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British architect Tony Gwilliam designed the -house with a philosophy of environmental stewardship uppermost in his mind and heart. -houses are modular so that any number of rooms may be configured to suit individual family needs. He thinks of such houses more like a well-executed piece of furniture or the fine workmanship of the components on a boat where each part not only has a purpose but is also aesthetically appropriate.

Tony designed the -houses with a concept of forming a small community with simple housing, a plan for ‘minimal impact living’. He has started such a complex in the village of Lodtunduh near Ubud on the edge of extensive rice terraces situated within a grove of bamboo, coconut, banana, and jackfruit trees. There are nine individual -houses positioned for maximum privacy, each with a view of the sawah landscape and spectacular Bali sunsets. Part of Tony’s philosophy is to never build on the rice fields but to use land untellable for rice cultivation, which is usually on the edges of existing sawah or in river ravines. Many fruit trees, flower and organic vegetable gardens have been planted for communal sharing, as are the 14-metre lap pool, computer room and laundry room that are being planned.
Tucked into a tropical garden for shade and privacy, -houses blend into the landscape rather than impose on it. This -house has an alang-alang roof on the two-storey module and ironwood shingles on the meditation pavilion to its left. Sleeping rooms are located on both floors of the main structure and a semi-outdoor kitchen is to the right. A bathroom with outdoor shower shares a secret garden with the meditation bale.
Ironwood–which is extremely dense, impervious to termites and lasts indefinitely, even in the hot and humid tropical climate of Bali–is used exclusively in -house construction. Cut and sawn in Kalimantan and assembled on site by village labour, the ironwood is oiled for the final finish; if left untreated, the wood develops a soft grey patina.

Gwilliam is the lead architect on the Lodtunduh -house project along with architect Marita Vidal. The project’s construction is by Nyoman Sarma and its project manager is Wayan Nama. For this project, the team agreed that the village of Lodtunduh was to be closely involved–neighbours helping neighbours–and so they taught the local people construction techniques and how to grow vegetables and plants the organic way. In keeping with the communal aspect of the project, the people are also being trained to after maintenance, cooking and housekeeping services. Says Tony, “This a win-win project. We learn local farming culture and crafts from the locals and we share our global knowledge with the villagers.”
The actual footprint of a -house is small, but all rooms are organized for optimum use like the rooms on a boat. There is a feeling similar to traditional Japanese design. Beautifully proportioned sliding doors open to the breezes and integrate the indoor and outdoor spaces. Here, in this meditation pavilion, a kotatsu table for dining can be lowered into a recess if a larger floor area is desired. The bridge to the meditation pavilion is over the water garden that surrounds and flows under portions of the -house.
Before coming to Bali, Tony Gwilliam worked with Buckminster Fuller for many years and was actively engaged in the design and building of geodesic domes. This experience led Tony to the premise for the -house: “The most efficient systems are the simplest. My basic philosophy has always been to build a house that improves the environtment instead of compromising it. I want to help people reconnect to our past, each other, our planet, our universe–recreating a synergetic and co-creative relationship with nature, not a separation."
Gathering places, Balinese Architecture - A Spiritual & Spatial Orientation
by Barbara Walker. Jay Graham