Did you know that a Balinese house is built directly in proportion to the size of its owner? If you visit an absolutely traditional Balinese house, you will discover a lot of really logical things and many meaningful ones too. (But of course finding a traditional house is getting much harder!).
First of all a Balinese house isn’t a house, it’s a compound with different structures having different functions. All houses are aligned to Mount Agung the most holy mountain where Besakih, the mother temple, is located. There is a living area, a cooking area, a sleeping area and of course the family temple. Balinese families, as you will quickly see, are very dedicated to their Balinese Hindu faith, observing all holy days and most daily rituals.
So in its very conception the Balinese house is created as a direct component in the family faith, not as we tend to do, focused on comfort, convenience and style. But it’s the proportion aspect that fascinates me: to build the house, the contractor first has to measure certain parts of the owner’s body, the span between the outstretched fingers, the size of the head, the length of the feet, the height and other very specific measurements. Why? Because the size of the pillars, the distance between them, the height and width of the doors, the distance between structures all is measured against the owner’s proportions!
This creates a house that is not only perfectly aligned with God, but with the owner as well. What a wonderful way to live, knowing that from the very start you are one with your maker and in your house you are reflected in every element. In traditional villages all the houses are aligned with each other, creating a truly harmonious and balanced living environment.
Then along comes, the all-knowing, all conquering foreigner who builds concrete, steel and glass monstrosities out of proportion to their owners, and not at all aligned to the ‘grid’ of Bali, and the whole millennia-old system is destroyed. “I LOOOVE Bali” says the owner, knowing not one single thing about the island, its religion, its purity of form and its delightful and dedicated ways. “No you don’t,” I would contend, you have destroyed the very thing you pretend to love, through complete ignorance and a dedication to self rather than the community you have supposedly come to join. And as for the developers of the idiotic, nonsensical shop houses which suddenly are everywhere, you too should be ashamed.
These monstrosities of commerce are not correct for Bali but now spread in every direction along every road blocking our view of nature and bearing no relationship to Bali at all.
Can we please return to the delights of traditional Bali and get back in proportion.
Alistair G. Speirs, OBE