Le Temple: Nirvana in Borobudur

Le Temple: Nirvana in Borobudur

By vira

Photos by Le Temple, SanGroup Architecture Interior Photography

Borobudur Temple has never ceased to amaze and inspire: a muse to countless artistic and cultural creations, from paintings to architecture. Le Temple, a new hotel in Magelang, Central Java, takes its inspiration from the 12-century Buddhist temple located just 700 metres away. Indonesia Design was happy to stay there and be taken on a hotel tour by co-founders Jolan Tachet and Stephane Masset.

When Le Temple first opened in September 2020, it consisted of two round villas, a restaurant with no walls, a lobby and a swimming pool. It was a new venture owned and conceptualised by Swiss men Stephane Masset and Jolan Tachet, and Jolan’s wife Uus Pujiati, a native of Borobudur village, who has had decades of experience in hospitality.

The initial establishment was meant to be a ‘show room’ to attract potential investors, which is why the intellectual property and the unique Stupa villa shape and design have been protected. Eighteen months later, a new investor from Magelang joined the project and together they developed the property into a five- star hotel. They added sixteen more villas, a bigger restaurant and other facilities, which were designed by Semarang-based architect APConsultant, following the concept description by the founders. The hotel’s soft opening was in April 2023.

The three main Buddhist temples, Mendut, Pawon and Borobudur are located on a perfect straight imaginary line. Le Temple, located only 700 m away from Borobudur Temple, sits on the very end of that line and the design is richly influenced by the national icon. Upon arrival, you will enter the hotel through the doors with a stupa image on it. The pathway leads to two lion statues that guard a tantric square and the two oldest villas, the Wooden Villas beyond. These lion sculptures are identical to those in the temple, they even face the same direction.

Continuing along to the left is the biggest building housing the restaurant and function spaces. Reliefs of Buddha decorate the façade as well as the interior which features an elongated shallow pool and a striking Buddha relief on the back wall. The second floor is dedicated for meeting rooms and multifunctional spaces, whilst the bar is on the third floor. The rooftop is a perfect spot to view the sunrise or sunset that peeks from behind the Menoreh Hills, Mount Merbabu, Mount Merapi and Mount Sumbing. On a clear day, the top tip of Borobudur Temple can be seen behind the lush forest. A romantic dinner setup on the rooftop is available upon request.

Half of the restaurant building is surrounded by the half-circle swimming pool and seven Borobudur Villas. This layout of smaller buildings forming a circle around larger ones, echoes the stupas at Borobudur Temple. The wall on the left of the restaurant illustrates the discovery of Borobudur Temple by Captain Tan Jin Sing, who reported it to Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1813. This story has personal and historical significance to Le Temple: the Magelang investor is a distant descendant of the captain, and the road that the captain took to the temple is said to be exactly the one in front of the hotel.

Beyond this wall of reliefs stand the Mendut Villas, which are the same size as the Borobudur Villas, with the addition of a plunge pool or a jacuzzi at the back. All six Mendut Villas are in one corner and can be rented together for a group of guests or a private event. On the west side of the restaurant are three Pawon Villas, all of which plunge pools and backyards. Guests can sunbathe, have meals delivered from the kitchen, or simply enjoy the sound of nature.

All the villas are dodecagonal, meaning it has 12 sides which form almost a perfect circle, staying true to the original design. “We wanted to have perfectly round villas but dodecagons are more practical to build and to organise the furniture,” Stephane explained. Having converted to Buddhism two decades ago, Stephane’s understanding of the teachings came handy, ensuring all design elements reflect the philosophy. “To respect the shape of the stupa, we had to make two-storey villas. The height of each level is not as high as the standard, so we had to play with that to fit well,” he added. So, the upper floor became a mezzanine to fit the concept. “For the roof, we decided to use asphalt shingles distributed and imported by BMI Indonesia, a sister company of GAF. We think it’s best for the slightly sloped dodecagonal shape,” Priska Leta, the principal architect of APConsultant, explained.

Inside the villas, some have the bed on the first floor and the sofa on the mezzanine, and some are the opposite. Most of the furniture items were made by local artisans from Borobudur Village. The powder room and shower room have elegant Grohe fittings. Other than the shower and powder rooms, all walls are of glass windows or doors with teak wood frames allowing for an abundance of sunlight, so the blinds come in handy when it’s bright outside.

“In total, there are 72 handcrafted stupas, big and small, in Le Temple,” Jolan, now the director of the hotel, says. This symbolises the 72 stupas on the top three levels of Borobudur Temple, the floors that depict nirvana, where you no longer have desire for anything. “The goal was for the guests to have a playful way to understand the architecture of Borobudur Temple before they visit it,” he added.

Aside from the distinctive design, Le Temple also offers other experiences. A spa and a gym are available, and collaborations with local tour organisers can give guests a complete Borobudur immersion, from sunrise until sunset. Artistic and cultural activities are also being developed. But if you’re not up for a busy and energetic vacation, you can always opt for a wonderful laid-back day at Le Temple and enjoy their recreational amenities.

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