Mbaru Niang, the traditional cone-shaped huts in the remote Flores Island region of Indonesia, make up one of the most important cultural heritage sites in the world, and they're finally getting their due. Last year, a project to preserve the huts was given an award of excellence in the 2012 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. Now, we're excited to learn that the preservation effort has been named a finalist for the prestigious Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
The cone-shaped Mbaru Niang huts are traditional symbols of community and family unity, but sadly there aren’t many of them left. A group of young Indonesian architects discovered the last four remaining examples of them while touring that part of the country last year. Two of the houses were in bad need of renovation, and the visiting architects decided to lead a community workshop that involved reviving the traditional building techniques. In the process, all of the original Mbaru Niang houses were rebuilt.
Wae Rebo is an isolated village surrounded by dense jungle and mountains. While the huts were being rebuilt, architects collaborated with local villagers, and they also documented the preservation effort. The tall, cone-shaped huts have five levels that are made from wood and bamboo. The ground floor serves as living quarters for the family; food is stored on the second level; seeds are kept on the third level, the fourth leve houses surplus food that is kept in case of draught; and the top level is kept for spiritual offerings. The exterior of the hut is covered with natural thatching from top to bottom.
Photos via Aga Khan