• International Journal of Technology (IJTech)
  • Vol 15, No 2 (2024)

Architectural Analysis of Rumah Kancingan in Merauke

Architectural Analysis of Rumah Kancingan in Merauke

Title: Architectural Analysis of Rumah Kancingan in Merauke
Sari Octavia, Hartawan Madeali, Nasruddin Junus, Mohammad Mochsen Sir

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Cite this article as:
Octavia, S., Madeali, H., Junus, N., Sir, M.M., 2024. Architectural Analysis of Rumah Kancingan in Merauke. International Journal of Technology. Volume 15(2), pp. 289-298

Sari Octavia Department of Architecture, University of Hasanuddin, Km 6 Poros Gowa-Malino, 92171, Indonesia
Hartawan Madeali Department of Architecture, University of Hasanuddin, Km 6 Poros Gowa-Malino, 92171, Indonesia
Nasruddin Junus Department of Architecture, University of Hasanuddin, Km 6 Poros Gowa-Malino, 92171, Indonesia
Mohammad Mochsen Sir Department of Architecture, University of Hasanuddin, Km 6 Poros Gowa-Malino, 92171, Indonesia
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Architectural Analysis of Rumah Kancingan in Merauke

Rumah kancingan is a distinctive house used by residents of Merauke, Papua. The house is unique because it combines walls made of both orthotropic and isotropic materials, which is a combination of brick walls and wooden frames, built from isotropic and orthotropic materials, respectively. As a result, this study aimed to provide a better understanding of Rumah kancingan in Merauke and explore new information about its architectural design. A typology method was used through an interpretive method to analyze 100 samples. The objective was to describe and categorize them based on architectural aspects, encircling house type (floor plan), and visual features such as roof shape, entrance, ornaments, and building materials. Despite wood being the main structural and framing material, the results showed that the varied size of the houses did not necessarily limit the spaciousness of the rooms, considering the dimensional constraints of wood. The roof shape was an indicator of the construction era and the terrace served as additional space for adding aesthetic value to the house. Additionally, the presence of a terrace allowed for more diverse roof designs, contributing to a modern appearance. Ornaments were not commonly found in the place. It should be acknowledged that older houses tended to emphasize their kancingan construction, while newer ones concealed the structure for a more modern and sturdy look. Finally, the type of wood and its dimensions used in construction could help identify the era of Rumah kancingan development.

Merauke; Papua; Rumah kancingan; Timber frame


House serves as a comfortable home, a foundation for building a family, and a representation of the dignity of its residents, which is also an asset for its owners (President Republic Indonesia, 2011). On the other hand, a home is a physical structure providing shelter for individuals, families, or social environments. It holds the second level of importance for security and satisfies the needs of individuals and the family, distinguishing one family from another.

House is where humans reside and is typically constructed using concrete materials, which include sand, cement, and gravel. However, in Merauke, the main challenge lies in the availability of quality sand and limited gravel. This scarcity leads the community to explore alternative construction materials, with wood being the primary choice.

        Wood has gotten recent attention among various building materials due to its contribution to green design and lower energy consumption. Engineering efforts have been invested in enhancing the performance of wood as an alternative building material. For years, wood has been used for construction due to its availability, strength, and sustainability. Additionally, it can be used in various parts of a building, including foundations, floor frames, walls, and roofs. Wood is also classified as an orthotropic material with three axes namely longitudinal, tangential, and radial (Tjondro, 2014). An application of using timber as a building material includes using it as the primary structure in house construction. This construction also known as timber frame masonry building, has been a traditional construction style for hundreds of years, evolving across continents such as Europe, America, Asia, and Africa.

The structural design of a timber frame house with a masonry infill wall offers several advantages over a house with concrete as its primary structure. This building system is recognized for effectively resisting lateral and seismic loads, particularly in earthquake-prone areas including the Himis house in Bursa, Turkey (Bagbanci and Bagbanci, 2018). Extensive study has been conducted on the construction of timber frames with infill masonry walls (Hejazi, Hoseyni and Çiftçi, 2022; Dutu et al., 2022; ; Qu et al., 2020; Xie et al., 2019; Vasconcelos et al., 2013; Kouris and Kappos, 2012).

Timber frame masonry buildings remain in high demand in certain developing countries due to both economic considerations and seismic resilience, surpassing the performance of local reinforced concrete buildings (Tu et al., 2021; Cui et al., 2020) These buildings show variations in timber frames and infill materials across different countries, known as Chuandou in China, The Himis in Turkey, The Pombalino in Portugal, and The Berykiou building in Lefkas City. In Merauke, Indonesia, it is referred to as Rumah Kancingan.

Similar to timber frame masonry buildings worldwide, the house uses timber as its primary structural material. Simultaneously, the wall fillings use brick, as seen in Figure 1. The term "kancingan" originates from the construction process, where the timber structure is assembled before installing the brick wall infill, locally known as "dikancing." Additionally, the term "kancingan" reflects the use of two distinct materials, timber and masonry brick, integrated in a manner resembling "dikancing".

Rumah Kancingan, a prevalent house construction method in Merauke, warrants thorough study due to its cost-effectiveness and environmentally friendly nature. This construction style uses wood as a substitute for concrete, which is deemed relatively expensive in Merauke, given the challenges of obtaining good-quality sand and gravel from outside sources, namely Palu, Makassar, and Surabaya. Although previous study has explored the visual elements (Topan et al., 2018) and structural performance of Rumah Kancingan (Octavia et al., 2018). There is a lack of studies addressing the development of this construction style since it was first introduced in Merauke.

