, bumbung perak and bumbung limas. The most common house form is the bumbung panjang, characterised by a long gable roof. The bumbung panjang houses are the oldest identified in Peninsular Malaysia, many of them being over a hundred years old and still in good condition. The bumbung panjang is the simplest house form. Developments of other traditional house forms in Malaysia were based on this type of house. Kampong houses are detached houses and they usually have no fences around them. The traditional Malaysian house serves the housing needs of the majority of people living in rural areas of Malaysia. It was evolved by the Malays over the generations, and adapted to the populations’ needs, culture, and environment. In short, the formation and the development of the traditional Malay houses were based on three factors, namely, religion factor, social factor and climatic factor. Terengganu was one of the least developed east coast states before oil brought wealth in the early 1970’s. Before the trunk road was built in early 1930’s, Terengganu was cut off from the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia for three months every year during the monsoon season that is from November to February. The only transportation then was by boat using a sea-route along the coast. This perhaps helped to preserve its unique cultural tradition and architecture. Newfound wealth brought in development that in a way contributed to the dereliction of the architectural heritage of Terengganu. The widening of the road and building of commercial buildings and new housing estates displaced the traditional kampung or village way of life, and with it, the support of traditional all-timber Malay houses. However, compared to other states in Malaysia, the development at the east coast part of the Peninsular Malaysia are much slower and therefore the traditional Terengganu Malay houses can still be found although the number has decreased much in recent years.

2.0 General Overview Of Terengganu House
2.1 Terengganu House Types

In Terengganu, people normally describe the size of a house by the number of posts holding up the roof structure of which the house consists. A house with six supporting pillars or posts is called "Rumah Tiang Enam', while the bigger type with twelve posts is called `Rumah Tiang Dua Belas'. The traditional Terengganu Malay houses have two principal variants. The smaller of the two is called `Rumah Bujang' and is of the `Rumah Tiang Enam' type, the house with six supporting posts. The bigger of the two is the broader and more elaborate house type known as `Rumah Tiang Dua Belas', or `Rumah Serambi' (the verandah house). Both variants often have additional structures built at a lower level on one or both of the long sides or sometimes at the end. If this additional structure is roofed and is extended the full length of the house, it is called `Selasar'. If this additional structure is an unroofed platform, projecting from a side door from which a short flight of stairs leads to the ground, it is called the `Lambor'. A `Rumah Bujang' with a `Selasar' added to the side is called `Rumah Bujang Selasar' to distinguish it from the simple. basic type. In this way by adding the word `Selasar' the description of the house type will be more complete and accurate. The following illustrations will give a clearer diagramatic view of the various house types. The principal difference between the `Rumah Bujang' and the bigger `Rumah Tiang Dua Belas' is in the number of supporting posts underneath the house. First it is very important to differentiate between the `Tiang' and the `Tongkat'. The main supporting posts which hold up the roof structure are called `Tiang' while the smaller intermediate floor supports which only supports the flooring members as well as the wall panels, are called `Tongkat'. In calculating the number of posts to describe the house types/size, the thinner `Tongkat' are not counted. If looked at from one end, the `Rumah Bujang' has two rows of three pairs of supporting posts when counted end to end.

2.2 Features Of A Terengganu House

The Rumah Bujang which is a single cell unit is the prototype for the traditional Malay houses. Previous researchers had identified that the development of other traditional Malay houses stemmed from this prototype. The house in fact was originally built in Terengganu. A unique feature of the traditional Malay houses of Terengganu is the absence of nails in their construction. “Pasak” or pegs made from Naga wood are used instead of nails. Such techniques are also common such as in the construction of Perahu Besar or "Malay sailing junk" in Terengganu, and world renowned. Another strong feature which the traditional Terengganu houses shares those of China, India and Java, the most obvious is the uniform practice Of raising the buildings on pillars several feet above the ground. A century ago the house floors in Terengganu were sometimes raised as high as eight feet above the ground. A peasant's hut might be supported on bamboo posts and the Sultan's palace on elaborately carved timber pillars, but the principle is still the same. The houses were designed thus not only to escape floods but also to avoid ground dampness in the humid climate and also as a safety measure, from wild animals. The same raised floor types arc to be found in high areas which were never flooded northwards up the Peninsula from Terengganu through Petani, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. This provides substance for the theory that the traditional Terengganu Malay house may be of Khmer-Indo Chinese origin. Paine said that in the history of the early Japanese people, a second immigration which brought the Yayoi people seemed to point to South East Asian or Oceanic derivationt. This was indicated by their architectural preference for high floors on piles against the pit dwellings of the Jomons. They also preferred to site their settlements on lower midlands which were more suitable for crop irrigation, especially for rice. These features are in common with the Malay houses with which the Japanese might have shared a common ancient source from the Indo-Chinese tribes of what is now southern China. Another strong feature which the traditional Trengganu houses shares with those in Cambodia and Thailand is the tiered roof, The earliest type of Malay houses in Terengganu, examples of which can still be seen and studied, have a high, steeply sloped roof and a single ridge with a ridge cover running the length of the house. A pair of long wooden gable edges (gable fascia boards) called 'pemeles' or 'lacks' were often fitted at both gable ends of the house. The characteristic and gentle curve of these 'poles' is a feature not found today in any other Malay houses on the peninsula except immediately to the north in Kelantan and Petani. These three east coast states probably constituted the great Malay Kingdom of Langkasuka located in the north‑

