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illustrations by Abimantra Pradhana

It is no exaggeration to say that there is no place like Ubud in this world, everything here feels greener, even the stones turn green when in Ubud. Here, you may find the definition of the word ‘genius loci’ or ‘spirit of place’; The temple is a place of worship that is directly adjacent to pedestrians and a road with stairs made of volcanic stone and brick walls which are then covered with moss, a small path that divides rice fields with green and golden colors swaying and exhaling the aroma of nature. Local people are proud to position Ubud as the ‘morning of the world’, a very ‘big’ word but will be understood when we experience the morning in Ubud.

♦ Born artsy

Ubud has been open to tourism since the 1920s when the Royal Dutch Steam Packet Company added Bali to its itinerary. The world began to know Ubud after the arrival of Walter Spies; painter, composer, and curator who came to Ubud from Jogjakarta in 1927 who later told through his paintings, books and films the beauty of Ubud in the western world. According to his records, Ubud’s people are like born artsy; Painting, dancing, drawing, and music are the daily activities of Ubud people when they are not farming. Spies introduced Ubud artists to Western painting and coloring techniques, since then the Ubud artist community has grown. Spies settled in the valley of the Campuhan river (the confluence of two currents) whose house is now the Campuhan hotel. In the past there were no hotels in Ubud, at first people stayed in the bungalows of artists gathered by Raja Gde Agung Sukawati.

♦ Blending with Nature

Unlike other areas in Bali, nature acts as the inhabitants and rulers of the ecosystem and humans, the growth and presence of the buildings are there to complement it. Transcendentalist philosophers argue that humans and nature are two forces that should coexist in harmony, as has been written by Ralph Waldo Emerson to Henry David Thoreau. Harmonization between humans, nature and the built environment continues to develop into the world of architecture which was sparked through the organic architecture manifesto by Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1900s. FLW’s FallingWater House puts these three elements together to form a sustainable ecosystem where one element supports the other and creates a new entity in a landscape that is better than before.

♦ Nature, Memory and Architecture

Ubud made me realize that humans are guests, who are then habituated in nature, and then create a sense that builds between these connections. Sacred, but on the other hand the development of the construction is very fast as if it does not heed nature as its host. It feels like something is missing from the growth of the ‘new’ architecture in Ubud; namely the dialogue and transactions between the body, memory, nature, and architecture. An ‘absurd’ thing and easy to create, but also easy to ignore and build without feeling.

Through notes from Ubud, I saw the relationship between architecture and nature like a colliding choreography, like dance-music-dancers, each of which has its own soul but melts into a composition that gives memories. Architects as choreographers should listen and learn better about nature, because nature already has its own rhythms and cycles; day and night, flowing water, rice sowing and harvesting, moss covering the stones. What is clear, I will not forget the morning in Ubud and the first sip of coffee in the morning.

Abimantra Pradhana (AGo Architects)
Abimantra Pradhana (AGo Architects)
Abimantra Pradhana is a certified architect, lecturer, and urban designer with 15 years of experience at hand who constantly strives to bring an impact to the city with a considered architectural approach. He is also a founder of SANA studio, a pioneer active lifestyle hub in Jakarta.


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