Nirjhara resort in Bali by Dimitri Tran and Adrien Portier imbibes the true spirit of sustainable luxury

SEP 19, 2020 | By Aneesha Bhadri
Nestled amid a coconut grove, the Canopy Suites’ modern tropical design complements the lush landscape; Photographs by Martin Westlake
Each River Pavilion is fitted with a private deck; Photographs by Martin Westlake
The outdoor shower uses rugged natural stone and exudes a tropical holiday feel; Photographs by Martin Westlake
Each villa and suite offers a distinctive view imbued with authentic Balinese charm; Photographs by Martin Westlake
The 25m-long saltwater pool emerges as an oasis at the heart of the resort; Photographs by Martin Westlake
The resort’s saltwater pool offers solace in the midst of nature; Photographs by Martin Westlake
Spa suites are clad with white oak panelling and appointed with custom teak furniture sourced from sustainable forestry; Photographs by Martin Westlake
Nirjhara’s Canopy Suite pushes the boundaries of sustainable design. It uses reclaimed teak, natural fibre wallpaper by Omexco and recycled flooring composed of discarded rubber tree wood; Photographs by Martin Westlake
The thick headboard is made of solid live-edge wood; Photographs by Martin Westlake
Canopy Suite's minimalist bathroom is equipped with Axor fittings by Philippe Starck and a freestanding washbasin by Kaldewei that contrasts with stone grey wall cladding from Porcelanosa; Photographs by Martin Westlake
The resort’s natural slope endows each suite with scenic views of the verdurous surroundings; Photographs by Martin Westlake
The River Pavilion’s interior celebrates Indonesian craftsmanship through extensive use of coconut shell panelling, rattan and handmade, natural indigo fabrics by Tarum in East Bali; Photographs by Martin Westlake
An earthy appeal is seen in the River Pavilion bathroom, where terrazzo and cream marble complement his-and-her vanity furniture in coconut shell and stained teak; Photographs by Martin Westlake
The dramatic exposed roof of the Ambu restaurant; Photographs by Martin Westlake
The sleek bar revels in its use of white marble with touches of copper found in the custom vases designed by Bali-based Gaya Ceramic and the Void pendants by Tom Dixon; Photographs by Martin Westlake
Award-winning sustainable architects Ibuku created the Yoga Shala using bamboo; Photographs by Martin Westlake

Reminiscent of the Balinese landscapes they first encountered when visiting the country in the 1990s, Dimitri Tran and Adrien Portier were impressed the moment they set foot on what was to be the resort’s site. “The gentle river and stunning waterfall juxtaposed with boundless rice fields in the backdrop present an authentic vision of Bali, a postcard perfect view of the island. To this day, we haven’t tired of the scenery,” beams Tran.

The natural features of the locale influenced the design of the project from the onset. A meandering river forming part of the subak rice field irrigation system and a local community that has managed to preserve its authentic Balinese charm served as inspirations. Even the name Nirjhara—Sanskrit for waterfall—was chosen to echo the indigenous roots of the property.

For the architecture, the designers primarily relied on local wood and stone. “Indonesians have been cutting and carving stones for decorative purpose for centuries and we referred to their expertise to create tactile and visual contrasts through the combination of smooth grey andesite and rugged volcanic stones,” divulges Portier.

Local produce—some from the resort’s own kitchen garden—is used in the restaurant Ambu. The custom plate is from Gaya Ceramic & Design; Photographs by Martin Westlake

The layout of Nirjhara resort is interspersed with open spaces and pavilions reminiscent of traditional bales—places of gathering for families and local communities in Balinese society. This is also reflected in the spacious common areas, located at the heart of the property, where guests are encouraged to partake in activities organised by the resort, interact with the hosts, and experience Balinese culture.

The hotel follows a modern tropical approach to design—public spaces and river pavilions draw inspiration from Balinese architecture, while the treehouses are relatively contemporary and experimental. On the other hand, the Yoga Shala centre seamlessly merges with nature and pushes the boundaries of sustainable construction.

“We thoroughly enjoyed designing Shala. It sits in a unique location. It is bordered by a charming river and faces an imposing waterfall and a natural green wall connected to the surrounding rice paddies. While planning the yoga pavilion, we realised that the direct proximity to nature dictated its design. So, while Nirjhara’s overall architecture does not typically use bamboo, it felt like a logical choice for the yoga centre,” explains Tran.

The farm-to-table concept helps the restaurant Ambu offer a fresh take on Balinese classics; Photographs by Martin Westlake

The villas feature clean lines, earthy tones and decorative accents imbued with the quintessence of Indonesian design, while offering a fresh perspective on a tropical aesthetic. For each suite, the resort collaborated exclusively with local artisans and emerging artists from the archipelago to produce bespoke pieces that exhibit exceptional levels of craftsmanship and to promote contemporary Indonesian art, respectively.

Through the use of natural materials combined with expert craftsmanship, the artisans handcrafted elegant, tactile pieces such as fabrics and kimonos produced on the island, woven rattan furniture for the suites, coconut panelling for the headboards, and extensive use of wood carving seen across the resort.

Earthy tones dominate the palette, lending the property a quaint, timeless appeal. The beige hue of marble from Sulawesi, the varying grey shades of the stone cladding, or the perpetually evolving colour of wood panelling serve as the perfect backdrop.

The decorative fabrics are handwoven in East Bali and dyed using natural, plant-based indigo. The turquoise green of the pools and ponds is seen in the batu hijau or green stone used throughout the resort. Not to mention the thriving tropical garden around the property that creates a veritable palette of rich rainbow hues.

“Sustainable luxury is the overarching theme. Yet we wanted the resort to be an experiential place, where guests could feel at home yet utterly transported,” says Portier. While Tran shares, “We do not view sustainability as a marketing scheme. We genuinely believe that businesses should care about the environment, regardless of their industry or location. Some of the most powerful initiatives we’ve incorporated are likely to go unnoticed, although their impact is highly tangible.”

Some of the measures undertaken include setting up heat pumps and solar water heaters, using wood for construction that was either reclaimed, upcycled or grown on certified sustainable plantations, eliminating single-use plastic, setting up a water purification facility on-site to bottle drinking water in recycled glass containers, removing single-use bathroom amenities in each of our suites.

It’s no wonder then that Nirjhara redefines the notion of sustainable luxury with its refined and contemporary design. “We did not want to create yet another eco-lodge. Our take on sustainability is ubiquitous yet discreet. It has been one of our core values since the inception of the project and tangible efforts were made throughout, from design to construction. We believe that sustainability and luxury can go hand in hand without having to compromise,” concludes Portier.