Ethnographic Approach for Research on Vernacular Architecture: Four Case Studies of Indigenous Communities in Indonesia

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Agus D. Hariyanto
Iwan Sudradjat
Sugeng Triyadi


Many ethnic groups with unique cultures exist in Indonesia, but their vernacular architecture and living cultures need to be supported to ensure sustainability. One example of how a more anthropological approach to the design and planning of the built environment requires a better understanding is the study of the living culture of indigenous communities. Unsurprisingly, an ethnographic approach is critical to studying these communities' architecture and living culture in Indonesia. This study aims to outline the main principles of the ethnographic approach and review the implementation of these principles in previous studies on the vernacular architecture of indigenous communities in Indonesia. A comparative analysis of four case studies shows that each study has implemented the approach's main principles contextually. The results showed that the four case studies utilized observation and interviews to collect field data in slightly different terms. Although each case study's objectives, focus, and issues were different, the researchers managed to provide a cultural portrait that included the participants' views (emic) and the researcher's opinions (etic). The similarities between the four communities are religious or belief systems affecting the architecture and living culture, which are cultural aspects that significantly affect each case as part of the findings embodied in themes resulting from interpretation. These results can help to develop guidelines for designers and planners working in indigenous communities. Through ethnographic studies, architects and planners can understand indigenous communities' point of view (etic) to integrate their perspectives (emic) when working hand in hand with the community. 


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Hariyanto, A. D., Sudradjat, I., & Triyadi, S. (2021). Ethnographic Approach for Research on Vernacular Architecture: Four Case Studies of Indigenous Communities in Indonesia. Nakhara : Journal of Environmental Design and Planning, 20, Article 108. Retrieved from


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