A Quite Long History of Bali Hotel Architecture Part IV: Massive Scale!

radit mahindro
14 min readOct 2, 2020


After coming to power in the aftermath of a 1966 military coup, Indonesian President Suharto’s New Order government officially proclaimed tourism to be a key tool of nation-building. This decree led in turn to a 1971 World Bank-funded masterplan for the development of Bali as an international tourist destination. A Plan put intro practice after the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) conference in Jakarta, February 1974.

The PATA’s 1974 conference in Jakarta was very important for Indonesia, an opportunity to introduce Indonesian culture abroad and a matter of great prestige for the new nation under Suharto’s new government. It was at this conference that the Indonesian government and the World Bank announced the Bali Tourism Project (or “Nusa Dua” project), a resort complex at the vanguard of modern tourism to be built on Bali’s southern Bukit peninsula, an arid and impoverished area by then.

The Indonesian government had previously collaborated with the private sector to create an integrated enclave of high-end tourism, with a masteplan for the whole island — designed by the French consulting firm Société Centrale pour L’equipement Touristique d’Outre-mer (SCETO) — that would limit tourism development to certain areas with the hope of protecting the culture of the Balinese people — at least that was the plan.

Much needed infrastructure — water, roads, waste management, electricity, communications — would be installed by the government and shared with the local residents of the Bukit. A hotel school would be created, giving priority to local residents. A supervising body would assure an integrated architectural style and enforce standards.

Illustrated map of the World Bank’s recommendation for the Nusa Dua project

Wija Waworuntu is credited with the adoption of the rule that no building should be higher than a coconut palm (fifteen metres). This is likely to have come about through conversations with the SCETO team, who frequently dined at the Tandjung Sari.

The Nusa Dua masterplan, developed by Pacific Consultants International, was delivered to the government in 1973, and the Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC) was founded on 12 November that year. Regardless of the involvement from different foreign investors, BTDC is fully owned by the Indonesian government represented by Ministry of State-Owned Enterprises.

In 1974, cultural ceremonies for ground breaking at BTDC took place. However, the land in and around BTDC was barren and barely inhabited. The project, which was the first Bank tourism project in Indonesia, had no choice than focusing first on infrastructure such as water supply and sewerage, electricity, access road from and to the airport, road improvements outside Nusa Dua, telecommunications, and other public utilities. The actual groundbreaking was eventually held in 1976, during which electricity and running water to the project area were introduced.

The estimated investment needed to develop the whole component of the project was USD 59 million, USD 39 million of it went solely for hotels with approximately 2000 rooms in total inventory to be built within the 425-hectare BTDC complex. But the final number of the project cost was USD 16 million.

The BTDC was finally completed in June 1982, about four years later than the initial schedule. Project start-up was delayed almost two years by procurement problems, late appointment of consultants and delays in completing the final design of project works.

Project content was substantially modified during implementation to minimise overall cost increases. The combined effect of the changes in project design, delays in construction, inflation and the devaluation of the Indonesian Rupiah in 1978 contributed to a 38% overall cost increase as compared with the appraisal estimate.

The hotel development at the BTDC project was delayed considerably because of the unfavourable investment climate for hotel construction due to the worldwide economic recession following the energy crisis in 1973 and 1979, and also, due to substantial delays in construction of infrastructure for the project. Furthermore, the Government “one-gate” air access policy to Bali has discouraged private investors’ interest in hotel construction for the project.

The first hotel in BTDC is the 380-room Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, inaugurated by President Suharto himself in May 1983 and managed by PT Aerowisata, a subsidiary of Garuda Indonesia. It was designed by Indonesian architect Darmawan Prawirohardjo and his design firm Atelier 6.

Nusa Dua Beach Hotel postcards in mid 1980s

As Nusa Dua’s premier resort, the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel was ambitiously designed to be a showcase of Balinese architecture, arts, and traditional crafts. Two elaborately carved towers flank the main reception building, a monumental reference to the traditional kul-kul drum towers found in every Balinese village centre. Throughout the guestrooms and public spaces Balinese sculpture, textiles, and ornamental details can be found. One particular example of Bali’s traditional arts is the painted ceiling in its restaurant’s dining room executed in the classical Kamasan style.

