5 Notable Contemporary Examples of Balinese Architecture

Feb 24, 2021
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Bali is an Indonesian island that is popular with tourists. Balinese architecture is a centuries-old tradition influenced by spirituality and characterized by the use of local materials. Through tourism, outsiders became exposed to Balinese architecture and found it appealing. Today, architects in Bali have been influenced by international aesthetic principles into which they have sought to integrate their traditional techniques. The result is contemporary buildings throughout Bali that incorporate both the traditional and the modern into a harmonious whole. Here are a few examples that you should try to check out on your trip to Bali.

1. Alila Villas Uluwatu

Alila Villas Uluwatu is a resort built with respect for the environment and the topography surrounding the 35 villas and 50-suite hotel. It incorporates a modern dynamic with local materials, e.g., bamboo timbers, with an emphasis on sustainability. The same goes for meeting its energy needs. The resort is moving toward a system in which energy from the sun will be collected with photovoltaic panels and stored in a solar battery until needed. Currently, the resort gets its energy from biodiesel derived from the waste generated by its guests.

2. Green School

Balinese architecture takes a lot of inspiration from Hindu philosophies. The Green School strives for student-centered, holistic education taking place in a natural and sustainable setting. The Heart of School, which serves as the Central Administration Building, has three towers made of bamboo supporting the roof in the shape of three nautili. Bamboo is significant in the construction of all its buildings, reflecting both a respect for traditional Balinese architecture and a desire to inspire innovative green leadership in its students.

3. Bulgari Resort Bali

"Bulgari" may sound like a strange name for a resort in Southeast Asia, and indeed, Bulgari is a European company that started as a jewelry manufacturer and eventually developed into a lifestyle brand that also operates luxury resorts around the world. The Bulgari Resort Bali approaches traditional Indonesian architectural traditions with an elegant Italian style. The roof tops are made of coconut thatch, the floors in the villas are made of refined bangkiray hardwood, and the interior and garden walls are made of natural stone, including lava rocks, fitting for a volcanic island. At the same time, the Bulgari Resort also incorporates the sleek surfaces and bold lines that have become its trademark.

4. Maya Ubud Resort and Spa

Maya Ubud Resort and Spa is a modern facility based around an ancient architectural concept. Along the center ridge is a ceremonial walkway connecting all the important public spaces with the dwellings or villas positioned on either side. This pays homage to the ancient tradition of a sacred north-south axis around which the villages would be oriented. To the casual observer, the subtlety may not be obvious but the synthesis was important to the resort owners and architect.

5. Potato Head Beach Club

Acknowledged by locals and visitors alike as a Balinese institution, the Potato Head Beach Club is unique in both its design and concept. It incorporates Balinese architecture through its teak window shutters. Dating back to the 18th century, the antique shutters have been collected from throughout the archipelago of Indonesia, their mismatched appearance a reminder of the country's past. The shutters are arrayed around the Colosseum, the elliptical structure that first greets you upon your arrival to the club. Like the Colosseum, the Lilin restaurant is a wood building with a more edgy, contemporary design, its asymmetrical ceiling rising and falling in a series of jagged peaks and valleys. Other significant features of the Potato Head Beach Club include the infinity pool and the sprawling lawn that covers 500 square meters.

You will notice that, with the possible exception of the Green School, all of these examples of Balinese architecture are in tourist-oriented facilities. This is largely by design and makes it easy for you as a visitor to appreciate at least one of them on your next vacation to Bali.