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Architecture and Design in Bali

Land of the Gods

Bali, symbolically called “land of the Gods”, is a popular tourist-friendly island that any architecture fan should put on their list of places to visit. When you think of this tropical island province in Indonesia, you automatically think of the hundreds of incredible temples and religious-inspired structures that fuse remarkably well into the environment and blend effortlessly into nature. You can notice the evident Asian influence in the architecture, but Bali was shaped from a multi-cultured past. The Balinese architectural style is predominantly created to be in accord with nature and its immediate environment. The strongest influence on the architecture of the province came from Hindu origin and can still be seen to this day blending into the design features of the contemporary structures.

History and Philosophy

Balinese architecture is obviously inspired from its natural Asian predisposition, but was primarily shaped from Hindu and Javanese influences centuries ago. Religion and spirituality played a big role when designing and building public spaces in Bali as well as in the single family home architecture on the island. A Balinese temple, or pura, was designed as an open air concept and was used for communal worshiping. Most temples rested inside closed walls that connected pavilions with exquisitely adorned gates inside of these walls. The walls were said to keep evil spirits out and were built in accordance to traditional spiritual concepts and beliefs. Spatial organization and sacred philosophies were the primary design inspirations and driving forces in traditional Balinese architecture. They used open spaces and large courtyards that consisted of several connecting pavilions to promote and encourage the Bali communal and social way of life. Traditional Balinese architecture was created and developed to constantly be in harmony with nature. Structures were built primarily from abundant natural and organic materials such as bamboo, coconut wood, teak wood and stone that are easily found on the island.

Balinese philosophies regarding architecture and design revolve around these seven concepts.

1. Tri Hata Karana – This concept is about harmony and balance between three elements; the human body, nature, and the gods.

2. Tri Mandala – This is the concept regarding space division and zones. Three main areas dividing the least sacred to the most sacred places in the building.

3. Sanga Mandala – This also deals with space but specifically about the cardinal directions.

4. Tri Angaa – Considers the concept of hierarchy.

5. Tri Loka – This also handles the concept of hierarchy between realms, from demon to gods.

6. Asta Kosala Kosali – This consists of the eight architectural guidelines, from basic shapes to decorations.

7. Arga Segra – This concept handles the sacred space between the mountains and the sea.

Indonesian people, and especially the people of Bali, are renowned for their artistry skills. The traditional art of sculpting that was developed on the island centuries ago has been passed down for generations and can still be seen today. Elaborate sculptures can be observed in wood and stone as intricate ornamentation that is an allied part of the architecture and interior design of the island.

A look into Contemporary Balinese Architecture

Bali is a volcanic and forest island that rests between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean and because of its tropical climate and laidback living style it has been a major tourist destination since the 1980’s. The structural foundation of the island has had to adapt for this impact over the years. Hotels, restaurants, bars, and other accommodating places were built to make sure that visitors from all walks of life had all modern needs met and that they would be guaranteed to feel safe and comfortable on the island.

Some architects and designers are building within the traditional Balinese philosophical and spiritual concepts and adapting them to contemporary life. Using ancient concepts and integrating traditional materials ensures that the Balinese architecture style stays alive and well in a modern world full of contrasts.

One particular example of this modern architecture style in Bali today is the design and construction of House 1, in Mas. Architect Alexis Dornier worked with the client to design a private residence and gallery that incorporates the ancient Javanese concepts of “Joglo”. The roof structure of the Joglo model is very complex and consists of columns that become higher as they go to the center of the building, peaking on four separate columns in the middle creating a mountain-like structure. Traditionally, the Joglo roof revealed the economic and social status of the family inhabiting the home, customarily wealthy and noble. Today, it’s a design feature that showcases the tradition and culture of Bali.

Nature and Relaxed Lifestyle

Bali has attracted a variety of tourists over the years. The unique culture and architecture of the island has drawn visitors from all over the world. When visiting Bali, we are naturally submerged in the local traditions and visual beauty of the island and its people.

Nature is an integral part of living on this island, and architecture displays this value in a very concrete way. Materials and structural standards are designed and built to settle into the environment without overpowering the existing location.

Most of the economic growth has come from the tourism industry and many of the Balinese people work in the businesses catering to this industry. This gives the island a laidback, tropical vacation feeling and makes the local people extremely friendly and social.


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