In the words of Mark de Reus, his first visit to Bali in 1990 was personally and professionally “transformative,” a phenomenon the earthy Balinese associate with the solar plexus, comparable to our expression, “I can feel it in my gut.” Gut feelings are strong ones, and this would cause de Reus to take advantage of an offer four years later to work in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital. As for many expatriates working in the exciting sprawl of one of Asia’s largest cities, for de Reus, Bali proved to be an inspiring refuge from urban chaos and pollution. de Reus had been long interested in traditional cultures and architecture, so the “Island of the Gods” allowed him to study traditional architecture as well as the innovative new trends that were reshaping the design of tropical houses and resorts, many of which originated in Bali.
Using a philosophy of integrated disciplines, sources, and inspirations—Balinese, Indonesian, Melanesian, and Polynesian—de Reus began producing oftentimes deceptively simple but elegant solutions to tropical living, work, and play. Indeed, de Reus can be seen as one of the heirs of this international school of tropical architecture, which traces its roots to Bali. One of his earliest designs, Kuki’o Beach Club on the Big Island of Hawai’i, embodies the budding awareness of this philosophy. The design was conceived with great sensitivity to the lay of the land; local lore; history; and the balance between the sea, sky, and land (the crucial elements of island life) to recreate the organic beauty and natural flow of a traditional village. Although the style of island architecture purposely recaptures the “honest” but rough-hewn woodwork of Oceanic architecture, Balinese influence is still evident in de Reus’ choice of materials and scaling to indicate function and place in the social hierarchy. While the actual Beach Club is more reminiscent of the stately men’s houses of New Guinea and Micronesia, there are also numerous Indonesian precedents.
As the years passed, de Reus sought to articulate his guiding principle. He came to the realization that the seemingly effortless integrity of traditional architecture and communities was grounded upon a “sense of place.” This encompassed the connection between architecture and its function in the physical environment, and the identity, history, and characteristics of those who will use and inhabit the space.
The nature of discovery, which is often unpredictable and inextricable from the circumstances that inform and shape any given location, is directly tied to de Reus’ philosophy that architecture should be founded on a sense of place. While the process superficially entails identifying and using local materials, it also requires that the architect be receptive to unforeseen opportunities. Such opportunities can include the incorporation of a culture into the details of a design—something that often arises through both epiphany and careful attention to a location’s many nuances and textures.
Source: Tropical Experience: Architecture + Design