A trio of Balinese architectural landscape designers are building a name in gardens and hotel projects across Asia.
We are the three principals of SHL Asia! We all have architectural backgrounds, but we developed a fondness specifically for landscape architecture after we worked together in a landscape design studio. Later in 2010, we established our own architecture firm focusing on hospitality landscape and architecture design. At that time it was called Studio Hijau Lumut, and then Anang came along a year after and we eventually rebranded as SHL Asia. We have recently moved to our new studio – which we call Workspace and Culture (WAC) – and celebrated our ninth year in the industry.
Congrats on the move. What is the story behind Workspace and Culture?
WAC is very personal to us. The idea first came when we needed to accommodate the growing number of members in the SHL Asia family. Because we always want to do better – better service, better products – we wanted to have our own creative working area to support the team. We designed and built it from scratch. It represents us and became a symbol of our growth into our ninth year. We were greatly inspired by the houses in urban villages in Denpasar and implemented these elements into the building and its composition. Just like the traditional Bali houses, the home is not one big massive building but instead a compound of buildings connected by a lane or hallway. We wanted to make this quite simple and seemingly effortless, so raw and exposed material like bricks and metals were applied throughout the building. Other than that, WAC presents a clean canvas, with an all-white color scheme. A splash of colour is added from the vibrant plants, different textures and individual activities. We are very pleased with the final result!
Your team is relatively small … how do you manage such huge projects?
You’re right, SHL Asia is an intimate team. Each of us has our own role and focus. As a design consultant, the principles come up with the design and idea but we are always open for discussion and collaboration with our team since they are young and often they can see things from a different perspective. The design is then distributed to each of our team through the supervisor. He makes sure that the work flow in the studio is going smoothly and everyone finishes their tasks on time. It is not always easy of course with the tight schedule and deadlines, but the team love what they are doing and are always passionate about design. That’s why, at the end of the day, it always feel worth it.
What made you focus specifically on hospitality design?
As a Bali-based design consultants we were born and raised here and we see the potential this island has. Bali has an amazing natural landscape. Here we are talking about endless beaches, million dollar views of Bali’s jungle and rivers, and not to mention the rich vibrant culture. The growth in the hospitality and tourism industry in Bali over the last decade has been enormous and we view this as an opportunity – it’s even become a part of the Balinese daily life. Through our design, we wish to give people an experience that will be remembered long after they leave Bali.
What sets you apart from the rest of the design consultants out there?
If you ask us what are the characteristics of SHL Asia, we can tell you we have none. But what we do have is a story to tell. We understand the importance of storytelling and we believe our design speaks for itself. We want these stories to raise the value of the design and elevate the user experience. Before the design process begins, we are like an empty glass … so the initial idea of the client can fill us up. We are also inspired by the things around the site, like the local folk lore or history of the site. Overall, it all comes back to the location, the client’s desire and a will to make each project unique. It is always interesting to see the finish result as it may vary even when we are dealing with the same client. As in our projects in Ubud, Bisma Eight and Folk Pool & Garden, they originate from the same client but both have very different concepts. We always try to provide unique experiences in every project and give a personal touch for people to remember. Hence, it’s important to differentiate each project by paying attention to detail.
Where does your inspiration come from?
We take inspiration from many things. Sometimes we get an idea when strolling around the site or when we have discussions with the clients or network with people, it is fascinating to see how people see things from their perspective. For us, creating design is one thing, but it is creating the ambience that often gets tricky. Aside from the design itself, we also offer experience. It is important to travel a lot and visit different places. It enriches our knowledge in creating real life ambience. For hospitality landscape and architecture, we love and are inspired by the work of Geoffrey Bawa and Made Wijaya.
What would your dream design look like?
We admire a big, spacious gardens, with shady old trees combined with lush vibrant shrubs. A typical Balinese garden is definitely up there, a garden where we can relax and feels like home.
What projects are you working on and what is next for SHL Asia?
We have a lot of exciting projects on the go at the moment. We have under-construction boutique resorts projects going in Ubud, Blackpenny & Adhiwana Jeevaloka, and one on Labuan Bajo Island, also a commercial building in the neighboring island, Lombok at ITDC Mandalika. Another project in Natuna Island is in construction. Anyone would agree that the landscape in Natuna is one of a kind and we are so thrilled to play a part in developing the island’s tourism. In July, we went to India for a landscape project in Goa. This project is interesting because the design is very much inspired by Bali’s signatures and we are trying to recreate the Balinese ambience to this villa project since it has similar climate and variety of plants. We are not planning to stop anytime soon and will keep creating design that people can enjoy and remember for a long time.
Are you noticing a new eco-consciousness with your clients? If so, in what way?
Absolutely. This could be the result of demands from more eco-conscious travelers. Nowadays, people are more aware, particularly in Bali, especially those who move within the hospitality industry. Some of our clients have made some serious commitments in lessening the impact on the environment of their property. For example, our landscape project in Ubud, Cloud Nine Estate. This eco-luxury villa is committed to conscious living, which includes a zero waste concept, ecologically-sound operations and water-saving bathrooms, and ecological toilets that will compost their gardens. Aware of their mission and supported by them SHL Asia was encouraged to design a landscape without individual, private pools in order to help reduce water-waste for the overall project. Our other project, Folk Pool & Garden, we used recycled materials in almost every area, interiors and exteriors, as per our client’s request. We always try to maximize the use of local materials collected from the area. SHL Asia and our clients have the same belief, recycling materials greatly helps the environment.
How do you ensure you stay up to date on the latest landscaping techniques and trends?
To be completely honest, we don’t necessarily always follow trends but we do stay abreast of things – which means we are open to positive change while staying true to our core philosophy. We make sure our team gets continuous access to professional development through good quality literature, actively engaging in related community events, attending seminars/workshops as well as joining exhibitions that will increase our knowledge about the industry and current design trends. And not only design-wise, we also make sure we stay up to date technically for all on-site implementation of the most recent technical standards.