Original Balinese architecture, as exemplified in temples, palaces and family compounds, adheres to strict and sacred laws of building, allowing lots of open space and consisting of a spacious courtyard with many small pavilions, ringed by an all-important wall to keep out evil spirits and decorated with guardian statues.
Temples and Palaces
Black thatched roofs, hewn from the sugar palm, are the building materials permitted only for temples, which feature many ‘sanggah’ or spirit houses to be filled with offerings on occasions of religious significance (see ‘Temples’.)
Unsurprisingly, palaces were built by the royal families to show off their wealth and feature some of the most ornate and beautiful carvings on walls, doors, ceilings, gates and columns (see Palaces). Temples and palaces were traditionally built with natural materials such as bamboo, timber, coconut, and thatched roofing. These materials are still prolifically used, although concrete and more brash modern materials have made their obvious entry into the modern-day architecture of the island.
The wantilan is a large wall-less structure used for cock-fighting and live performances such as dance, are all-important to Balinese architecture and village life.
Pavilions built with a thatched roof and without walls – these are some of the most common structures seen on the island and are known as Bales. The Bale is a multi-purpose space, used for social gatherings, eating and sleeping, and increasingly, for watching television.
The Balinese Compound
The Balinese compound is traditionally home to an extended family and is made up of at least four separate pavilions where the different generations live, as well as a kitchen, a shared family temple, and housing for chickens, pigs or sometimes cows.
The design of the compound caters to religious as well as family life, with the inclusion of a cemetery, and entrance-gates placed strategically to guard against intrusion by unwanted spirits. The middle area of the courtyard is considered sacred and therefore isn’t built upon; offerings are placed there to appease the guardian of the land.