Building a Collaborative Culture with SHL Asia

Photography By SHL Asia

Founded by design curators Kadek Sasta and Jung Yat, the Bali-based consultancy SHL Asia is home to young and passionate talents specialising in architecture, landscaping, interior design, lighting, and artwork for the hospitality industry. The firm’s core values are based on the Campuhan Script, a dogma representing a creative workflow process and synergy of all kinds of business, whilst still adopting and interpreting Balinese culture.

Left to right: Ketut Suratman, Atria Wardhani and Anang Rahman

The company is driven by the belief that all are unique, carrying their own definitions of beauty and ideas for design, regardless of the level of detail, significance, and sense of the abstract. It is the company’s forte to translate all these into a design experience of excellence. Indonesia Design had a chat with the firm’s principals of landscape design, Atria Wardhani (AW) and Anang Rahman (AR), alongside landscaper Ketut Suratman (KS), about their recent collaboration for the Andaz Bali property and how it adds its own natural charm to an already endearing Sanur.

What first drew you to the field of landscape design?
AW: When I was in elementary school, my parents took me to Senayan golf course, which had a massive lawn surrounded by the dense tropical lushness. Unlike Bali, I realised at that time there were not many green areas in Jakarta. That’s the starting point where I grew my passion for the field. Whilst I was in my academic pursuit majoring in Landscape Architecture at Udayana University, I had an internship with SHL Asia as a Landscape Architect. I returned to the company after I graduated in 2019, tasked with overseeing the landscaping work of the Andaz project in Sanur.

AR: One of SHL Asia’s earliest landscape projects in Seminyak gained recognition, followed by more projects that added the list of the company’s portfolio. Landscaping was something that came unplanned as many of us, including me, graduated in Architecture. I joined SHL Asia in 2011 and my first project was to supervise a landscape architecture project in Goa, India. This was the time that my interest in landscape design started to grow more.

KS: It was not planned for me. I think it was more of a fate, as it has always been in my blood as a Balinese who loves art. I was lucky to have worked with many landscape practitioners, absorbing their knowledge and now I can channel that into my own work.

How are you unique compared to other landscape design consultants?
Every project has its own uniqueness, in terms of beauty and space. In working on any projects, we combine clients’ desires with local cultural elements, so as to create a timeless design. Each of our designs tells a story, so it elevates the experience shared. This what distinguishes our company. By being methodical, a very particular and special design can make a project look very personal. And we incorporate nature and its surroundings into the design. It shows in few of our collaborations projects, Andaz and Hyatt Regency Bali, as well as Suratman’s own resort Pramana Giri Kusuma in Ubud.

How did SHL Asia start its collaboration with Ketut Suratman?
AW and AR: Suratman met Jung Yat, one of SHL Asia’s founders in 2006, way before the company was established. They learned that they have the same passion toward design. In 2004 SHL Asia and Suratman teamed up for a collaborative work on a landscaping project in Goa, India, for Novotel Goa Resort (formerly Grand Mercure).

How do you synergise your partnership with your expertise towards advancing project designs?
AW: The synergy between SHL Asia and Suratman resulted in complementary visions of softscape designing. Suratman and his myriad of experiences really help us in designing landscapes, with mix-and-match current trends.

AR: Our synergy is what led us to create unique landscape designs, with a touch of Balinese style. With the uniqueness each brings, we complement and strengthen one another’s concepts.

KS: SHL Asia is a group of competent young professionals, with strong academic foundations. My skills and experience complement that very well. We have shared interests in culture, so there are similarities in our approaches throughout the design process.

Why hospitality design and how effective is a collaboration culture?
AW: Hospitality design has its unique challenges that make us continuously explore the new. There are many concepts we can apply to different sites. With this collaboration, we will broaden our horizons and new things we have not encountered yet, in terms of culture, art as well as insights into plants and foliage.

AR: Culture and nature is something close and dear to us in Bali. So, hospitality design is where we can channel these elements. Many clients want to build hospitality facilities that can offer cultural, artistic and natural values for the wider community both from within and outside the country. We want to help our clients make it happen by injecting stories into our designs.

KS: We focus on hospitality design because its elements create art and happiness for people. At the beginning of my career in landscape, collaboration was essential to producing good design. Design cannot stand alone. We need to build a solid team of design consultants to match our styles and principles. Also, in aesthetic and functional hospitality, there must be a careful balance with key input from the hotel operators. So, all parties must collaborate closely.

Please share the story behind Andaz’s landscape design.
AR: Andaz Bali wanted to portray a contemporary tropical landscape design whilst sharing cultural experiences. We benefitted from the jungle-like garden and trees that have been there for years, creating a sanctuary-like feel to it. Visitors enter an enchanting forest with tall trees and surrounding foliage.

KS: Andaz wanted to appear subtly different. We translated that into using the right local tropical plants with the right monochrome earth colours. Maja tree (Aegle marmelos) is one example. Often used during the Siwaratri holiday, this tree is believed to be the gods’ favourite. The other example is Majegau (Dysoxylum densiflorum). In the past, this tree was used to make temples and craft materials

Andaz is not the only Hyatt property you have worked on. You’re also involved with Hyatt Regency Bali. We would like to hear more about this.
AR: The Hyatt Regency was the result of renovation and the redevelopment of facilities originally built around 1973, and formerly known as the Hyatt Bali. Similar to Andaz, SHL Asia and Suratman worked to restore and rejuvenate the beauty of the garden that was always Sanur’s star property.

KS: The legacy of the late landscape designer Made Wijaya is what you can see in the Hyatt Regency, making its hardscape steeper in the Balinese tropical landscape, whilst its softscape is represented in the very colourful plants used for prayers and ceremonies.

Can you tell us about the collaborative process for the resort’s softscape?
AW: Collaboration is important to create softscape in a resort. With good communication and understanding between architects, landscape designers, clients and contractors, a shared vision can be realised. Equally important is the synergy between landscape designers and architects, both that perform according to their skillsets.

AR: The collaborative process in softscaping is essential to design the garden onsite. All parties bring different disciplines to the softscape development. With thorough in-depth research carried out for our design, we synergise to achieve the same goal.

KS: All parties share their ideas, such as the blend of designers’ aesthetics with the operator’s functional features and requirements. For example, plants between spaces provide immediate privacy. But for a resort, the view must be appealing and well maintained.

What will be the next major collaboration for SHL Asia and Ketut Suratman?
AW and AR: We will work again with Suratman in our next project, the Pramana Bali Aga Estate, which will feature a Balinese village concept. The project will come with an authentic landscape design. We also have several other projects lined up on the island.

How do you keep updated with landscaping trends, especially during the current pandemic?
AW and AR: The pandemic has changed the way we live, as people adopt the new normal that require strict health protocols, including physical distancing. Yet, this unprecedented challenge doesn’t hinder us to explore new things in landscaping. Living in the current digital era, it is much easier for us to obtain information online. We also focus on business trends, what the client needs and wants, whilst still adjusting with the surrounding site, a concept inspired by the Balinese philosophy, Desa Kala Patra.

KS: In times of a pandemic, design needs to be more concerned with the environmental aspect. This includes ensuring enough outdoor space in response to social distancing measures. Lots of green spaces allowing for fresh air and clean water, and so is the choice of plants to retain water and produce more oxygen-rich environments.

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