Peceren and Dokan Villages

World Monuments Watch
Karo District, North Sumatra, Indonesia

2014 World Monuments Watch

Peceren and Dokan are Karo villages in the highlands northwest of Lake Toba. The Karo people are one of six ethnic groups in the central part of the North Sumatra province, and are among the many peoples comprising the exceptionally diverse Indonesian nation. For the villagers, the buildings serve as a material link to the traditions and principles of their ancestors, providing a continuity of values across generations. Karo designs are expressive of cosmological beliefs, a way of living, and spiritual convictions. They were built with local materials and constructed using pile construction and disproportionately large, sloping roofs.

Peceren and Dokan were included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch in order to protect the few Karo houses that remain standing in the villages. As in the case of the neighboring Karo community Desa Lingga, included on the 2012 Watch, Desa Peceren and Desa Dokan existed as small, traditional villages, predating the Dutch colonial era. Until the nineteenth century, the Karo region was heavily forested. However, land clearing in the twentieth century has brought significant deforestation, threatening architectural forms that use large hardwood beams that are no longer available. In addition, the craft skills needed to maintain the historic buildings are not passed on because many of the younger Karo people are migrating to the cities. Those with means who remain in the village often replace traditional, multifamily dwellings with single-family homes of modern construction. In cases of limited resources, families cannot afford to repair and maintain the traditional clan houses. While the historic buildings are no longer the preferred choice of residence for the Karo people, the heritage they represent still inspires a strong sense of pride in the community and the villagers use the structures for ceremonies, gatherings, and rituals. Peceren and Dokan exemplify the challenges of preserving vernacular architecture and traditions in the face of contemporary lifestyles and modern conveniences. 

Last updated: July 2017.

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