Balinese Architecture

Traditional, Religious and Domestic Architecture

All traditional buildings in Bali are designed based on the principles of Balinese Hindu traditions and belief systems. Balinese houses, palaces and temples are created as a collection of several structures within a walled enclosure, where each serves a unique function.

The cultural and religious influence on the architecture goes back many centuries. A Balinese architect will aim to create a sacred place which is in line with what they believe spirits and cosmos require for a harmonious and balanced energy. Therefore priests, the intermediaries between the spirit realms and the real world for the Balinese, also preserve the knowledge and guidelines for Balinese architectures.

The Balinese culture originated in Java centuries ago, and Bali has remained the only place in Indonesia, where those Hindu traditions are still followed. Today Indonesia is dominantly a Muslim society, which makes Bali very unique and different.

Contemporary Balinese Architecture

Bali’s architecture is not only very famous in Asia, but also globally recognized as a style. It combines a classy tropical lifestyle, with traditional elements creating a unique atmosphere. Most hotels, restaurants, commercial villas and private houses are both inspired by Balinese elements and contemporary architectural concepts. It can be seen in the aesthetics and the inclusion of Bali’s building materials, beautiful artistry and craftsmanship.

The History of Balinese Architecture

Many buildings in Bali are designed based on the principles of a ‘sacred place’. Houses are meant to be built precisely in the direction of the sun rising or facing the nearest volcanoes. During the 8th to 16th centuries, the influence of classical Hindu and Buddhist architectural styles was found in many constructions of temples in Indonesia, especially in Java.

The principle of Kaja-Kelod is one of the main guidelines of the Balinese architecture. Kaja is meaning ‘facing the volcanoes’ and Kelod meaning ‘facing the sea’. This concept is often used in planning the placement of houses or temples in the villages.

Sacred buildings, such as temples are placed in the Kaja section. Standard buildings, such as residential houses are usually placed in the Kelod area.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Balinese architecture blossomed. While still maintaining the nobility of the guidelines that had been passed on by their ancestors, Balinese architects began to show dynamism on their design by giving it a modern touch. The influence of European styles are found in some old constructions built around the 1940s in North Bali such as Bungkulan and Singaraja.

During the 20th century, after the independence of Indonesia from the colonialism era, the influence of Dutch and Japanese building styles remained in some areas of Bali. The Rumah Panglima and the Istana Presiden Tampak Siring are two examples of this.

An interesting fact to know is, that for a building to be legalized in official fixed regulations it is not allowed to exceed the height of a coconut tree (15 meters).

The art of Balinese architecture continues to grow, while Influences from various parts of the world can be found in many hotels, restaurants and other public places. All these millennial touches seem to unite into a harmony on this magical island.

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