SAOTA perches a stunning resort-inspired house atop a rocky cliff in Bali
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SAOTA perches a stunning resort-inspired house atop a rocky cliff in Bali

Uluwatu House by SAOTA puts a contemporary spin to the vernacular architecture of Bali, bringing courtyards, gardens and green terraces to blend with the built fabric.

by Zohra Khan Oct 22, 2019

Cape Town-based architectural practice SAOTA has designed a resort-inspired-home in Bali’s iconic surf destination, Uluwatu. Nestled in a context that is known to offer some of the world’s best surfing beaches and its steep, rocky cliffs providing the most sought-after views of the pristine oceans, the house sits on one of those limestone cliffs, looking outwards and embracing the scenery.

Pool terrace looking outwards and embracing the views of the ocean | Uluwatu House | SAOTA | STIRworld
Pool terrace looking outwards and embracing the views of the ocean Image Credit: Adam Letch

The client’s brief was to provide a place for their extended family to congregate as they are spread globally. “A seamless indoor-outdoor connection was important to them with a modern minimalist theme,” said the design team.

The architects drew their concept from the local architecture’s unique hybrid mass and lightweight materiality, evident in traditional temples across Indonesia, and put a contemporary spin to it to create this modern getaway. “The design,” they added, “was also partly inspired by the way in which rocky ruins are, in time, reclaimed by the landscape, and come to seem almost as if they are a part of it.”

The fragmented nature of the building eliminates the need for internal passages | Uluwatu House | Uluwatu House | SAOTA | STIRworld
The fragmented nature of the building eliminates the need for internal passages Image Credit: Adam Letch

Overlooking the ocean on the east, the house deftly weaves courtyards, gardens and other planted terraces into its built fabric, blurring the boundaries between landscape and architecture. The scale of the site allowed for the design to incorporate separate suites and living spaces in a striking fragmented arrangement, eliminating the need for internal passages entirely. This feature makes the home exude a “chameleon quality” that the architects define is a responsive arrangement that expands and shrinks to accommodate both small and large groups pf people.

The entrance to the house features a palm-lined courtyard with a seemingly floating staircase | Uluwatu House | SAOTA | STIRworld
The entrance to the house features a palm-lined courtyard with a seemingly floating staircase Image Credit: Adam Letch

Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by a grand palm-lined courtyard, where a grand staircase appears to be floating over a cascading water feature. Guiding them towards a centralised entrance, this space is characterised by monumental mass walls featuring dark local stone cladding scored by hand. Inside, a lounge, a dining room, and a covered terrace form the core of the cellular arrangement, organically interspersed with structural and natural plantings. A large courtyard to the west provides an enclosed counterpoint to the vast views to the east.

Architecture attunes with the soft landscape and blur boundaries between inside-outside spaces | Uluwatu House | SAOTA | STIRworld
Architecture attunes with the soft landscape and blur boundaries between inside-outside spaces Image Credit: Adam Letch

The distinctive timber pavilions, typical in the Balinese locale, have been re-interpreted using glass curtain walls in the living areas. Floating broad-marked concrete roofs, referencing local lightweight timber roofs, are beautifully crafted to resonate with the vernacular architecture, yet keeping in mind the scale of the project.

An oversailing roof with its seeming weightlessness renders the exterior a distinct feature, while its impressive form facilitates shelter from harsh afternoon sunlight from the west. “One of the challenges on the project,” said the architects, “was how to implement this (roof) and make it feel effortless along with materiality, which could hold up to the exposure and transitions from inside out.”

  • The interiors frame fascinating views of the ocean | Uluwatu House | SAOTA | STIRworld
    The interiors frame fascinating views of the ocean Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • The interiors frame fascinating views of the ocean | Uluwatu House | SAOTA | STIRworld
    The interiors frame fascinating views of the ocean Image Credit: Adam Letch

Concrete and natural finishes, such as local stone with its organic weathering are juxtaposed throughout the house with impressive timberwork. A choicest curation of furnishing and finishes within the interiors, with a pared back mid-century design, communicate the essence of the villa. Thoughtful details are manifested in the form of vertical screens, joinery and decorative metalwork. Embedding a luxurious finish underfoot, the design employs honed and unfilled travertine floors.

What really stands out in the house is its singular design intent articulated through traditional materiality in a modern avatar, the unique balance of intimate and public areas, and an architecture deeply in tune to its surroundings.

  • Garden and planting terraces are deftly woven within the built fabric | Uluwatu House | SAOTA | STIRworld
    Garden and planting terraces are deftly woven within the built fabric Image Credit: Adam Letch
  • The intimacy of the living spaces balance with the overall grandeur of the house | Uluwatu House | SAOTA | STIRworld
    The intimacy of the living spaces balance with the overall grandeur of the house Image Credit: Adam Letch

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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