Variations & Designs Rumah Gadang

Filed under : Minangkabau

The rumah gadang is built in one of two basic designs: koto piliang and bodi caniago. These forms reflect different two variations of Minangkabau social structure. The koto piliang design reflects an aristocratic and hierarchical social structure, with the house containing anjuang (raised floors) at each end to permit elevated seating of clan leaders during ceremonial events. The bodi caniago design reflects a democratic social structure, with the floors being flat and on one level.

Large communal homes are entered through a doorway in the centre of the structure which is usually surrounded by a perpendicular porch with a triangular gable and upsweeping peaked ridge end. The variation with no entry porch is named bapaserek or surambi papek (“without veranda”).

The larger and more opulent houses, have higher walls and multiple roofs, often with five elements inserted into each other, and supported by large wooden columns. Variations on the number of columns are known as the gajah maharam (“elephant kneeling”), which may have forty columns resulting in a shorter and stouter form, and the rajo babandiang (‘design of grandeur’) with fifty pillars and a more slender form. An additional six columns are required at each end for the anjuang of the Koto Piliang variation.

A Minangkabau traditional council hall, known as a balai adat, appears similar to a rumah gadang. This type of building is used by clan leaders as a meeting place, and it is not enclosed by walls, except for the anjuang of the Koto Piliang model. The Pagaruyung Palace is built in the traditional Minangkabau rumah gadang architectural style, but one unusual aspect is that it has three levels. In West Sumatra some modern government and commercial buildings, and domestic houses (rumah gedung), have adopted elements of the rumah gadang style.

There has been a sizeable Minangkabau settlement in Negeri Sembilan (now in Malaysia) since the seventeenth century, with the chief of the Minangkabau still ruler there. The Negeri Sembilan Minangkabau, however, have adopted the Malay-style roof construction, with continuous ridge piece thatched with lengths of palm-leaf attached to battens. Although this has meant the loss of the characteristic curved roof and has blunter eaves, it is still considered dignified and beautiful. More orthodox Islamic influence has also led to variations such as modifications to the interior layout, as women are more restricted to the rear of the house than in the case of the matrilineal Sumatran Minangkabau.

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