Alexis Dornier's 'Birdhouses' resort explores tropical avian living in Bali

Appearing to be floating above the ground, Birdhouses by Alexis Dornier is a stilted spectacle of tropical modernism in the tranquil rainforests of Bali.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jul 18, 2022

In the 'land of Gods' in the Indonesian archipelago, amidst the serene natural settings and terraced farmlands, lies the architecture of nature. The buildings in Bali require no introduction or brief; the architecture begins from the land and ends up becoming a part of it. While architecture on the world scale seems to be juggling between styles and definitions, with a marked steering toward sustainability as a driver, the tropical land of Bali, already bequeathed with the know-how, has held on to its vernacular approaches with its own regional adaptations of modern architecture. The newest addition to the quaint residences of the province is 'Birdhouses' by regional architect Alexis Dornier. In the heart of Ubud, three stilted structures comprising a guest house, studio and main house become the physical manifestation of a dream conjured up by a group of friends.

  • In Birdhouses, the architects represent memorable interpretations of the idea of a house | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    In Birdhouses, the architects represent "memorable interpretations of the idea of a house" Image: Courtesy of KIE
  • Nestling amid the tropical forests of Bali, the design considers nature an integral part of its being | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    Nestling amid the tropical forests of Bali, the design considers nature an integral part of its being Image: Courtesy of KIE

Occupying the sloped terrain of the site, overlooking a small creek running past the property, the main house is the largest building among the three. While the main house nestles on the east slope, the guest house and studio wing sit towards the entrance of the site, oriented along the north and south respectively. On entering the site, the structures - built on stilts - appear to be detached from the ground lending additional levity to the structures, akin to a pole-mounted birdhouse as the project's name would suggest. Though the buildings remain separate entities, the shared pool accompanied by the sun deck marks the zonal and spatial convergence of the three. With a landscape design that connects the built to the unbuilt through fluidic walkways, water features, and flower beds, the design brings a semblance of a natural convergence to act as the uniting factor between the structures.

  • While the structures remain separate entities, the landscape design connects them through walkways, water features, and flower beds | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    While the structures remain separate entities, the landscape design connects them through walkways, water features, and flower beds Image: Courtesy of KIE
  • With the purpose of connecting the outdoors with the interiors, the openings are carefully crafted for maximum exposure | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    With the purpose of connecting the outdoors with the interiors, the openings are carefully crafted for maximum exposure Image: Courtesy of KIE

Though the sculptural forms resemble each other, the spatial arrangements vary to accommodate their respective functions. However, the ground level of all structures serves the singular function of being a vertical circulation node connecting the upper levels to the ground. Following the functional necessities, the 37 sq.m. guest house comprises one bedroom, bathroom, and balcony; the 129 sq.m. studio occupies a living room along with the private spaces; while the 162 sq.m. main house hosts multiple communal spaces and three bedrooms. This hierarchy of spaces is reflected directly in the volumes of the buildings vis-à-vis the ascending levels. "The experience of exploring those structures is a journey through the three-dimensional, maze-like arrangement of their different spaces, all radiating out from their central vertical circulation elements into their surroundings," share the architects.

  • The pivoting floor plans establish multifunctional spaces that imbibe a sense of familiarity | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    The pivoting floor plans establish multifunctional spaces that imbibe a sense of familiarity Image: Courtesy of KIE
  • Along with ample natural light, soft and indirect warm lighting conceives a cosy ambience in private spaces | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    Along with ample natural light, soft and indirect warm lighting conceives a cosy ambience in private spaces Image: Courtesy of KIE
  • The floor-to-ceiling windows, grey flooring, and wooden cladding blend together in a natural palette to resonate with the serene setting of the site | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    The floor-to-ceiling windows, grey flooring, and wooden cladding blend together in a natural palette to resonate with the serene setting of the site Image: Courtesy of KIE
  • The interior spaces connect the circulatory elements with other private areas | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    The interior spaces connect the circulatory elements with other private areas Image: Courtesy of KIE

To establish familiarity and a sense of belongingness, the interior spaces adopt an open layout that brings communal activities into shared spaces. In a play of volumes, certain areas of the building open up to interesting dramatic instances of natural light sifting in through skylights and double-heighted spaces. In the attempt to maximise natural ventilation, capitalise on the stunning views, and connect the indoors with the outdoors, the structures are adorned with permutations of ribbon windows, corner windows, and floor-to-ceiling openings. While sharing the unique dialogue the built here has with nature, the architects state, “These so-called birdhouses blend into nature, and their pivoting floor plans create expressive inhabitable sculptures that form exciting relationships to the outside, while being very present as memorable interpretations of the idea of a house.”

  • The play of volumes is activated by an interesting dramatic interaction with natural light through skylights and double-heighted spaces | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    The play of volumes is activated by an interesting dramatic interaction with natural light through skylights and double-heighted spaces Image: Courtesy of KIE
  • While inviting nature into the built, the windows and skylights become an important part of the design | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    While inviting nature into the built, the windows and skylights become an important part of the design Image: Courtesy of KIE
  • The material palette combines natural tones of wood with the subtle greys of raw concrete to make a presence statement amidst the lush green | Bird Houses | Alexis Dornier | STIRworld
    The material palette combines natural tones of wood with the subtle greys of raw concrete to make a presence statement amidst the lush green Image: Courtesy of KIE

While the architectural language of the project draws from tropical modernism against the veritable backdrop of local Balinese architecture and its vernacular practices, the material palette is drenched in the natural tones of wood, familiar to the site’s context, with a complementing nudge of raw concrete. Amid the lush greens of the site, the building makes a statement owing to its scale, while simultaneously blending into the natural setting through its material choices. With the numerous trees transforming into elements of the design and their foliage marking themselves as canopies, the project becomes “a miniature park” with scaled up birdhouses for humans.

(Text by Sunena V Maju, intern at STIRworld)

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