Toraja Cultural Landscape: Tongkonan Vernacular Architecture and Toraja Coffee Culture




Toraja, vernacular architecture, coffee culture, plantations, cultural landscape, Tongkonan, Sulawesi, Indonesia


Tongkonan is a style of vernacular architecture famous in Toraja, a mountainous region in Sulawesi, Indonesia. The Tongkonan traditional house is a symbol of the Toraja people, representing the ancestors and the entire cosmos of life – from birth to death. The houses and their arrangement within a settlement form a social and cultural space that gathers the extended family of the Tongkonan. This article explores the landscape of Tongkonan architecture and coffee cultivation, showing how Tongkonan is essential to Toraja's cultural landscape and a foundation of Toraja coffee culture. The study draws together literature reviews, interviews, photographic and video observation, as well as photo-elicitation interviews. The research reveals that although the existence of Tongkonan architecture precedes the introduction of coffee cultivation, the Tongkonan's geographical closeness to the coffee farms, the historic economic importance of coffee, and the social and cultural relevance of Tongkonan creates a cultural landscape entangling Tongkonan settlements and forests, coffee farms and coffee culture activities. Tongkonan and coffee form Toraja's unique cultural landscape. The space of the Tongkonan, which includes coffee community activities, serves as a basis of Toraja coffee culture.

Author Biographies

Octaviana Sylvia Caroline Rombe, University of Malaya, Malaysia

Octaviana S. C. Rombe is an architect by training, an Indonesian coffee value chain practitioner, and a lecturer at Bina Nusantara University's School of Design. Her research focuses on Indonesian indigenous knowledge and sustainable value chains that contribute to community development in various parts of Indonesia. She graduated from the Catholic University of Parahyangan, Bandung, Indonesia, and the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., USA, in architecture design and planning, and is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Malaya's Faculty of Built Environment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For more information, please visit

Hong Ching Goh, University of Malaya, Malaysia

TPr. Dr Hong Ching Goh is an Associate Professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaya. She holds a Doctor of Natural Science degree (Geography) from University of Bonn, Germany, a Bachelor’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning and a M.Sc. degree in Tourism Planning from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Her recent research interests focus on the interface of development and conservation domains and their cross-cutting challenges and implications from an interdisciplinary perspective, which includes: urban planning and urbanization-related risks, tourism planning and impact management, as well as the multi-level governance of natural resource and protected areas.

Zuraini Md. Ali, University of Malaya, Malaysia

Dr Sr Zuraini Md Ali is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Building Surveying, Faculty of Built Environment, Universiti Malaya since 1998. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA, a Master of Science in Construction (Risk) Management from the Glasgow Caledonian University, UK, and a PhD in Architectural Conservation and History from the University of Sheffield, UK. Her research explores various aspects of building conservation and built environment, especially in heritage, history, and practice. For more information, please visit


Adams, K. (2021, 28 August). Interview with Kathleen Adams [Interview].

Adriani, D. N. & Kruyt, D. ALB. C. (1914). De Bare'e-sprekende Toradja's Midden-Celebes / door Adriani Nicolaus en Alb. Kruyt. Landsdrukkerij.

Aubert, J.M. (n.d.) Landkaart van de westkust van Celebes, tonende de rijkjes van Mandhar, het rijk van Aganiondjo of Tanette, de vorstendommen van Saqitto en Mario, met een gedeelte van Sopeng, Sideenring, Toradja, alsook het westelijke Zoete Meer. Kaartcollectie Buitenland Leupe. Nationaal Archief.

Badan Pusat Statistik (2020). Badan Pusat Statistik Kabupaten Tana Toraja.

Badan Pusat Statistik, (2020a). Area of Plantation Plants According to Subdistrict and Plant Type in Tana Toraja Regency.

Badan Pusat Statistik, (2020b). Plantation Production By Subdistrict and Plant Type in Tana Toraja Regency.

Badan Pusat Statistik, (2021). Tana Toraja Regency in Numbers [Kabupaten Tana Toraja Dalam Angka].

Baragiotta, M. R., Scavuzzo, G., Kim, J., & Reccius, U. (2018). Coffee Tales - Architetture d'interni per il caffè e le sue storie. Interior architecture for coffee and its stories. EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste.

Bigalke, T. W. (2005). Tana Toraja: A Social History of an Indonesian People. NUS Press Singapore.

Boomgaard, P. & van Dijk, J. (2001). Het Indië Boek. Waanders.

Braam Morris, D. F. v. (1889). Het landschap Loewoe. Tijdschrift Voor Indische Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde 32, 497-555;

Carter, T., & Cromley, E. C. (2005). Invitation to Vernacular Architecture: A Guide to the Study of Ordinary buildings and Landscapes. University of Tennessee Press.

