The New Sunday Express News Paper, December 9, 2007

LIFE STYLE
Design Garden, anyone?
Bali-based Made Wijaya expounds his theories aboutgardens and landscape

Text by Geeta Doctor



At ubud, in the tourist heart of the island of Bali, Made Wijaya is a cottage industry. Every bookshop brims with the designer’s books on the architecture and landscape gardens of island that he has made his home for the last thirty years. An Australian, originally named Michael White, made contributes his own brand of Aussie humor in the columns that he writes for the local newspapers, or creates the news by being the brand ambassador for a style that could be called Bali international. Sitting at the famous Lotus Pond restaurant in the heart of Ubud, you feel that you are getting the Made Wijaya experience live.

All the elements that he celebrates in his books are there to be seen, the color pink leaching out of the temple complex that overlooks a pond that is filled with pink lotus blooms, gold-fish, dragon-flies. For the visitors there is an old fashioned Balinese pavilion, with bamboo mats and low wooden tables for dining that is built just next to the pond, so that you really feel that you are in an enchanted paradise.

Re-creating the magic in a series of images from around the world in this latest book, Wijaya expounds his theories about gardens and landscape and links them with the people he most admires in the trade. Though the key words in this garden paradise are ‘modern’ and ‘tropical’ there is one more element that forms the sub-text as it were, this is a paradise for tourists. Many, though far from being all, of the examples have been taken from resorts and hotels around the world. This makes for a slightly over the top effect, as if one were to see the world of décor only through its ice-cream parlors.

 

Wijaya is best when he’s bombing the tendencies of his opponents in the flied. There are the Zen minimalists, who are taken to task for littering the earth with their graded gravel paths and fake rock gardens. The are those who create a focal point by placing “Scatter Buddhas” like scatter cushions, to use his provocative term to describe the variations of the pot bellied Chinese god of good fortune. He also has it in for those who go for creating landscapes as if they were part of the industrial belt, all arranged in mechanical rows to accessorize the chrome and glass. What then are we to make of Wijaya’s extolling, indeed highlighting the effects of Singapore’s silver palm trees on the cover of his book? Nothing could be more mechanical than the effect of the landscaping of Singapore, (now followed by Hong Kong, though he does not mention the city). The landscaping may reflect a kind of Singaporean ideal of perfection, but the fact that it is depressingly artificial can be gleaned from the fact, that no birds sing there. Perhaps there are no habitats for insects, or worms or indeed even crows, that are apparently banned from the City.

 

The best bits of the book are when Wijaya speaks of the work of his mentors and peers. Amongst them is the Sri Lankan Geoffrey Bawa, with whom Wijaya has a special affinity and most particulary of Lunuganga, Bawa’s mysterious country estate where the entrance driveway was allowed to be carpeted in layers of leaves falling through the passing Seasons. Creating these wonderful textures, on walls, in patios, Spanish, or should that be Moorish courtyards, or as winding paths, through fem filled grottoes and hidden pools water reflecting the wide expanse of sky, sea and Sun in the islands that Wijaya displays in his rambling narrative is the key to his style.
Wijaya’s book is a tropical salad of delights that he tosses with his usual flair.

 

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