The Design Philosophy of Balinese Architecture

The Design Philosophy of Balinese Architecture

The Design Philosophy of Balinese Architecture

When you walk along the streets of quaint little Balinese villages, one of the most outstanding sights is the gorgeous constructions of traditional Balinese homes. Colourful, intricate and beautiful, most regard these homes as a work of art. Not only are the construction materials different, but the design philosophy is embedded in religious roots. Influenced both by Hindu Indian ideology and Chinese design, these homes are a confluence of cultures, markers of the history the island has lived through. 

A traditional Balinese home 

A Balinese home is a compound of separate pavilions that serve different functions. One pavilion houses the kitchen, while another houses the master bedroom, and another being the family shrine, and so on. All these structures are connected through a series of gates. A house also typically has a front open pavilion to welcome guests to the home. A Balinese home must also have a landscaped garden with tropical decorative plants that merge the home with nature. However, the grounds are never changed too dramatically, and designers always use the garden’s natural features to create their designs around them. A typical feature of a Balinese garden is a floating pavilion surrounded by ponds packed with waterlilies, usually used for meditation or relaxation purposes.

Building materials and artistry 

Most Balinese homes built in a traditional style use natural materials such as thatch roofing, bamboo poles, woven bamboo, coconut wood, teak wood, brick and stone. The thatched roof usually uses ijuk (black aren fibers), dried coconut or rumbia leaves, or sirap (hard wood shingles arranged like tiles) roof. The first structure that is built on the land is the Padmasana, the shrine. The five elements, the pancha datu are buried at the base of the shrine – Earth (gold), water (iron), fire (copper), air (silver), ether (ruby) in order to maintain positive vibrations on the land.  

Balinese people are known for their artistry as is visible in their intricate ornamentation and sculpting traditions in the interiors as well as exteriors of their homes. Balinese sculptures often served as gate guardians as twin dvarapalas flanking entrances. The gates itself are richly decorated with kala’s head, floral ornaments, and vajra or ratna pinnacles. Other types of sculpture are often served as ornamentation, such as goddess or dragon waterspouts in bathing places.

The 7 Philosophies of Balinese Architecture 

The philosophies of this architectural design revolve around Hinduism, spatial organization, and communal-based social relationships. A Balinese-designed home is built around these 7 philosophies:

1. Tri Hata Karana – Creating harmony and balance between the 3 elements of life – the atma or human, angga or nature, and khaya or gods.

2. Tri Mandala – rules of space division and zoning

3. Sanga Mandala – a set of rules of space division and zoning based on directions

4. Tri Angga – concept or hierarchy among different realms

5. Tri Loka – similar to Tri Annga but with different realms

6. Asta Kosala Kosali –  8 guidelines of architectural designs regarding symbols, shrines, stages, and measurement units

7. Arga Segara – sacred axis between mountain and sea

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