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Balinese Traditional Architecture + Modern Building =?  

by on Tuesday, 15 May 20072 Comments | 6,256 views

Balinese traditional architecture, an ancient art that controlled by the ironclad strictness of Asta Kosala Kosali rules always seeks a balance between the environment and the human. The Asta Kosala Kosali governs the Balinese traditional architecture so it will create “Balinese-ness” of the scene, harmony with the surrounding environment and the grace of the structure.



But, what happen when Asta Kosala Kosali is applied to modern building, multi-storied, office building, bank, and government structures, none of which was ever conceived of when the rules of Asta Kosala Kosali were formulated, centuries ago? You can find the answer almost in every part of Bali especially in Denpasar and its surrounding areas. Some are quite good, some are grotesque, some are simply without taste and some are downright architectural horror.



The Asta Kosala Kosali rules are definitely inappropriate for anything except small open buildings, the very largest being the big wantilan, or public meeting hall are found in many temples. The island of Bali has a mild, equable climate with no need for air conditioner or heating, and most of the Balinese traditional structures are open buildings that serve many functions such as sleeping quarter, as well as working quarter, and places for just chatting and relaxing.



A modern architect cannot simply lay out a single room of Balinese structure and then make it 500 times bigger to turn it into 500-room hotel. All sense of proportion would be lost. Some architect build perfectly rectangular block, usually multi-storied, capped by hip roof of tile. A Balinese bale is also a rectangular block, capped by a hip roof, but once again, all sense of proportion, style, and harmony is lost in the translation of something intimate, open, and human into a cold, closed, office building. There is no sense of texture of materials, no open-ness, nor grace. A popular approach to the Asta Kosala Kosali is to build a modern building and add various bits of typical stone carving ornaments here and there outside the building.



Hotel builders use different approach, first they build conventional and efficient block of rooms and then add as many Balinese appendages as space permits – a temple gate and kulkul tower on the front, a bathing place with waterspouts, fountains and lots and lots of elaborate stone carvings scattered here and there. Sometimes the Balinese appendages are placed not in the right place according to the Asta Kosala Kosali. The result of this approach is always beautiful but a traditional sense balance and harmony is often lost.


Materials for this writing are taken from Bali: Sekala and Niskala, Vol II by Fred B. Eiseman, Jr

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    • Dr Joachim Langhein said:

      These are almost lovely remarks on the traditional architecture of Bali, which inspires me to visit Bali once. I stayed in East Asia mainly in Japan (two years), including shorter visits at the Philippines, Thailand, and India.

      It cannot reiterated enough the fact that almost every true traditional architecture on earth starts from an “approach [being] always beautiful”, well-balanced, well proportioned, with a good sense of material beuaty etc, while modern architecture to often has lost the “traditional sense balance and harmony”.

      As I put in my INTBAU essay 10 (see above), beauty and harmony is no luxury, but a indispensible input for longterm ecological survival. To be successful on the long run, man and human societires require satisfaction of basic aesthetic needs to be able to have courage, productive or creative thinking, senses for true values, and a lot of frustration tolerance, beyond much other capabilities.

    • red tube said:

      Amazing, marvelous post! Regards for posting about it.

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