Nusa Dua Beach Hotel is also proud of its VIP guest list: kings, princes, and other heads of state have stayed there, including former United States president Ronald Reagan, who was a guest there on his state visit to Indonesia in 1986.

In 1990, Aerowisata sold Nusa Dua Beach Hotel to PT Sejahtera Indoco, a Brunei-Indonesian joint venture company which is 95% owned by the Sultan of Brunei via the Brunei Investment Agency, and 5% by a domestic firm controlled by Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, a daughter of President Suharto.

President Suharto and President Ronald Reagan in Nusa Dua Beach Hotel

Following the success of Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, Darmawan and Atelier 6 designed two more big hotels owned by President Suharto’s family in BTDC and Bukit area: Sheraton Nusa Indah Hotel and Convention Centre, and Sheraton Lagoon Nusa Dua Beach Hotel. He also designed Bali Cliff Resort, the first five-star hotel in Ungasan — Uluwatu area (read: Indonesia’s Lost Hotels: Bali Cliff Resort)

All of these hotels are pretty much sharing the same layout structure: two building wings to house the rooms sandwiching the swimming pool and other public facilities in the heart of the hotel — a layout that dominate the newer hotels in and around BTDC area until now.

In 1983 BTDC hotel development went further with construction of other two hotels for a total of 900 rooms. The two hotels, which were scheduled to open in 1985, eventually known Putri Bali Hotel and Melia Bali Sol. Melia Bali Sol was the first project within BTDC that involved foreign investor (Spain), in partnership with Indonesia’s Astra Group.

1991 saw the opening of the largest hotel in Bali at the time, the Grand Hyatt Bali. The hotel sits on more than 17 hectares land within the BTDC and houses no less than 630 rooms. The designed is patterned after a Balinese water palace with lagoons, landscaped gardens, and six swimming pools surrounding low-rise buildings of rooms and guest facilities.

The decor adopts an organic theme, using natural teakwood and marble from central Java, with a colour palette of cream, pastel olive green, honey, amber, taupe and accents of orange to highlight the light, airy feeling of the sun-streaked rooms. Fabrics used in the design were specially commissioned by local artisans to reflect the rich culture of Bali in a modern style, and artworks of rice terraces at sunset and special mood lighting enhance the warm natural tones of the guestrooms.

Each of the contemporary-Balinese inspired rooms has its own private balcony with ocean, lagoon or garden views. A unique feature is an alcove area with a daybed for lounging that can be converted into a sleeping bay for children.

The Grand Club (executive lounge) assures an extra-level of personalised service and amenities, with a private swimming pool, concierge and butler service. Here the rooms are the size of suites, some on split level, with spacious bathrooms and balconies that open out to the tranquil water gardens and the sea.

Grand Hyatt Bali also offers the ideal blend of business and pleasure for corporate meeting groups. The layout of the rooms and facilities allow decentralised group check-ins and exclusivity. Its meeting venues consist of the Grand Ballroom, with its theatre-style seating that can accommodate up to 1.420 guests, and the Karangasem Ballroom, which can accommodate 750 guests, also in theatre-style seating. There are 20 meeting rooms in total, all supported by state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment.

Corporate video of Bali Hyatt and Grand Hyatt Bali in 1992

In 1992, or ten years after its opening or 20 years after its initial planning, BTDC were only occupied by nine hotels:

