Made Wijaya’s idiosyncratic big black book Balinese Architecture (1983) recalled those old cigarette card albums, which had monochrome illustrations of the cards you were trying to collect. Every now and then you had the satisfaction of pasting the real coloured card on top of its shadow. Similarly one looked forward periodically to receiving original colour photos from Made to glue over the original illustrations, until gradually the book became a photo-album rather than a photocopy.
There was nothing like Balinese Architecture, and I was always astonished that for so long no publisher took up such an obvious opportunity. Well done Didier Millet for putting this right at last!
The new Architecture of Bali is a sumptuous production, destined to be the most significant book of its kind since Urs Ramseyer’s Art and Culture of Bali.
Its forerunner’s promising subtitle of 1983 was “towards an encyclopaedia”. Nearly twenty years later the new work more than keeps the promise. Describing itself as a source book, it is much more: a guide to good manners for developers, an invaluable escort for architects and interior designers, a fathomless source of ideas for aspiring house builders, as well as a vastly rich dissertation for the general reader.
I would like to see the book eventually translated into bahasa Indonesia, so that Balinese who might have strayed from the way – and Indonesians in general for that matter – might better understand and cherish the amazing asset they possess.
Inevitably some of the more quirky material in the original publication has had to be dropped to make room for what has happened since 1983. Made Wijaya quite rightly execrates much modern development in Bali, however he omits from the new book the story of the multi-story Bali Beach Hotel (1965), built with Japanese war reparations money under the personal direction of President Sukarno.
For the narrow escape from a beachfront lined with similar high-rise hotels we should mainly thank the late Wija Waworuntu, who recognised the importance of restricting new buildings to a height below the palms. It was Wija’s tireless lobbying of the World Bank Team writing the rules for future tourism in 1969, that succeeded in enshrining this Code Restriction. As far as I know the guideline has been violated only by the Bali Hilton ever since.
Made’s text is both authoritative and entertaining, a rare combination in a book of this kind. But most of all this a book about forms and ways to build a house in Bali along traditional, quasi-traditional or modern lines. The 360 odd photographs by a bouquet of old Balihands – Tim Street Porter, Rio Helmi, Luca Tettoni and Made’s own archive collection – are for the most part ravishing and always informative.
All in all a triumph for both author and publisher.
10th September 2002
*Christopher Carlisle has worked in Bali on many prestigious projects – The Matahari Beach Club, The Bali Hyatt and The Amandari –– since 1969. He was also a collaborator on “Bali Style” (1994 with Rio Helmi)