Why Are There no Tall Buildings in Bali?
As a local Balinese, I’m delighted to share with you a unique aspect of our beautiful island: the absence of towering skyscrapers.
If you’ve ever visited Bali, you might have noticed that our buildings are relatively low-rise, rarely exceeding a few stories. Many visitors are curious about the reasons behind this architectural choice, so let’s dive into the heart of Balinese culture to uncover the answer.
The Sacred Balance: Tri Hita Karana
One of the core beliefs in Balinese culture is the concept of Tri Hita Karana, which emphasizes the harmony between humans, nature, and the spiritual realm. This philosophy teaches us to maintain a balance between these three elements, as it is believed that disrupting this harmony can lead to misfortune and suffering.
In accordance with Tri Hita Karana, our buildings are designed to coexist with the natural environment, instead of dominating it. Keeping structures low-rise preserves the island’s aesthetic and allows us to live in harmony with the surrounding landscape, which includes mountains, forests, and rice terraces.
Respect for the Gods
Bali is known as the “Island of the Gods,” and the spiritual aspect of our culture is ever-present. Locals believe that the gods reside in the mountains, especially the tallest peak on the island, Mount Agung. As a sign of respect and devotion, we refrain from constructing buildings taller than the island’s coconut trees, ensuring that our structures don’t compete with the sacred heights of the mountains.
The Balinese government enforces building regulations that align with our cultural and spiritual beliefs. One such regulation limits the height of structures to 15 meters (approximately 49 feet), which is roughly the height of a mature coconut tree. These rules help to preserve the unique Balinese skyline and maintain the island’s traditional charm.
Preserving the Balinese Architectural Identity
Bali’s architectural style is deeply rooted in our cultural and religious beliefs. By keeping buildings low-rise, we can preserve the distinctive Balinese aesthetic, characterized by the use of local materials such as bamboo, thatch, and stone. This approach also enables us to showcase our island’s exceptional craftsmanship and maintain our architectural identity in the face of modernization.
Bali’s economy relies heavily on tourism, and the island’s natural beauty, cultural richness, and traditional charm are significant draws for visitors. By maintaining the low-rise character of our buildings, we can promote sustainable tourism that prioritizes the preservation of our environment and cultural heritage, which in turn, ensures a more authentic experience for tourists.
Exceptions to The Rule
While the general rule in Bali is to limit building heights to approximately 15 meters (49 feet) or the height of a mature coconut tree, there have been some exceptions over the years. These exceptions are typically found in more urbanized areas or where tourism development has expanded. Here are a couple of examples:
Hotel and Resort Developments: Certain hotels and resorts have been allowed to exceed the traditional height limit to accommodate a larger number of guests. However, these must maintain a Balinese architectural style or integrate local design elements into their construction.
Airport Control Tower: As a functional necessity, the control tower at Ngurah Rai International Airport stands taller than the general height restriction. This exception is made to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the airport.
While exceptions do exist, they are relatively rare and often subject to strict regulations or scrutiny by local authorities. The overall emphasis on preserving Balinese architectural identity, culture, and the harmony between humans, nature, and the spiritual realm remains strong.
The absence of skyscraper in Bali is not an architectural oversight, but a deliberate choice that stems from our deep-rooted beliefs, values, and cultural identity. By keeping our buildings low-rise, we can maintain the harmony between humans, nature, and the spiritual realm, while preserving the distinct aesthetic of our island paradise. So, when you visit Bali, take a moment to appreciate the modest heights of our structures and the unique skyline they create, as they reflect the essence of what makes Bali so enchanting.