Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Intruding upon the serenity of Balinese cosmology and its seamless translation into the island's
traditional architecture are tourists - interlopers, who, like Bali's many foreign visitors centuries
ago, formed an intrinsic part of the island's myths and legends. Such legends describe tensions
between the sacred and the profane, the high and the low, and it is these tensions that char-
acterise boutique Bali hotels - the most accessible and significant examples of contemporary
Balinese architecture. By their function, these hotels seem immediately alien to traditional Balinese
culture. In all of them, however, despite obvious contradictions of commerce and privilege, there
is the sincere attempt to define them as highly sophisticated architectures, albeit for hedonistic
escape. These hotels are worth visiting because they heighten, even exaggerate, the sensation
of being in Bali.
Hotels such as the pioneering Oberoi in Seminyak by Australian architect Peter Muller, his
pi├Ęces de resistance, the Amandari, Ubud, and the Lombok Oberoi as well as those designed by
another Australian, Kerry Hill; the Amanusa, Nusa Dua and the Alila (formerly Serai), near Candi-
dasa employ the typical buildings and spaces of Bali: the walled house and garden compound
and the village with its bale (an open-sided pavilion with a steeply pitched thatched roof ), bale
agung (village assembly hall), bale banjar (communal meeting place of a banjar; a house for meet-
ings and gamelan practice) and wantilan (large bale pavilion used for meetings, performances
and cockfights) structures. Yet such appropriation is not tokenistic. Much of the allure of these
hotels is in the inclusion of traditional Balinese materials, crafts and construction techniques,
as well as Balinese design principles that respect an archetypal approach to the world. Hence,
a reflection on Balinese cosmology becomes an intrinsic part of each design. The inclusion of
elaborate swimming pools and paradisaical garden designs by landscape architects like Made
Wijaya and Ketut Marsa has added a further dimension
to these free interpretations on tradition. Landscape
has become one of the most powerful and seductive
components of the Bali hotel experience, evidenced,
for example, in the wonderful gardens of Bali's Four
Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay.
Other designers have employed landscape but in a
different way, drawing inspiration from the terracing
of Bali's rural landscape or from water palaces like
those at Tirta Gangga, Jungutan and Taman Ujung in
East Bali. A feature of these sites are the bale kambang
(water pavilions or 'floating palaces') that can also be
found in the palaces of Klungkung and Karangasem,
pavilions where kings would meditate and commune
with the gods. For hotel designers, such an analogy
is extremely attractive. Thus a hotel like Amankila
near Manggis in East Bali adopts a garden strategy,
with a carefully structured landscape of lotus ponds
and floating pavilions that step down an impossibly steep site.
Another attraction of these buildings is the notion of instant age, the ability of materials
in Bali to weather quickly and provide 'pleasing decay'. Two Ubud hotels that epitomise this
phenomenon are Ibah Luxury Villas and Begawan Giri (now rebranded the COMO Shambhala).
The latter is a private resort estate that comprises five uniquely styled residences designed by
Malaysian-born architect Cheong Yew Kuan and where abstracted Balinese architectural principles
are combined with exquisite craftsmanship. By contrast, at Sayan near Ubud, John Heah of Heah &
Company (London), has created a completely new image for the Balinese hotel. The Four Seasons
Resort at Sayan is a striking piece of aerial sculpture, a huge elliptical lotus pond sitting above
a base structure that appears like an eroded and romantic ruin set within a spectacular gorge
Many of these hotels go close to that boundary where the reproduction is more seductive
than the original. And it has to be said that the hotel was never a traditional building form in
Bali! Each hotel has been designed not to mimic but rather to facilitate a consciously artificial
reading of the place. These buildings need to be seen for what they are: thoroughly convincing
architectures of welcome. They are skilful and highly resolved exercises in appealing to the most
profound wants in Western society's eyes - the pleasures of the threshold; the pleasures of the
perception of an exotic 'other'; and the pleasures of simply being in another highly sensitised
state, and in what better place than Bali, Island of the Gods.
Philip Goad is professor of architecture at the University of Melbourne and author of Architecture
Bali: Birth of the Tropical Boutique Resort .
allowing local sculptors to give free rein to their imaginations; as a result,
you'll find some delightfully whimsical scenes carved into a number of the
Sculpture often appears in set places in Bali's temples. Door guardians -
representations of legendary figures like Arjuna or other protective personali-
ties - flank the steps to the gateway. Above the main entrance to a temple,
Kala's monstrous face often peers out, sometimes a number of times - his
hands reaching out beside his head to catch any evil spirits foolish enough
to try to sneak in.
Although overall temple architecture is similar in both northern and
southern Bali, there are some important differences. The inner courtyards
of southern temples usually house a number of meru (multiroofed shrines),
together with other structures, whereas in the north, everything is grouped
on a single pedestal. On the pedestal you'll find 'houses' for the deities to use
on their earthly visits; they're also used to store religious relics.
While Balinese sculpture and painting were once exclusively used as archi-
tectural decoration for temples, you'll soon see that sculpture and painting
When you stay in a
hotel featuring lumbung
design, you are really
staying in a place derived
from rice storage barns -
the 2nd floor is meant to
be airless and hot!
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