3.0 The Concepts Of Space

Social interaction is the main factor on the determination of the space layout, planning and arrangement or organization. It is a norm in a Malay community to celebrate various traditional ceremonies and events and therefore, social interaction and communication within the villagers or community living an area (kampong) are significantly highlighted from the uses of external and internal spaces of the house. Religion and customary code of conduct contributes to zoning catogories within the interior part of the Malay house. The concept of space for a traditional Malay house is more bended towards functionality of space as well as adopting the religion, culture and environmental factors as part of the overall design and layout.

3.1 Factors Influencing The Spatial Organization

Many of the beliefs and some of the cultural practices of the Malays have developed as a result of the inter-mingling of cultures, and the religious experiences of the Malays over the last two thousand years or so. In general, factors contributing to the spatial organization of a Malay house are similar for all states in Malaysia. There are 2 main factors contributing to the spatial organization of the traditional Malay houses resulting to segregation of spaces into 3 categories, namely, public zone, private zone and semi-private zone. Listed as follows are the 2 factors that influence the overall internal space arrangement of the traditional house:

a) Religios

Islam is the religion of the Malay people. This factor has long been adopted as part of the Malay lifestyles. Based on historical data and the founding of encrypted stone, it is believed that besides Malacca, Terengganu is also one of the earliest states in Malaysia that had shown the influence of Islam within the early days. This religion plays a great influence in the Malay lifestyle; from dressing up to the interaction and communication within the community and between the family members. The influence of Islam as a religion can obviously be seen from the zoning segregation, arrangement of internal spaces of a house and the limitation of circulation within the interior part of the traditional Malay house.

b) Customary Code of Conduct (Adat Resam)
Within a Malay household that continues to maintain the traditional code of conduct inherited from the past, the children or younger persons are strictly bound by custom to look upon their parents with respect. To them are due unquestioned loyalty and total obedience, and these qualities must be demonstrated through the daily conduct. When a son, for instance is sent for by either of the parents, he should come before them as soon as possible, and he must be properly dressed. In their presence he is not allowed to sit in an improper manner, to talk too loudly or to smoke. In the case of a daughter, the expectations of the parents are even greater. Similarly a younger person must behave in decorum before those elder to him or her, be it an uncle or aunt, or an elder brother or sister.

Traditionally this code of conduct extends beyond the family to recognise certain relationships between families in the same neighbourhood or kampung. It is customary for, instance, to welcome a new family or a newcomer, to make a social visit to the new household, and to render any assistance that may be needed. Again similar concern or involvement, in the spirit of mutual help (gotong royong) manifests itself when someone in the neighbourhood is ill, when a child is born or in the event that someone dies. On a very simple level these occasions require at least a visit. Where necessary material assistance may be rendered, particularly during a wedding, as a means of lightening the burden upon a family that is not very well off. Congregations, common in Muslim communities both in the villages as well as in the towns and cities, serve as a means of social cohesion. The major congregation is the all-important Friday (Jumaat) prayer, which apart from its religious significance also becomes an occasion to meet others from the same kampung or neighbourhood--since generally, a kampung dweller prays in the mosque nearest to his home--and possibly, these days, those from further away. This also applies to the five daily prayers which, according to Islamic teaching, have greater merit when offered in congregation.

