10.7.10

[tourismindonesia] In Bali, Building in Harmony



In Bali, Building in Harmony

Friday, July 09, 2010
By KEVIN BRASS, The New York Times

UBUD, INDONESIA -- To the architect Hanno Burtscher, true Bali home design has little to do with the sprawling villas, hardwood floors and remote-controlled sliding doors commonly associated with "Bali style."

"It's a totally different story when comparing traditional Bali style to Bali style published in so many books," Mr. Burtscher said.

Mr. Burtscher is one of several designers on Bali working to preserve elements of authentic houses on the island. His latest project is a series of three 15-square-meter, or 151-square-foot, octagons, connected by bridges and surrounded by water in a rice field outside Ubud, a central town that is popular with expatriates.

The octagons are primarily built from bamboo, with floors and walls made of packed earth. The bedroom, kitchen and other features are arranged following spiritual guidelines associated with old Bali homes.

"There is a feeling of harmony with the land," said the homeowner, Richard Tobias, a native of Canada who teaches yoga and goes by the name Sky. "I didn't want it be an eyesore like the big cement and tile monsters."

Traditional Bali homes typically are small, box-like bungalows with tiny windows, clustered within walled compounds.

Unlike their contemporary open-air cousins, Balinese homes avoid exposed spaces, which many believe invite evil spirits. Front doors are often massive and usually lead to an immediate sharp turn, making it more difficult for demons to enter.

But Bali home design evolved in recent decades, as hundreds of large villas were built on the island to cater to tourists. Although terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2005 crippled the tourism industry for years, more than 2.2 million tourists visited the island in 2009, a 13 percent jump from 2008, according to government statistics.

Foreign citizens cannot own land in Bali, although in recent months there have been signs that the government might ease those restrictions. Foreigners now typically negotiate long-term leases or buy property through a local surrogate.

Landowners tend to design houses from their perception of what international buyers and renters want, said Jared Collins, senior adviser with Ubud Property, a Bali company. Rather than refurbish the small bungalows, many prefer to tear down the old structures, which have been battered by the elements over the years.

Preservationists have been trying for years to save Indonesia's wooden houses, which often display construction techniques handed down through generations.

"What I like is the simplicity," said the architectural designer Alejandra Cisneros. She is refurbishing an 80-year-old "joglo," a Javanese bungalow with an ornate tile roof, in Penestanan, a village outside Ubud.

The developers of Desa Seni, an eco-resort in Canggu, a few miles north of the popular beach town of Seminyak, bought 10 traditional teakwood homes from islands around Indonesia and shipped them to Bali to use as accommodations for their "village-style" hotel. The oldest is 160 years old.

"Everybody was buying these houses for the wood to use for furniture," said Tom Talucci, a co-owner of the resort, which opened in 2007.

All the homes illustrate traditional forms of carpentry, including the type of carvings and woodwork found throughout old Bali structures. "Everything has meaning or religious implications," Mr. Talucci said. "There is a beautiful aesthetic that goes along with the philosophy."

Desa Seni promotes what it terms an "authentic Indonesian experience," but the owners have made concessions to Western clients, including air conditioning in bedrooms, satellite TV and wireless Internet service.

In similar fashion, home designers on Bali say they are often looking for ways to combine the demands of the modern Bali buyer with the natural materials and modest scale of Bali culture.

The jeweler John Hardy, a long-time Bali resident, and the Irish designer Linda Garland have received international attention for promoting the use of bamboo in home construction. Ms. Garland, who moved to Bali in the 1970s, founded the Environmental Bamboo Foundation, a group dedicated to encouraging conservation and cultivation of bamboo.

When Nina Packer, an Australian spa owner, and her husband, Phil Murray, a retired cinematographer, leased land on a ridge overlooking the Tjampuhan river last year, they specifically did not want to build a "Jakarta palace," the type of large villa commonly associated with Bali style.

Instead of demolishing the small rundown bungalow on the land, they broke down a wall and created one rectangular living space and kitchen, with an outdoor bathroom and a long outdoor deck overlooking the river. Carved wood openings ring the ceiling, allowing ventilation from the hill breezes so no air conditioning is necessary, Ms. Packer says.

Wood from the original house was recycled in the new house, which does not interfere with the surrounding rice fields.

"I like not tearing something down," said Ms. Cisneros, the architect who worked with the couple. "There is something satisfying working with the leftovers."

This article originally appeared in The New York Times

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10190/10 ... z0tGCxtosw
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10190/1071595-30.stm
 


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