STORY BY Will Wiriawan PHOTO BY Daylight Photoworks
Farming has been the way of life for many Balinese generations. At 75 kilometres, the Ayung River is the longest and most historically significant river in the island. For one, it was the lifeline of the then-farming lifestyle, and it has inspired countless objects of art. Ayung, once the main source of the majority of irrigation dams and the simplistic nature of the village life, is now attracting thousands of vacation goers to be nestled in the forests and valleys inside the many world-class luxurious resorts in Bali. The Ritz-Carlton aims to take that luxury up a notch with its latest Ritz-Carlton Reserve project and so Mandapa was born.
When designer Miles Humphreys of PT Bali Anugrah Dewata got the brief, he went to the barren site and examined its extreme contours. Both Miles and the project owner were determined to use the challenging and unforgiving 10-storey descent to the riverside to their favour even though this entailed a major excavation work. “I want the Mandapa to look aged, to have a feel that it has been there forever,” he touted “I want it to also disappear so that the nature is the main show.”
The site, designed in a more toned-down, earthy look, has since revealed itself to be a natural beauty. At the bottom of the valley is a tenderfoot curve of the river — one of its kind in the entire length of Ayung — where a well-cultivated, sizable rice field would become one of the property’s central element.
“It is a magical site, and I intend to keep it that way,” said Miles, who also added he is glad both the owner and operator share the vision. The Ritz-Carlton Reserve team has been integral to the Mandapa project since the beginning. Washington – where Ritz-Carlton is headquartered — has the final call on almost all aspects of Mandapa. Unlike the previous Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico and Thailand, the Mandapa Ubud is the first Reserve property to abide by the Reserve standard in its entirety. Every single design decision was based on four mantras: Striking, Intimate, Magical and Enlightening. The same four words can be said about the experience of staying in Mandapa.
Miles showed the one picture that inspired him for this project, a picture showing the infamous Potala Palace in Tibet perched atop a hill. The concept has been cleverly realized on Mandapa’s gigantic 10-storey main structure. From this al fresco joglo-style wooden structure, Mandapa’s crown, guests have an unobstructed view of the whole compound. It is one of the two identifiable features of the resort, the other being the one-of-a-kind terracotta piazza that is also Mandapa’s point of entry.
At the bottom of the valley, Bamboo pods are erected at a near river-level to house nine private dining cocoons. This is a rather radical departure from the timber-based structure all around Mandapa. Raised above the rice field, is the Sawah Terrace, where breakfast and lunch are served. The two are designed to be different yet a complement to one another; wood versus bamboo, rice field and the river, day versus night.
More conventional structures can be found at Mandapa’s treatment and sports facilities, but that wouldn’t fly without Mandapa’s own twist; the post-treatment area offers private day bed with intricately-carved wooden partition in a descending composition leading to a floor-to-ceiling opening to the river.
Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, is a masterful symphony rendered with architectural objects. It has succeeded in crafting a truly local, back-to-nature experience by taking advantage of the breathtaking location, one that many luxury properties from Bali’s future generation will draw inspiration from.
Mandapa, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve Ubud
Banjar Kedewatan Gianyar
Ubud, Bali 80571
T: +62 361 4792777