3.2 Spatial Planning And Organization

In general, the space planning of a Malay house is divided into 2 categories, as follow:

a) External area
The external area is the space within the boundary of a house or encircling the house which is focusing more on the overall physical appearance of a house as an entity as well as the whole Malay kampong. The physical appearance of a Malay kampung (village) is of scattered planning. On entering a Malay kampung one is faced with the problem of orientation. There is no main street, no plaza or main square, only an apparently arbitrary system of winding footpaths leading from one house to the other. The footpaths are often varied in width, being wider at certain points and narrower at others. Sometimes this footpath goes through a generous clearing where some homes happen to stand back facing (or backing) one another, and this space is sometimes utilised as a public recrea­tion area for top spinning competitions or cock fighting, especially in the late afternoon. Although the village itself does not have any pattern, the traditional Malay houses of Terengganu themselves are built according to a clear pattern and order. One very obvious aspect of the layout is that boundaries between the house lots are in no way demarcated. Even residents find it difficult to point out the exact shape of the plot of land on which the house is built. The various owners attach importance only to the usufructuous rights to coconut trees or fruit trees. Otherwise boundaries do not seem to matter in a `kampung' society. The traditional Malay house is a separate entity from the ground on which it stands. This notion of easy moving of the house forms a very important consideration for the Malays, although they do not have a nomadic background. A similar attitude is found when trying to delineate the boundaries of a kampung or village. A kampung in Terengganu is usually defined by the relationship of its inhabitants to the mosque. As Clarke says in his study on another East Coast town, Kota Bharu in Kelantan, "most areas have a central identifying physical feature and from this the area radiates in various directions. Boundaries are indistinct . . .". He further states that all those taking part in the election of the mosque committee belong to one kampung irrespective of where they actually live (Hanafi, Z.1985). The distance up to which the prayer calls of a particular kampung mosque are heard, sometimes helps to define the particular kampung's boundaries.

b) Internal area (house)
The interior space defines more on the characteristics of the house as the main building. This category limits the functionality of the house and defines the zoning categories of the internal spaces. The traditional Malaysian house has an open interior, promoting multi purpose functions. Since most activities take place on the floor, the need for furniture is minimal; bedding materials and sleeping mats are rolled up and stored during the day to eliminate the need for separate living and sleeping quarters. Interior spaces are defined, not by partitions or walls, but rather by changes in floor level; they may be respected or ignored, allowing the house to accommodate larger numbers of people than usual during, for example, feasts. They have a verandah known as "selarar" or "serambi", a main room "rumah ibu" containing a sleeping area (s) and the kitchen "dapor" at the back of the house.
Thus the traditional Malaysian house exhibits greater versatility and more efficient use of space than does the modern house, where spaces are limited to the specific use determined by furniture and partitions. The traditional Malaysian house has, over the years, evolved a very efficient addition system that grows according to the needs of its users. The core unit, or the ibu rumah, is the basic living unit for the small or poor family. The kitchen and toilet are often located on the exterior. From the ibu rumah, many additions can be made as the family grows bigger or as it acquires the means to build a bigger house. Additions are usually done in the spare time available during the agricultural or fishing off-seasons. The basic addition possibilities are classified into three different types, but there are infinite variations in sizes and heights, and various combinations of types and quality according to the needs of the user.

3.3 Spatial Planning And Organization

The external and internal spaces of the traditional Terengganu Malay house is divided into 3 zoning categories which defines the spatial planning and functions of each space. The zoning categories define the importance and priority of the space as well as noting the limit of the user. Similar to other Malay house types, the traditional Terengganu Malay house accommodates 2 types of interactions; the first, among the public or the community and the second, interactions between the family members.

3.4 Space Functions and Allocations For Social Interactions
3.4.1 External Areas

The external spaces as earlier mentioned are categorized as public areas. The areas inclusive of the followings:

a) Fence And The House Compound
Around the Malay house often there is no fence: the boundary is marked by a row of plants or betel palms. Whether there is a fence or not will also depend on the status of the owner, on his industry, on the nature of his cultivation and the proximity of his goats, cows and buffaloes. A popular type still used in Terengganu today is the rail fence of round bamboo or a stout wattled fence of bamboos. Fences in ancient times were found mainly about the houses of chiefs. According to Munshi Abdullah writing on the root(") principle of Malay politics, "under Malay rule, men were afraid to build stone houses, or gilded boats or to wear fine clothes, shoes or umbrellas because all these were the peculiar perquisites of the Raja (and also ruling) class". To most fences there will be no gate at all, or just a gate of bamboo. However, some fences of noblemen will have a delicately done gateway. It was common practice for Malay homes to be built fronting the river as this was the main means of travelling. The gateway symbolises the entry into a private compound of a household. It sets a boundary between the street and the `kampung' — compound. This particular gateway (shown in the photo) consists of a series of folding gate leafs. Normally only one is used by house-hold members, servants and visitors. During festive times, as a sign of wel­coming visitors, the whole gate is folded away to the side to invite people into the compound. In older settlements, compounds will be planted with a fine variety of fruit trees — mangosteen, banana, rambutan, chiku and coconuts. The coconut tree especially is a very useful and practical tree; the palms are used for weaving mats, the coconut milk and flesh make a refreshing dish while the shells or husks are serviceable as water containers. It is an age old custom for a family to plant a coconut tree to mark the birth of a child in the family. Normally in front of a house is a small open space skirted perhaps with minor vegetation. There may be a well for drinking, bathing and washing.

