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The story behind the design of Bawah

“In an off-the-radar fringe of an Indonesian archipelago lies a sumptuous private-island retreat where environmental sensitivity has proved a boon, not a burden, to sensuous indulgence.”

 Summer 2019 issue of Robb Report Australia

This article is spot on. The design of Bawah has proved to be a boon – quite literally – in the
shape of Sim Boon Yang, the director and owner of Eco.id and the lead architect behind the
resort.  We talked to Boon about his vision for the project and how he created Bawah Reserve.......

 

Boon, You were one of the first people to step foot on Bawah Reserve. How did these first moments shape your thinking for the project?

Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 10.56.35 AM

From my first visit, Bawah evoked the feeling that you are the first visitor on a lost island. It
triggered an innate childhood reaction, abstract yet universal, a feeling of wonder that is lost
as you get older. It became immediate that the design had to continue to evoke these
memories.

 


What was your main objective with the project?

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Because of these initial feelings it became immediately apparent and very important to me
that the project should use as little a footprint as operationally possible. Everything should be built by hand and no machinery would be used to excavate or cut into the earth. This project could not be like other projects that are designed on a computer and you fly in and out to brief the team.


How would you describe the project?

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It was a project of preservation, a lesson of local craftsmanship and a nature-inspired organic
process of simple ideas and subtle aesthetics. All of my ideas evolved naturally based on
terrain, materials and structural rationale. The buildings are all about geometry, and the
visuals are honest and organic.


Did you take any cues from local history or culture?

Yes indeed. I have always been fascinated by tribal communities in the Indonesian archipelago such as the islands of Flores, Sumba and Papua New Guinea.   Particularly the traditional ceremony houses known as "Rumah Adat" - which translated means "custom home" - These are large roof structures the most important of which are designed for rituals and ceremonies.

Rumah Adat

These larger, bigger gesture structures were the initial inspiration behind the public areas of Bawah – Jules Verne, Treetops, The Grouper Bar and Aura Spa.

Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 11.00.38 AM

 


How much of this culture is now apparent in Bawah Reserve?

Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 10.57.20 AM

 

Using this local tradition and focusing more on natural shapes, we concentrated on the
silhouette of Bawah itself, which is a series of simple curves. I also combined these ideas
with inspiration from a shell – a simple curved shape, beautiful but structurally very resilient to the strong winds that can come with the monsoons. This is what you can see on Bawah today – large bamboo frames which climb the hillside and fit into small hand-cleared areas where the preserved flora and fauna surround them.


What materials did you use in the development?

Building material 1

As an eco-friendly hotel, ecologically and sustainably it made sense to use Indonesian bamboo and locally grown thatch to create the public areas, but it also created complications and added time delays.
Bamboo can last 20 years or much more if preserved well. I did a lot of research to
understand this process. Bamboo is like grass and has sugar in the stems, which attracts
insects. When wet, it rots easily. We had to soak it in a bath of natural-occurring boric acid,
which draws up the sugar and converts it into a compound that insects are not interested in.
You cannot cut this process short.

We also used rock from all 6 islands that make up Bawah Reserve.


How were the structures designed? 

 

public building structure_scale model 1

As the design and the material used were novel, it wasn't possible for a building engineer to calculate the sizing of the structure. We had to build full scale mock-ups with the advise of a structural professor from the university of Badung who had experience in working with bamboo.  This was needed to test the structural and fixing details to ensure safety and stability.

Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 11.07.29 AM

  After many a trial, the bamboo was pre-cut in Java and transported by boat to be built on Bawah.

 

Is there any detail you are particularly proud of?

I am particularly fond of how the structure of Treetops behaves. The intricate lattice is very
structurally strong but beautiful in the natural bamboo colouring. A small parting between the
ceiling allows natural light to flood into the restaurant.

Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 11.01.04 AM

I also like the stone work around the island, including the one that lines the staircase leading
up to the grand pavilions. All the stonework was based on natural weathering of the rock; it
was a lesson in local craftsmanship whereby stones are heated up, cooled in sea water and left
to crack naturally. Then we fit them together based on the terrain and the natural shapes of
the materials. The result is beautiful and very natural.

 

Screen Shot 2020-01-29 at 10.56.14 AM

 

Bawah Reserve is now complete – looking back is there anything you would change?

Bawah-HD-3124-1

I am very happy with the result of Bawah Reserve, and the media and trade reviews regarding the design have been fabulous.

We have also now completed the gym and two two-bedroom pool villas as
well as Elang Private Island, the newest part of Bawah.

This really completes the dream.  A truly sustainable luxury build.

 

 

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