Matt Teismann, Partner at LIONarchitecture, was awarded an independent research and travel grant from the Harvard Kennedy School's Indonesia Program. On April 14, 2014, Teismann was notified that his proposal, (Architecture) Without Origins was awarded to cover his direct costs with his travel to Indonesia, Sumatra, and Nias to conduct his research.
Teismann will take two trips to Indonesia in August and September, spending three weeks total conducting research. His proposal critically analyzes how cultural and social estrangement in Sumatra has been influenced by the disappearance of deeply rooted and rich architectural heritage exemplified in the omo sebua of the village of Bawömataluo. His investigation aims to articulate a broader discourse that will not only enable architecture to address the cultural crisis of the larger social field within which it is embedded, but also to map and document the impact on social identity from post-colonial architecture itself.
Except from Proposal:
"In the early twentieth century, under the directive of Dutch ethical policy, many great communal 'houses of origin' were razed, particularly on the smaller islands off the coast of Java and Sumatra. The omo sebua of Bawömataluo is one such house that avoided eradication. Justification for this destruction was the 'fear of tuberculosis and promiscuity' amongst the Dutch. This act, however, was actually a symbolic means of control through the erasure of a non-western cultural way of life. Furthermore, because of vast improvements to infrastructure and a fledgling economy, colonial rule influenced mass immigration of ancient peoples from their traditional homelands into new urban centers, such as Jakarta and Medan.
Relatively unknown outside of Indonesia, Bawömataluo, a large village in southern Nias, is renowned for its vernacular architecture, the main feature of which is its monumental omo sebua (chief's house of origin). One of the few remaining 'houses of origin,' it is the symbolic center of a web of customs, social relations, and religions that bind the villagers together. Determined by the cardinal points of direction, the omo sebua is a microcosm of villagers' cultural place in the world, and like the universe itself, is vertically stratified into heaven, earth, and the underworld. To Indonesians, the way of life and the web of life are mutualistic and inseparable."