Ceccarelli, P. & Rössler, M. (2003). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation (World Heritage Papers 7). UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Ciri Khas Kopi Toraja (2016). Kopi Nikmati Indonesia.

Cronenberg, F. (1855). Kaart van de Molukken, Celebes, Timor en het westelijke deel van het eiland Nieuw-Guinea Algemeene kaart van het gouvernement der Moluksche eilanden. - /RP-P-2018-3170,32

Dieterich, M., & van der Straaten, J. (Eds) (2004). Cultural Landscapes and Land Use. The Nature Conservation – Society Interface. Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Fotobureau Stevens (n.d. a). Rijstoogst in Toradja-gebied op Celebes. De rijstbundels worden tot grote stapels gevormd ter verdere droging/ Streekarchief Gooi en Vechtstreek / Museum Hilversum. Fotocollectie Elsevier. Nationaal Archief.

Fotobureau Stevens (n.d. b). Rijstoogst in Toradja-gebied op Celebes. Rijst wordt gestapeld. Streekarchief Gooi en Vechtstreek/ Museum Hilversum. Fotocollectie Elsevier. Nationaal Archief.

Fowler, P. J. (2001). Cultural Landscape: Great Concept, Pity about the Phrase. In The Cultural Landscapes: Planning for Sustainable Partnership between People and Place (pp. 64-82). ICOMOS-UK.

Google Maps. Rante.,-0.0021887,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m3!11m2!2sQNYgvI4mvsiHNEaXuHeKXSQGPQ_oYw!3e3

Grubauer, A. (1911). Serie Albert Grubauer. NMVE Collecti.


Halocelebes (2021). Pa’Bua Tina’.

Ifani, S. M. (2019). Local Wisdom in Coffee House Design to Promote Gayo Culture and Tourism. International Journal of Architecture and Urbanism 3(1), 29-39.

IKPR (2018). Penyusunan Rencana Detail Kawasan Strategis Pariwisata Nasional (KSPN) Toraja, Sulawesi Selatan.

Istov. (2018). Toraja music:”Ma’ Tumbuk”.

Kis-Jovak, J. I., Nooy-Palm, H., Schefold, R., & Schulz-Dornburg, U. (1988). Banua Toraja Changing Patterns in Architecture and Symbolism among the Sa’dan Toraja. Royal Tropical Institute.

Koeden Hoek. (1931). Bezoekers drinken bier in de 'Kouden Hoek'. NMVW Collectie.[obj_318457]&showtype=record#/query/20147eb7-40f4-4f01-8832-332610fb38a7

Malagina, A. (2018, December 11). Seruput Kopi 'Dolo' Toraja Pulu Pulu di Yogyakarta National Geographic Indonesia.

Miting, O. (2021). Interview with pak Otto (Octavianus Miting) [Interview].

Neilson, D. J. (2014, 15 May 2014). Coffee Value Chains - Indonesia. [Interview]. The University of Sydney.

Nooy-Palm, H. (1979). The Sa’dan-Toraja, A Study of Their Social Life and Religion. Martinus Nijhoff.

Oktafarel, K. M. M., Mario, Augusta, D. N., Arifin, A., Ekomadyo, A. S., & Susanto, V. (2021). Coffee Culture and Heritage: (Demystifying the Heritage Value of Coffee Shops inside Historical Buildings in Jakarta and Bandung). LOCAL WISDOM 13(1), 51-66.

Oliver, P. (2007). Built to meet needs: Cultural issues in vernacular architecture. Routledge.

PKTU (2015). Pemerintah Kabupaten Toraja Utara: Rencana Program Investasi Infrastruktur Jangka Menengah (RPI2JM) Tahun 2015 – 2019. [Medium-Term Infrastructure Investment Program Plan (RPI2JM) 2015 - 2019].

Prasetijo, A. (2021, 28 Juni). Interview with Mas Adi Prasetijo, An Anthropolog focuses in Indonesian indigenous culture [Interview].

Purnomo, S. (2018, April 14). Toraja Coffee Festival 2018 : Festival of the best and the most expensive coffee in the world.

Ray. (2021). Cornel Cafe Jogja Cornel Toraja Coffee, One-stop Toraja Coffee. Brisik ID.

Riset, T. (2021). Waru: Manfaat - Efek Samping dan Tips Konsumsi. IDNMedis-IDN Medical

Rombe. (1982). Rambu Solo & Family Meeting. Photographs. Rombe Family Private Collection.

Rombe, O. (2019). Toraja Landscapes [Photographs]. Octaviana Rombe Private Collection.

Rombe, O., Ching, G., & Ali, Z. (2021). A Sustainable Value of Vernacular Architecture and Coffee Culture for Coffee Value Chain with Case Study Toraja. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, 4th International Conference on Eco Engineering Development 2020 10-11 November 2020, Banten, Indonesia, 794.

