Yesterday I visited a local Bukit home in Suluban – near Uluwatu. The family permitted me to enter to their personal space and take a few photos – a very generous gesture. The lay out was the traditional Balinese compound style – but what really caught my eye were the old stone buildings. Its rare to see these original limestone structures now - so many have been either abandoned, or simply traded for the more contemporary brick buildings. You can see homes built from these white-bricks – but they’re not cut from the solid rock (like the originals), but instead just the product of packed crushed limestone.
What I really love about these original structures, is the rustic texture and coloration of the stone masonry. Its aesthetic encapsulates and exudes that classic Balinese sensibility – present in so many of the temples found here. But with all the relentless, soulless construction of all these cheap modernist/minimalist buildings now days, this ancient technique is slowly becoming lost.
Bukit locals- in earlier times – used limestone blocks for the more solid construction, because it was all they had access to. Visiting Pura Uluwatu, you can see some great examples of this kind of work. But these days, the ‘Bukit-stone’ has been replaced by the cheaper ‘botako-bricks’ – which have a grey, concrete type appearance. Besides being extremely ugly, these cheap brittle bricks act like sponges, resulting in many houses suffering chronic rising damp. Considering the budget restrictions of the average Indonesian home owner – it’s understandable that these cheaper alternatives are more frequently applied. But I can’t help thinking that this island’s once exotic architectural landscape, is slowly becoming a very dull and depressing experience.
Tragically – while standing within this family’s compound – the Ibu went on to explain that after 40 years… they’ve now been asked to vacate their home. Without ever possessing an official title to the land – few originals ever did – the ‘supposed’ current owner has now decided to sell off the property for development. Standing there – watching this family going about their traditional life – it felt incredibly sad to think that all of this history was about to be lost. And beyond the obvious human tragedy – it felt further distressing to think that all these precious examples of Bukit stone architecture, would most likely be bulldozed and turned into landfill.
There’s so many reasons why stuff like this happens in the world – but regardless of all the rationales - it’s still impossible not to feel a silent sense of shame.