b) 'Bawah Rumah' — Area Underneath The House
The space underneath the house is a functional and versatile utility area. Besides being a useful sheltered workshop area it is also used for storage. 'Perahus' are also stored and repaired here during the rough seas of the Northeast monsoon. Fishing nets are also normally hung up here and mended during the wet season. Animals kept by the family like hens, ducks, goats and cows are secured and kept underneath the house. This helps to protect them from wild animals and also deters thieves. Firewood for cooking is normally stored here too and brought up in small quantities to the kitchen. It is common practice in the 'kampung' to smoke the underside of the house at dusk by burning rubbish with wooden twigs and damp leaves to discourage mosquitoes from the vicinity of the house. The area underneath the house also becomes more functional during wedding occasions where this area is used to store goods as well as acting as an open kitchen. besides, this area also encourages interactions and communications amongst the villagers as they often hand in hand helps each other during the preparation of

3.4.2 Internal Spaces - The House

The traditional Terengganu Malay house has a very simple basic layout. It consists of three main areas:
· `Serambi', also known as `Selasar', the reception area.
· `Rumah Ibu', the main part of the house used mainly for family living and sleeping.
· `Dapor', the kitchen area, also used for dining.

The three main areas are formed by slight floor level changes and positioning of doorways to separate the different areas. The `Rumah Ibu' has the highest floor level while the `Selasar' and `Dapor' floor levels are dropped slightly on both sides of the 'Rumah Ibu'. This is symbolic of the importance of the 'Rumah Ibu' which is considered sacred and contains the main family sleeping, living and praying area. This innermost part of the house is also the most sacred territory used normally by family members. It is the heart of the house.

a) 'Serambi' (Selasar) — Reception
This area is located on the front side of the house facing the public street or 'square'. Sometimes this 'Serambi' area consists of only a roofed raised platform area without any walls. This raised platform area normally runs along the whole or part of a side or end of the 'Rumah Ibu'. Its floor is always lower than that of the 'Rumah Ibu'. This place for reception of guests may be of various kinds, each being given a different Malty name. The long verandah called the 'Scrambi' or 'Selasar' and the 'Anjong' are the two main ones. These two types are the only real reception rooms. The others, like the 'Jemoran' and the 'Rumah Tangga' are subsidiary places and were not originally meant for receiving guests. Male visitors are normally received in this 'Serambi' area but females arc often entertained in the 'Dapor' area where they tend to congregate. If the visitors are family relatives or very close family friends, they arc some-times entertained by the lady of the house in the 'Rumah lbu' area while the men remain in the front 'Serambi'. Normally the ordinary visitors see only the 'Serambi'. All the social and religious functions of kampung life take place in the 'Serambi'. This includes feasts, gatherings, meals and prayers in which non-family members take part. In houses which do not have the 'Scrambi' area, the 'Rumah Ibu' is used or sometimes temporary shelters are built on the ground. This 'Scrambi' area is where the wedding, circumcision, funeral and prayer ceremonies are performed. 'Tikar', a type of straw mat, are spread on the floor for the guests to sit on and food is served during these functions and gatherings. No other bulky furniture is needed. As mentioned earlier, sometimes the 'Serambi' area is not walled, like the 'Rumah Tangga' version. This provides a popular relaxing area for men in the evening when the tropical air has cooled down. This area thus plays another important social role. It provides an interaction area between the household members lounging here.and the public passers by who stop for a chat or exchange greetings and news. The 'Serambi' is also used as a sleeping area for younger unmarried men of the house and other male house guests. In the daytime it is used for giving the children religious instructions and 'Koran' reading lessons. The 'Serambi' is also used for mending and repairing fishing nets and other implements during the 'unproductive' rainy north-east monsoon period from November to February. During this period heavy rain falls for days without break. The 'Scrambi' is thus temporarily turned into a workshop area. Even during the normal season visitors can sometimes finc1 Iish nets and fish traps hung on the wall of' this area. When a larger space is required for more extensive repair work the sheltered area underneath the house is used. This area under the house is described further later.