Rombe, O., Goh, H., & Ali, Z. M. (2021). Cultural approach to circular economy. Preliminary analysis of intangible Toraja's vernacular architecture and its potential application on the coffee value chain. Rethinking Sustainable Pacific Rim Territories. Proceedings of the 2020 APRU Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Hub PhD Symposium, Future Cities Research Hub, School of Architecture and Planning of the University of Auckland.

Rombe, Y.L. (2021, 10 November). Interview with my Father [Interview].

Rössler, M. (2003). Linking Nature and Culture: World Heritage Cultural Landscapes. In Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation (World Heritage Papers 7) (pp. 10-15). UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Salubongga, D. (2011). Saroan, Toraja Local Wisdom.

Sarungallo, T. (2021a, 3 September 2021). Interview with Tinting Sarungallo [Interview].

Sarungallo, T. (2021b, 3 September 2021). Toraja Interactive Interview with Sarungallo [Interview].

Sarungalo, T. (2021, 27 October). Coversation about Pa’bua Tina' [Interview].

Sauer, C. O. (1925). The Morphology of Landscape (Vol.2). University of California Press.

Sauer, C. O. (1927). Recent Developments in Cultural Geography. In E. C. Hayes (Ed.), Recent Developments in the Social Sciences (pp.154-212). Lippincott.

Stephanie. (2021). Interview with Stephanie the sosiolog [Interview].

Toradja Huis (n.d.). Toradja huis te Celebes. Fotocollectie Elsevier. Nationaal Archief.

Toradja Huis (1932). Toradja huis op Celebes. Fotocollectie Elsevier. Nationaal Archief.

Toradja Koffie Baskets (1929). 'Een eigenaardige manier van transport bij de Toradja' Fotocollectie Elsevier, Nationaal Archief.

Toraja, P. P. K. Perhimpunan Petani Kopi Toraja

Transporteert Koffieplantjes. (1900-1940). Transporteren van koffieplantjes, Toradja en Celebes. NMVW Collectie

Tucker, C. M. (2011). Coffee Culture: Local Experiences, Global Connections. Routledge.

Tumba’Arrang, G., Agustang, A., & Syukur, M. (2020). Pergeseran Pemaknaan Rumah Ada Tongkonan Dan Alang Pada Masyarakat Toraja [A Shift in the Use of Traditional Houses of Tongkonan and Alang in the Toraja Community]. Phinisi Integration Review, 3(2), 150-164.

Ukers, W. H. (1922). All About Coffee. New York the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal Co.

UNESCO. (1992). Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. World Heritage Committee [WHC-92/CONF.002/12].

UNESCO World Heritage. (2000). 24th Session of the World Heritage Committee (CONF 204). Report [WHC-2000/CONF.204/21].

UNESCO World Heritage (2003). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

UNESCO World Heritage (2005). The Criteria for Selection. World Heritage Centre

UNESCO World Heritage (2008). Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention. World Heritage Centre

UNESCO World Heritage (2011). Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. World Heritage Centre

UNESCO World Heritage (2014). 38th Session of the World Heritage Committee. Adoption of Retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value [WHC-14/38.COM/8E].

UNESCO World Heritage (n.d.). Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the Southeast of Cuba. World Heritage Centre.

van der Kooi, F. (c.1935). Rijkelijk gedecoreerde wand in een woning in de Toradjalanden. KITLV Digital Collections. Leiden University Libraries.

van der Kooi, F. (1937a). Het binden van jonge rijstplantjes (bibit) om ze opnieuw te planten in een sawah bij Tadongkon, district Kesu in Celebes. KITLV Digital Collections. Leiden University Libraries.

van der Kooi, F. (1937b). Toradjadorp verscholen tussen het bamboe. KITLV Digital Collections. Leiden University Libraries.

Velandia Silva, C. A. (2017). The Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. Journal of World Heritage Studies. Special Issue, 44-50.

Velandia Silva, C. A. & Diab, M.C. (2021). The Cultural Landscape of Coffee in Tolima, Colombia: Heritage Assessment, Sustainability and Management. Journal of Cultural Heritage Management and Sustainable Development. Preprint

Vellinga, M., Oliver P., Bridge, A. (2007). Atlas of Vernacular Architecture of the World. Routledge.

Wijayanti, L. (2011). Visual Identity of Toraja Ornamental Pattern in Cafe Tator Interior Design. Program Pascasarjana Institut Kesenian Jakarta.




How to Cite

Rombe, O. S. C., Goh, H. C., & Ali, Z. M. (2022). Toraja Cultural Landscape: Tongkonan Vernacular Architecture and Toraja Coffee Culture. ETropic: Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics, 21(1), 99–142.