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An Island Losing its Cultural Character

Does Bali's Sunset Road Signal the Setting Sun on Efforts to Preserve "Bali Style" in Local Architectural Values?

(8/4/2007) The Indonesian language daily newspaper NusaBali has questioned in the rapid development of businesses along Kuta's Sunset Road and the lack of Balinese architectural elements in the buildings populating this major thoroughfare.

A formal decree from the Regent of Badung in 2004 (No. 293) mandates that every building along the road must reflect traditional Balinese values in its architecture.

Traditional Balinese Architectural Values?

What actually constitutes Bali style is open to a wide range of interpretations. According to a member of the "Design Committee" of PT Pengembangan Pariwisata Bali, I Gusti Nyoman Putra Sardjana: "the main focus of Bali style is founded on the principle of Tri Angga - a reflection of the basic composition of the human body. In the form and physical structure of building architecture there must be clear divisions between the top (the head), the walls and supports (the body) and the foundations (the legs)."

While commercial and private buildings in Bali are not permitted to duplicate the look of religious temples, they are expected to incorporate proportions and ornamentations in keeping with local cultural traditions.

A local government official charged with supervising compliance with local building codes discounted the lack of local architectural touches along the Sunset Road, suggesting that many of the non-compliant buildings pre-date the 2004 regulation.

Reflecting a possible official lack of genuine concern for the strict application of codes requiring Balinese architectural values, the official told NusaBali, "if every building follows traditional designs people will be bored." Pressed further on the issue, the official said violators only need to "add Balinese ornaments to their building to comply with local laws."

Clearly, those traveling Kuta's busy Sunset Road, home to strip malls and hypermarkets, can be forgiven if they momentarily forget they are actually on the island of Bali.