b) 'Rumah Ibu' — The Main House
The 'Rumah Ibu' usually has the highest floor level. It holds the main family sleeping area. The father and mother together with the babies and the younger children sleep in one part of the house. The elder unmarried daughters, the married daughters and the husbands each have parts of the room to themselves, which are screened off by cloth hung across the room. Unmarried female guests sleep with the young unmarried daughters of the hosts. One of the most noticeable features of the Malay house is the absence of solid full height walls or partitions separating or isolating the different areas. Any partitions provide only limited `privacy'. This is where. it differs greatly from the house concept of its Western counterparts. It is essential to understand the Malay concept of family life in order to appreciate their way of living in their homes. The physical form of the building in its relationship to family life is usually assumed to be in essence receptive-reflective rather than causative-formative. It is commonly accepted that the house is but a mirrored image of the family therein. Since the light timber or bamboo panels of the walls do not effectively keep out sound, the Malay from early childhood is accustomed to all kinds of noise from the outside: cocks crowing, ducks clucking-etc. . . Lack or absence of full height internal walls separating the various areas further conditions them to noises and sound from within the house. Any conversa­tion, music playing and crying of babies have all members of the household either as active or passive participants. As a result, all activities within the house are conducted with a degree of mutual regard and respect among the family members that would be unusual in the individualistic Western society. No vices or virtues can he hidden for there is absolutely nowhere to hide them. `Huts everything about each member of the family, even private affairs are known to all the other family members and decisions are seldom left to the individual alone. It seems almost as if the individual, accustomed to the exposure of his or her private life from infancy, has consequently never felt the need for privacy. It is therefore not surprising that no word exists for privacy in the Malay language. Normally there are no private bedroom areas in the traditional Malay house but a `communal' sleeping area is formed by spreading mats or mattresses on the floor at night. The different areas within the 'Rumah Ibu' are not permanently separated but are formed by having cloth hung across the room. In the 'Rumah Ibu' an attic space is sometimes found in the roof space under the high pointed gables, called 'Tebar Layar'. The screens slope upwards and inwards forming a shallow platform which extends across the base of the gable. This platform, called 'Undan-undan', is usually used for storage of brass or other valuable household utensils. Sometimes even cakes which are cooked for feasts or for sale are stored here. The same usage is found in Bali where family valuables are stored on these types of bamboo racks. Although not normal in Trengganu, sometimes this attic space is used as a secure sleeping place for young unmarried girls. As mentioned earlier the 'Rumah Ibu' is the most private and sacred part of the house: the innermost area. It is a restricted area mainly for family members only.

c) 'Dapor' — The Kitchen
The 'Dapor' is normally located on the opposite side of the 'Serambi' area of the house. The `Dapor' area is the place where the female members of the household tend to congregate and spend most of their time cooking. It is easily approached by female visitors by using the back entry. Every Malay house has at least two entrances, one into the front `Serambi' and the other into the `Dapor' area at the back. It is normal practice for a female visitor to proceed straight to the `Dapor' back entrance to seek her female counterparts without first going up to the `Serambi' area, while her husband is being received and entertained at the front reception area. It is the normal practice for male and female members to conduct their social activity separately. Sometimes if the woman is a very close family friend or a relative, she is entertained in the `Rumah Ibu' area. The 'Dapor' is mainly the cooking area. Sometimes part of it is set aside to be used as a 'dining' area. It is quite normal in a large Malay family for family members to have their meals separately at different times. Food can be eaten in the 'Rumah Ibu' area too and guests are normally invited to dine in the 'Serambi' area. The cooking area consists of a simple arrangement of a wood-fire surrounded by a partially enclosed circle of large rocks on which the 'kuali' (a 'wok') rests over the open fire. Sometimes a crude wooden box forms a sort of frame for the 'kuali' to rest on. Cooking utensils are normally stored away by hanging them on the kitchen walls. It is normal to have a small hole opening in the floor in the kitchen through which left-overs or waste food are thrown out below to the waiting hens and ducks who feed on them. Since the 'Dapor' is facing the back of the house compound, it normal­ly fronts onto the washing or bathing area where a well or river is found. It is not uncommon to find this well on the side or even in the front compound of the house. If no river runs nearby clothes are washed at the wells. The well (or river) is also the source of drinking and cooking water. It could be a personal private bathing area or a shared one. The bathers wear a piece of 'sarong' (cloth) around their body and bathe by pouring water from a 'timba' (a hand water bucket). The ablutions before prayers are also done at the well.


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