Bali is known for its interior design, that mirrors the culture and tropical beauty of the place. Photo by Shalini MitraBalinese architecture and interior design

The “Bali-style” of architecture and interior design is primarily about tropical scenery and the culture of its people. A village tour of a resort there clearly explains its beauty and establishes the reason behind its worldwide popularity.

Guests receive their first taste of artistic beauty at the reception area which is made in wood and stone (both available in plenty in Bali) and is painted in vibrant red to give a joyful feel.

The lighting is accentuated with purple-coloured shades conceived with organic forms and Japanese paper coated in resin. 

From this area, one can clearly see the swimming pool surrounded by a selection of lounge chairs, from large red cushioned recliners to canopied lounges made in white PVC and woven in traditional Balinese wicker. The pool has grey tiles unlike the traditional aqua blue which lends the water a beautiful green-turquoise colour and an earthy feel to the entire area.

Not far from the pool is the main bar- the heart of the village and the link between the sea beach and the coconut plantation which is spread across the resort. The bar is circular and is surrounded by large contemporary shutters called ‘jalousies’ made of metal and teak wood which lend harmony to the whole structure. Impressive arabesques inspired from traditional fabric patterns ( the “sambug” pattern, in particular, which is notably found on batiks and decorative features like the engravings on doors and sculpted on walls)  twist and wind across the ceilings.

A conversation piece in the bar is an impressive chandelier, made of metal and resin teardrops inlaid with mother-of-pearl that dance ever so gently in the wind. With a deck, an outlying terrace facing a big black stone statue of Buddha, small gazebos, as well as private rooms, guests are spoilt for choice when it comes to chill-out spots.

Below the bar area, a field of lemon grass- known for keeping mosquitoes away- has been planted. Iridescent, gilded parasols are an integral part of Bali’s scenery. At the Balinese resort of Club Med they decorate the dining room, aptly named ‘The Parasol Dining Room’, by hanging upside down in stunning shades of orange and saffron. The Nagas terrace where multitude of lanterns light up during the night is protected by two large wooden Nagas  (dragon protectors) . Carved by a Balinese sculptor out of the trunk of a Merbau tree, the nagas stretch more than 12 metres in length.

The sun, sand and the surf attract most to Bali and therefore, the sea beach view from any part of the resort is most welcomed. Tropical gardens in Bali are traditionally associated with a sense of fecundity.

The resort’s beauty is accentuated with lush greenery, tropical flowers (frangipani mostly) and a lotus pond that has many species of fish and a few crocodiles as well. Taking advantage of the idyllic scenery and stunning beauty around Club Med’s beautiful architecture has made it truly the dream place to enjoy the graceful, magical and unforgettable island paradise of Bali.

Shalini Mitra

Dancing Aqua Tower in Chicago

Jeanne Gang is an architect with her own practice, Studio Gang, and now elements of what she saw on road trips have come together in her first skyscraper, the Aqua Tower, a $308m (£188m) addition to downtown Chicago’s architectural splendours.

The Aqua Tower, rising up in a dance of ever-changing concrete forms, has the look of a multi-layered Lake Michigan rock formation, albeit one that towers above the city.

It all began when Gang found herself sitting with architect and developer James R Loewenberg, who asked her to take a preliminary design for his Aqua Tower and make it sing. She jumped at the chance. After all, at 819ft, the Aqua Tower would be the world’s biggest skyscraper designed by a woman (or, to be more precise, the tallest building in the world designed by a female-run architectural practice).

Behind its weaving balconies, this 82-storey residential and hotel tower is a largely conventional building. Conventional in plan, that is, but unexpected in terms of form, and laced through with amenities and luxuries. Although it opens in the middle of the worst recession to hit the US since the 1930s, most of its 740 flats have been sold.

From its waltzing balconies, the tower offers fabulous views of the city and its other skyscrapers, of the recently completed Millennium Park, and, of course, of Lake Michigan. It also boasts a swimming pool, sky gardens, a library and a billiard room.

Meanwhile, an eight-floor terrace projecting over the entrance offers a running track and open-air hot tubs. The tower’s garden roof is Chicago’s most extensive.

Yet, despite this rippling tower’s presence and sparkle, and the fact that it will bring Studio Gang international attention, it is not really the building this young Chicago practice wishes to be judged by. In fact, nearly every other project in its 35-strong office is low-key by comparison. Most are for public clients, none of them underpinned by skyscraper budgets. Inspired by nature and her knowledge of engineering, Gang came up with a six-piece steel roof that opens, in 40-ft triangular sections, like a giant flower in fine weather.

It’s bird-friendly

In Chicago’s impoverished south side, her practice has built a much-admired community centre for foster children, and is working on an environmental centre, which rises in a happy weave of recycled materials from a site – part industrial wasteland, part natural wilderness – close to a Ford assembly plant. Gang likes working within an astute economy of means and materials.
“Because of the nature of the sites and limited budgets, we’re making the building out of what’s available locally,” she says. “We’re like birds making nests.”

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