Sunday Star Magazine, 8 December 2002


A holiday in Bali became a career in tropical garden design for this Sydney expat


Landscape and architectural designer Made Wijaya’s book will go a long way in helping readers appreciate the origins and evolution of the styles and techniques of the architecture of Bali.

Born Michael White in Sydney, the multi-talented Made, who is based on the fabled island, has of late chalked up quite a few notable projects in Malaysia including the Sunway Bukit Rahman Putra project, the Balinese Village in Sunway Lagoon Resort (both in the Klang Valley) and the Bukit Kinding Resort in Ipoh. His international clientele include Bollywood superstar Amita Bachan.

While superficial decorating styles come and go with each passing fancy, the classic elements of a region’s art and  architecture will always find admirers as each generation rediscovers the true beauty of a time-honoured  tradition. Certainly, sound architecture is not a stagnant art form.

As a community’s needs evolve from simple dwelling to modern multi-storey superstructures, competent architects and designers should be able to breathe new life into traditional forms. To his credit, Made include “many references to exciting developments in modern Balinese architecture”.

This book covers everything from the form and structure of a Balinese village to the widely exported concept of Bale pavilion. From courtyard elements to building materials and ornamentation, the reader is taken on well-guide tour of what is considered good, classic designs. But the write does rant again excessive ornamentation and ill-considered architectural hybrids. He rails: “Every suburban house, it seems, is trying to look like Gianyar Palace’s gate-house on steroids.”

Without understanding the fundamentals of Balinese form and function, is it any wonder that some Malaysian property  owners and housing developers in otherwise posh locales end up with architectural monstrosities?

Building or renovating a house is a major undertaking fraught with pitfalls and an architect who has to interpret a client’s penchant for Balinese elements such as a courtyard garden would do well to do research if he has no inkling of either the aesthetics of function of such feature. Passing fads is one thing but to be landed with an ill-conceived architectural features that may turn out to be a permanent eyesore is quite another. Whateverthe intended style.

House courts are often pebbled or paved to accomodate ritual activities that take place on the courtyard floor.

A three-tiered 'wantilan' style guesthouse in Ubud

Plates are often used as decorative accents on Majapahit-style "bata bali" brick shrines

In his book, Made says: “Modern Balinese architecture started after the full establishment of the Dutch colonial administration in the early 20th century, when architectonic Art Deco became synonymous with nationalism It is mostly the classic golden, oldies, however, that are documented in this book. Many have disappeared in 25 years since I first started recording the island’s architecture.”

What’s commendable about his selected photographs, complied over 30 years, are the variations of Balinese architecture elements. From walls and screens to post bases, columns, beams and buttresses, one will find an adequate range of references. There is even a reference to the Chinese influence in Balinese architecture. But the reader is warned against what he calls “over-the top Chinese-Balinese interior style”.

Wovem bamboo privacy screen are parts of a Balinese pavilion's accessory kit.

Lavishly illustrated with over 30 diagrams, the layout of the book is easy on the eye. Text is kept a minimum, therefore avoiding repetition of what he had written in his Tropical garden Design (1999). But Made, being the true eccentric that he is, has included quite a few “Made-isms” throughout the book, notwithstanding consulting editor Diana Darling’s keen eye.

The 'sendi' are where architects and carvers can display their decorative prowess

Nowadays,  anyone dealing in pseudo “Bali Style” furniture and garden accessories seems to be an experts on Balinese design and décor. Such self-proclaimed experts, especially in Malaysia, even offer consultancy services to “do up” your house or garden. As Made’s latest book shows, there’s more to Balinese architecture than installing a thatched pavilion accented with a couple of water-spout floral paras or an urn turned on its side.

Architect Cheong Yew Kuan's main house for the John hardy's in Sayan featured some inspired architectural detailing.
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