The use of architectural forms, symbols, and spatial layouts to represent identity is a selectively negotiated process. As contemporary built environments continue to develop, identity is increasingly contested, as is the notion of cultural sustainability. Indigenous cultures have the added difficulty of negotiating identities within a postcolonial context of nation building, ethnic/localised identity and internal/external notions of authenticity. In this context, this paper will explore the changing nature of the Iban longhouse in Sarawak, Malaysia. Unlike many traditional Asian building types, longhouses are still widely constructed by the Iban, though superficially, contemporary examples bear little resemblance to traditional ones. However, they retain certain culturally based socio-spatial qualities that indicate the maintenance of Iban cultural belonging and identity. The continuing presence of the Iban longhouse as a living spatial typology speaks of an ongoing dialogue between indigenous cultural tradition and globalised architectural idioms. They also indicate the ongoing cultural autonomy of the Iban and the successful adaptation of their traditional social patterns and practices into the contemporary world. More broadly, interest by contemporary architects in Iban longhouses suggests the wider applicability of their indigenous knowledge to the issues of socially sustainable housing.
|Keywords:||Cultural Sustainability, Architecture, Space and Culture|
Senior Lecturer/Architect, School of Architecture and Building, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria, Australia