Originally established by the Dutch government in the 1950s as official housing, Rumah Kancingan has experienced changes influenced by material availability, lifestyle shifts, cultural influences from immigrants, and modern housing trends. Investigating the evolution of housing can address challenges, ensure sustainability, promote innovation, enhance adaptability, and ideally lead to the widespread adoption of this construction method as an affordable housing option in Merauke. Affordable housing schemes have proven effective in addressing housing issues in various countries, such as Malaysia (Kamaruzzaman et al., 2018).

Figure 1 Rumah Kancingan before (on left) and after the construction process(right)

Study Purposes

        This study aims to deepen the understanding of Rumah Kancingan in Merauke and provide new insights into its construction. The focus extends to architectural aspects, including house plans, building forms, roof shapes, entrances, and materials. Particularly in regions where high-quality gravel and sand are scarce, this construction method arises as a cost-effective alternative with a quicker building process compared to permanent structures using concrete frames.

Experimental Methods

    This study used the typology method to categorize samples based on architectural aspects, using an interpretive method that emphasized understanding the context, experiences, and perceptions of the observed phenomena (London and Ostwald, 2004). The study surveyed 100 Rumah Kancingan in Merauke district, spanning 11 sub-districts. The sampling method included purposive sampling, considering the owner's willingness to permit their house for study. Due to a large and dispersed population, purposive sampling was deemed more effective in collecting data and determining suitable characteristics for this study. The focus was on self-owned houses built by the owners, making the data a valuable resource for information. Samples were drawn from 11 sub-districts which were 10, 17, 14, 10, 6, 10, 8, 10, 6, 7, and 2 in Samkai, Rimba Jaya, Muli, Mandala, Kamundu, Bambu Pemali, Kelapa Lima, Karang Indah, Seringgu, Maro, and Kamahedoga, respectively. These samples were later analyzed to identify common elements or distinctive features and grouped based on similarities and differences. Field data collection included measurements, documentation, and interviews with homeowners to gather comprehensive insights into the characteristics of the house.

Results and Discussion

4.1. Type of plans of Rumah Kancingan

        In Merauke, the models and plans for rumah kancingan were generally consistent with common house types. Although there were no explicit size restrictions, wood, given its comparatively limited physical properties in contrast to concrete, served as the primary material. This choice was guided by the understanding that materials, construction methods, and technology were not decisive factors in shaping a building rather, they served as modifying elements. A survey of 100 houses showed diverse building sizes, ranging from 36 m² to 135 m². A total of 20 out of the measured samples featured building sizes between 70 and 75 m², as shown in Figure 2. These houses consisted of 3 bedrooms, a living room, a family room, a kitchen, and a bathroom/toilet.

The plans for rumah kancingan were linked to the spatial and volumetric considerations shaped by the activities defining each room's function. Each room was closely in line with the grid of the timber frame and the surface area of the brick wall. This integration of structure into architecture has been a fundamental aspect of housing design throughout human history, from primitive dwellings to contemporary technology-driven homes (Frampton, 1999). Structure was indispensable for architecture and its absence negated the essence of architecture. To meet the needs of residents, the spatial organization in the house remained deliberately simple, and interior spaces typically varied from 4 m² to 24 m².

4.2. Visual Appearance of The Houses

        The primary purpose of house was to be sturdy and meet owners' needs, yet the visual appearance was equally significant. In Rumah kancingan, every element, including the roof, entrance, and ornaments, contributed to the total visual appeal.

4.2.1.  Roof shape

        The roof of Rumah kancingan typically took the form of a gable or a simple hip roof. Only a small proportion of the house incorporated modified roof shapes. A survey of 100 houses in Merauke district showed that those constructed around the 80s and earlier predominantly featured unmodified gable or hip roofs. In addition, houses built from the 90s onwards adopted modified roof shapes.

Figure 2 The Roof Shape of Rumah Kancingan around 1950s on the left and 1980s on the right

Figure 2 showed a house built in 1980 with a Single-Gable Roof Shape. In Rumah Kancingan, the most prevalent roof type was the box gable roof, although some opted for the open gable variety. The construction of brick walls varied between houses with open gable roofs. For those using the open gable roof type, the walls were built with ¼ stone brick, leading to a wall thickness of approximately 8 cm. Conversely, the construction of open gable roofs included the use of ½ stone brick, yielding a thickness of about 15 cm, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 3 The Roof Shape of Rumah Kancingan built in 2000s.

        Recently, the development of roof designs in Rumah Kancingan in Merauke has evolved. The desire for aesthetics was in line with the need for more space in houses has prompted modifications in roof shapes. While single-pitched roofs were prevalent in the past, many Rumah Kancingan now feature modified roofs that blend gable and hip shapes. Additionally, roofs with varying heights have become popular, imparting a more modern impression, as shown in Figure 3. Meanwhile, Figure 5 showed that houses constructed in the 1950s and 1960s typically used a gable roof with a Dutch gable type.

Figure 4 Brick masonry construction on the open gable roof shape of Kancingan houses

Figure 5 Roof model of houses built during the Dutch colonial era in Merauke. Both using gable dutch type

4.2.2.  Entrance

A terrace served as an open space that connected a house with its surroundings, shaping the whole appearance of the dwelling. Homeowners often bestowed special attention on the terrace, considering it an integral part of the house. In the context of Rumah Kancingan, the terrace served as a means to express the house's aesthetics. However, not all Rumah Kancingan in Merauke district included a terrace.

Regarding those without a terrace, the house's entrance was typically shown by a height difference between the yard and the entrance, often featuring a concrete floor. In Rumah Kancingan, known for its affordability and simple designs that prioritize residents' needs, the decision not to include a terrace was often driven by a desire to manage construction costs.