This expansive villa in Bali draws inspiration from traditional vernacular houses of Javanese people
Nestled in the hills of the Balinese highlands is Rumah Hujan, a unique eco-conscious property built with recycled and sustainable materials – including a decommissioned bridge from Borneo.
Ubud is often regarded as the artistic and cultural hub of Bali for its thriving community of creatives, artisans and artists. Not surprisingly, many of the buildings and homes in this region feature unique architecture inspired by local elements.
Just north of the main town of Ubud on the edge of the Tjampuhan ridge is the poetically named Rumah Hujan, which means House of Rain.
“There is something melancholic or honest about it. And it rains a lot in Ubud and the rain is beautiful,” said architect Maximilian Jencquel who conceived and built this sprawling 25,800 sq ft private residence.
Surrounded by verdant greenery and overlooking a river, Jencquel took special care to ensure the house would meld seamlessly with the surroundings and that the land would remain undisturbed.
“The idea that the house blends into nature rather than having it stick out was an important aspect of the design process,” said Jencquel, who runs a boutique design studio in Ubud. “It is meant to not be obstructive to anybody who is on the other side of the valley and looking into this. We wanted it to feel like it is part of nature.”
The property had its beginnings in 2009, when, with the help of a client, Jencquel had the opportunity to purchase a decommissioned ironwood bridge in Borneo. The arduous project, which involved dismantling all the wood and shipping them to Bali, took a year to complete.
“It was these huge logs of ironwood that were used initially for that bridge and that had been dismantled. The actual process of making it happen was difficult,” he recalled. “I have an attraction to wood and a lot of the architecture here in Bali use a lot of wood.”
When the logs finally arrived in Bali, he engaged the help of an American carpenter to learn how to use the reclaimed wood to build a home. To successfully execute the project, Jencquel teamed up with a group of experienced Balinese woodworkers, whose skills he still relies on today.
“They are Balinese carpenters who have also acquired the knowledge from an American carpenter so they have a vast vocabulary in joinery making and tools. I had to learn from them how things are being made so there was an exchange happening,” observed Jencquel.
Rumah Hujan comprises four unique standalone buildings, including a single pool villa that overlooks a valley as well as two adjoining cabins and a uniquely shaped pavilion. The main villa features a spacious living room, dining room and a kitchen plus three bedrooms.
“The pillars that you see, the part of the roof structures, the hips and the single 8m-long elements – which is quite unusual – are ironwood, a very precious [type of] wood,’ said Jencquel.
The ironwood also features prominently in some of the furnishings in the residence. “You will find that the dining table, the coffee table and possibly even the chopsticks in the drawers in the kitchen are made from the same ironwood. Since we had the wood on the property, I did not want any of it to go to waste,” he explained.
The other buildings on the estate happened in a “more organic way” and are actually joglo buildings -– the traditional vernacular houses of Javanese people. “The houses up where the office and residence are, are existing buildings that we bought from Java. We transformed them and put them on the land,” he said.
One of the cabins, he said, will always remain the most precious one that he has lived in with his family because his first son was born there – there is something special on the property to commemorate this life changing experience.
Pointing to a plant growing in the garden near the entrance, he spoke of its significance. “The plant here is known locally as sedap malam and we planted it here for a very special occasion. There is a tradition here that when the firstborn child comes that the placenta gets buried next to the entrance of the house. For us it is very symbolic and a beautiful element of the property,” he reflected.
The final building in the compound is an eye-catching 9m-tall badminton court that they have affectionately christened the kura-kura or tortoise for its shell-shaped roof.
He said, “As I started getting more interested in badminton, I started analysing the trajectory of the shuttlecock and I realised that it was creating this curve. Towards the edges of the court, you do not need the same height as in the centre of the court.”
So, he approached Elora Hardy, a sustainable designer who founded Ibuku design and architecture studio, to collaborate with him to build this distinctive badminton court. Hardy, who has spent the last 12 years specialising in sustainable buildings and homes, is particularly known for using bamboo as a building material.
“They are the specialists in bamboo on the island of Bali and probably worldwide and she was like, ‘Yes, this is exactly what we’d love to do’,” he recalled. “So that was when the collaboration started.”
While Jencquel and his family no longer live in Rumah Hujan, this development continues to hold a special place in his heart. He said: “It has been an incredible journey. It is a place where I founded my family and it is a place also that helped me develop and grow as a professional. So you could say that Rumah Hujan is an extension of myself.”
Surrounded by verdant greenery and overlooking a river, Rumah Hujan, which means House of Rain, is located north of the main town of Ubud on the edge of the Tjampuhan ridge. Architect Maximilian Jencquel took special care to ensure the house would meld seamlessly with the surroundings and that the land would remain undisturbed. Most importantly, he engaged the help of an American carpenter to learn how to use the reclaimed wood from the decommissioned bridge to build a home. To successfully execute the project, Jencquel teamed up with a group of experienced Balinese woodworkers, whose skills he still relies on today.