  1. Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, 380 rooms on 8.5 hectares site
  2. Putri Bali Hotel (now Inaya Putri Bali), 384 rooms on 9 hectares site
  3. Melia Bali Sol (now Meliá Bali), 500 rooms on 10.5 hectares site
  4. Cub Med, 400 rooms on 14.5 hectares site
  5. Nusa Dua Indah Hotel and Convention Centre (now The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali and Bali International Convention Centre), 369 rooms and a 2000-seat convention centre on 7.3 hectares site
  6. Sheraton Lagoon Nusa Dua Beach Hotel (now The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua, Bali), 276 rooms on 6.8 hectares site
  7. Hilton Nusa Dua (now Ayodya Resort Bali), 537 rooms on 11.5 hectares site
  8. Grand Hyatt Bali, 630 rooms on 17.1 hectares site
  9. Amanusa (now Kimpton Naranta Bali), 35 suites on 3.3 hectares site

In addition to the nine hotels, recreational and other supporting facilities were already in operations in 1992:

  1. Bali Golf and Country Club, an 18-hole golf course in 113 hectares site
  2. Galleria Nusa Dua (now Bali Collection), a shopping centre with food promenade in 8 hectares site
  3. Sekolah Tinggi Pariwisata (now Politeknik Pariwisata Bali)
  4. Hotel Club Bualu (now Langon Bali Resort & Spa), a 50-room hotel for hospitality training and education adjacent to Sekolah Tinggi Pariwisata. Technically this is the first building completed by the Nusa Dua project, opened in 1981

Outside BTDC, the first big-scale hotel in the Bukit area is InterContinental Bali Resort, designed by renown Indonesian architect by Hendra Hadiprana. The hotel was owned by President Suharto’s second son, Bambang Trihatmodjo, and, together with Bali Cliff Resort, inaugurated by President Suharto on 13 October 1993.

Growing feelings of discontent about the intrusion of Jakarta-based investors exploded in 1993 in the rise of a protest movement against the realisation of the Bali Nirwana Resort in Tabanan, close the holy sea temple of Tanah Lot. The protest was supported by the middle class coalition of academics, public intellectuals, students, NGO activists, the regional newspaper Bali Post, and representatives of the oppositional party Partai Demokrasi Indonesia (PDI).

The rallying point of the movement focussed primarily on religious sentiments. It was the proximity of the resort to the temple that mobilised an island-wide protest that embarrassed both investors and government institutions. Resistance was silenced after direct intervention by President Suharto, and in 1997 Le Méridien Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort advertised its soft-opening.

Le Méridien Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort was designed by WATG with technical assistance from Atelier 6. The hotel was rebranded to Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort in 2010 and eventually demolished in 2017. The empty site is planned to host a new bigger resort and golf course complex, managed by Donald Trump’s Trump Hotels in partnership with Indonesian owner Hary Tanoesoedibjo’s MNC Group.

Le Méridien Nirwana Golf & Spa Resort (rebranded to Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort in 2010, demolished in 2017)

In 1996, a company owned by Suharto’s son, Tommy Suharto, forced villagers off their land in Bali to build a 650-hectare Pecatu Indah Resort, near Uluwatu. The firm had a permit for only 130 hectares, which it illegally expanded, according to Sonny Qodri, chairman of Bali’s Legal Aid Institute. Landowners were offered compensation of only IDR 2.5 million per 100 square metres, well below the prevailing market price IDR 20 million to 30 million per 100 square metres. The brutal evictions were backed by military personnel and police using tear gas. Time reported that residents who refused to sign an agreement to sell their land were intimidated, beaten and sometimes put in a pond up to their necks. Two were brought to court and jailed for six months.

Hasan Basri Durin, chairman of the National Land Agency and Minister of Land Affairs, says the Suharto family typically paid peanuts for the property it acquired — the average was 6% of market value — and reluctant sellers often changed their minds after visits from thugs or soldiers. “Sometimes they didn’t pay one cent,” Hasan told Time in 1999. “But it’s legal because they (the Suhartos) have the documents.” Only about half of Indonesia’s farmers hold a registered title to their land, so proving ownership can be difficult — and proving intimidation even harder. As a result, few have come forward to complain.

The Suharto family’s property holdings worth $1 billion in 1999. In the mid-1980s, Bambang Trihatmodjo, paid the government USD 700 per sqm for a plot of land in central Jakarta on which now sits the Grand Hyatt Jakarta, the prime asset of his publicly listed PT Plaza Indonesia Realty.

