The design of the built environment undeniably reflects the culture of the area it is situated in as society’s attitudes and behaviours impact the function and appearance of the structures they interact with on a day to day basis. This idea that ‘society produces its buildings, and the buildings, although not producing society, help to maintain many of its social forms’ (Ghinita 2016) can be reinforced with the understanding obtained whilst staying in the city of Banjarmasin and comparing it to the environment in Sydney.
One of the unique aspects of Banjarmasin that distinctly stood out to me while I was there was the expressive nature of building exteriors, particularly the vibrant colourful paintwork. This evoked a contrast in my mind with the desired minimalistic appearance of buildings back in Sydney which provides a uniform and modern essence to the area. When considering that ‘architecture itself is a cultural subject, so it has become a significant cultural expression’ (Vasilski 2015), it becomes apparent that the vivid presence mirrors the city’s spirited society. This is also evident in the ‘rainbow bridge’ which runs across the river, the heart of the city, along with many structures made using a variety of materials or decorated with intricate patterns.
Rainbow bridge (Song 2018)
Upon discussion with several locals, I found that they all favoured rich colourful designs which paralleled their lively and carefree characters, all which is reflected in their surroundings. Again, this sparks a comparison with Sydney, where things are more routine and bound within limitations and this is further explored in the statement: ‘Architecture is a manifestation of the cultural context in which it resides. The form and relationships of buildings and spaces act as a kind of “cultural marker” that can be read…to describe the way of life and social status of its inhabitants’ (Stephen 1994).
Brightly coloured houses along the river (Song 2018)
Often, restaurants were designed with open dining spaces and unlike Sydney, many shopping malls weren’t enclosed within doors, providing it with an inviting quality and acting as communal areas. This mirrors the city’s close and welcoming community and demonstrates how ‘the reciprocal relationship between people and their environments are part of a system of agreements and interactions that constitute the culture of a society’ (Sevtsuk 2012).
Conclusively, the observations made while staying in Banjarmasin along with the knowledge gained from experiencing the culture within the city established the significant impact that social principles have on the design of built environment.
Sevtsuk, A. 2012, ‘How we shape our cities, and then they shape us’, MAJA: the Estonian Architectural Review, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 10-15.
Stephen, K. 1994, ‘Cultural influences on Architecture’, M Architecture. thesis, Texas Tech University, Texas.
Ghinita, A. 2016, ‘How buildings influence society and how society is influenced by buildings – an introduction’, PhD thesis, University of Trento, Italy.
Vasilski, D. 2015, ‘Minimalism in Architecture as a Cultural Symbol of the Times’, PhD thesis, University Union.