With a unique ‘no-walls, no-doors’ concept, Dharmali Kusumadi, Senior Vice President Head of Group Design Services Banyan Tree Holdings, explains how he incorporated the idea of nature, luxury, and the convenience of a retreat at Banyan Tree Escape.
Written by Iman Hidajat
Banyan Tree has owned this land in Buahan, Ubud, for a long time. Why did you just recently develop it?
We owned the land for more than 20 years and came close to starting a building project in 2008 or 2009, but we had to hold it. During the development, we went through 16 different designs to develop a villa resort that was different from what is available in Bali and provide guests with real Balinese experiences. The opportunity came again in 2017 when Ubud had more luxury villa resorts.
How long did it take to develop this Banyan Tree Escape?
Quite fast, actually. Starting from my first sketch of the villa concept in the middle of 2017, by March 2018, we already had the prototype. We began to build the rest of the facilities, but construction had to stop in March 2020 due to the pandemic, when we were almost finished. We then picked up the development again at the end of 2021 and opened it by mid-2022.
The ‘no-walls, no-doors’ concept is unique and might be the only one in the world. How did you come up with that concept?
The concept of luxury is not only based on the finished materials or the FFE (Foundation For Excellence). We also offer the luxury of space where your villa or the garden wall does not bind you. That is the most luxury you can have. And yet, we still provide total privacy for the guests, a luxury of privacy.
No-walls, no-doors is not new. Some residentials have done it, but a boundary wall still bounds them. For a resort with 16 villas without borders and yet still having privacy and views, that is unique.
Our idea was based on traditional Balinese houses, a dwelling with different spaces or balés in one open space, not a single house with separate rooms. So, we treated the deck platform as a space to accommodate a few other functions. The roof shape is inspired by the traditional houses in Buahan, which is suitable for the wet area in Bali.
Tell us about the choice of wood?
We purposely used kayu ulin (ironwood) because it’s recycled and it’s the hardest wood. Recycled wood means it is already aged and dry. It has the patina created by nature or man. We showcase these natural textures, like the dents from past uses and the holes caused by woodworm rather than smooth surfaces.
Because of the character of the aged wood, it’s not possible to plain it smooth and polished. We made the surface even and showed the texture. We didn’t color the wood, just let its dark color stand for itself. We adjusted the interior design to fit in with the character of the material.
With its secluded location on a steep hillside, please do share the challenges you faced during the construction.
The main challenge was developing the three-dimensional site due to the shape and the terrain. With the clear intention to give each balé privacy and a complete view, setting the position of each balé was the most challenging.
The distance from the top to the bottom of the site is more than 100 metres. There was almost no space to set up the construction site, so everything had to be done manually. Even transporting the materials had to be hand-carried.
We overcame all the challenges to make Banyan Tree Escape what it is today. The furthest villa above the waterfall has become the most popular one because of the unique guest experiences it can offer.
What do you want the guests to experience during their stay in Banyan Tree Escape?
The guest will experience immersion in nature, like the walks to their balés, the daytime activities, and the experiences with nature in the evening. Using their five senses, they will blend with nature in bright daytime to the darkness of the night with varying sounds of the day and different views from their bales and the surrounding areas. Most of our guests are more appreciative of nature after their stays in Buahan.