In Bali, the children ended up with some of the most lucrative gems of the tourist industry: Bali Cliff Resort owned by Suharto’s eldest son Sigit Harjojudanto, Sheraton Nusa Dua Indah Hotel and Convention Centre (now The Westin Resort Nusa Dua, Bali) owned by Bambang, Sheraton Lagoon Nusa Dua Beach Hotel (now The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua, Bali) owned by Bambang, InterContinental Bali Resort owned by Bambang, Hotel Nikko Bali (now Hilton Bali Resort) owned by Sigit, and the Bali Golf and Country Club in Nusa Dua owned by Tommy. Entering the new millennium, they sold all the above hotels to the new or current owners.

In mid 1990s, Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo (WATG), was asked to design the first Ritz-Carlton branded hotel on a 90-hectare cliff-side land in Bukit area. Opened as The Ritz-Carlton Bali (now Ayana Resort & Spa, Bali) on November 1996, the hotel was the first Ritz-Carlton hotel in Asia. Ayana is a huge complex with 323 rooms, multiple restaurants and bars, options of meeting and wedding venues, a tennis court, and a golf course.

The Ritz-Carlton Bali was complemented with one of the world’s most expensive thalasso spa. Its facilities include seven hydrotherapy treatment rooms, 19 massage rooms, six spa villas, and the world’s largest aqua tonic pools.

Ayana Resort & Spa, Bali

WATG teamed-up with Ayana again for a second hotel, Rimba Jimbaran Bali by Ayana opened in 2013. Rimba, meaning “forest” in Indonesia, reflects the management’s green initiatives including the planting of 50.000 albesia trees to offset the carbon footprint of the hotel. While Rimba has no direct beach access (it’s about one kilometre to the Ayana by footpath or shuttle), guests can relish in unobstructed panoramas of gentle rolling hills filled with fruit trees, tropical flowers, and distant ocean views. Rimba shares the same area and facilities with Ayana.

To date, WATG had designed nearly all international-branded luxury large-scale hotels in Bali including Bali Nirwana Resort (later renamed to Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort, now demolished), Hotel Nikko Bali (now Hilton Bali Resort), Conrad Bali, Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort, the new Ritz-Carlton Bali in Nusa Dua, the upcoming Regent Resort Canggu, and Rosewood Tanah Lot Bali.

Some of WATG’s portfolio in Bali. From left to right: Grand Hyatt Bali, Hotel Nikko Bali (now Hilton Bali Resort), Conrad Bali, Rimba Jimbaran Bali by Ayana, Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort, the new Ritz-Carlton Bali in Nusa Dua

Room inventory and facilities mentioned on this post are based on the actual situation during the opening year of the hotels.

A Quite Long History of Bali Hotel Architecture

This ten-part 130-minute blog story is made as a tribute to the hospitality world of Bali, and to the people who love and live it.

The story, more or less, chronicles the milestones of Bali hospitality and hotel architecture from 1930s to 2010s, celebrating the works of renown hoteliers and architects Wija Waworuntu, Geoffrey Bawa, Peter Muller, Kerry Hill, Adrian Zecha, Hendra Hadiprana, Jaya Ibrahim, WATG, John Hardy, Ketut Arthana, and Andra Matin among others.

A Quite Long History of Bali Hotel Architecture (video trailer)

Each part is illustrated with images, sketches and site plans, including old photos of Tandjung Sari, Batujimbar Estate brochure, photo series documenting the construction of The Oberoi Bali and Amandari, Kerry Hill’s original design for the Regent Jimbaran Bay (eventually came into being as the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay).

There are also footages of Ronald Reagan’s meeting with Suharto in Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, Geoffrey Bawa’s unused site plan for the expansion of Bali Hyatt, TV commercials, World Bank’s proposal for the development of BTDC extracted from a 400-page BTDC-World Bank document containing mail correspondences, bills, and researches, and thirteen volumes of GHM’s late 90s publication: The Magazine — A Style to Remember.