ross mcleod and campbell drake


The Bali travel studio examined ideas surrounding cultural identity in an age of homogenous globalisation. In doing this the studio explored the translation of traditional values and cultures in the contemporary design world and developed proposals for the promotion of cultural, environmental and economic sustainability through design. As part of the project a group of students and lecturers travelled to Bali for two weeks in September 2012 and engaged in a series of journeys, adventures, activities and workshops that brought into focus issues surrounding local customs and contemporary culture.

Before embarking on the trip the students researched issues surrounding Bali’s cultural traditions and recent development and engaged in an exploration of spatial typologies inherent to both traditional buildings and contemporary architecture. Through a series of research projects the group accumulated information on issues of spirituality and religion; culture, food and customs; politics, economics and industry; and architecture, eco-tourism and development. These studies were ultimately expressed through the collection of a series of ‘objects of curiosity’ that were assembled into a small publication. These iconic items acted as touchstones for the groups burgeoning understanding of the island and its inhabitants.

These initial projects were augmented by a hands-on making project in which students were asked to take on the idea of an ‘offering’, as expressed through the daily Balinese ritual, and explore ways that a similar sensibility can be adopted in a contemporary way. This project attempted to look beyond the religious dimension of such practices and uncover the many levels of ideas that can be translated into designing objects for our modern secular everyday lifestyle. The students responses were meant to consider how the idea of an offering can be expressed through the containing of particular items and how the design of such a container can elevate the idea of a utilitarian object to the level of a celebrated ritual. In doing this the students addressed ways in which the sourcing, fashioning and expected lifespan of materials can be addressed in sustainable ways and how the craft techniques used in the production of an object can imbue the piece with inherent values.

With these insights into the cultural issues and an appreciation of craft in place, the group were well prepared to encounter the many wonders that Bali has to offer. Throughout their travels the students were actively identifying potential design briefs within the places we visited and were seeking to develop design responses to these sites and scenarios that would result in a positive cross-cultural outcome. The study tour included visits to the Bali Bomb site and the nightlife of Kuta; an engagement with the surfing culture of Uluwatu; viewings of six star tourist resorts in the Bukhit; visits to the Green School and Gaya Ceramics in Ubud; a cycle tour through the coffee plantations and traditional rice growing fields north of Ubud; climbing to the peak of Mount Batur and visiting traditional Bali Aga villages whose cultural and environmental practices extend back over five hundred years. These travels were augmented by meetings with local artists, architects and designers such as Made Wijaya, Trisna Newson and Suriawati and Jindee Chua from CushCush design.

The projects that were developed from these experiences included Hugh Crothers proposal for a memorial civic space on the site of the Sari Club bombings, Tabitha Tattenbach’s exploration of animal rights and interactions, Alice Sehovic’s redesign of the Warung experience intended to educate tourists about traditional street food, Laura Casey’s investigation of the rituals of dining, Chein Yu Yeh’s reconfiguration of a Kopi Lewak plantation, Bronwyn Uphill’s dramatic temporal structures perched on limestone cliff faces overlooking the sea and Giselle Hernandez’s Water Spa complex that correlated the physicality of the architectural surroundings with the energies of both the body and the landscape.




water spa - ubud - giselle hernandez




civic space memorial - sari club site - hugh crothers


kopi luwak plantation - ubud - chien yu yeh




dining utensils - laura casey



STUDENTS: Hugh Crothers, Bronwyn Uphill, Giselle Hernadez, Chein Yu Yeh, Laura Casey, Kelvis Liu, Tabitha Tattenbach, Alice Sehovic, Ursula Keith, Prudence Bretherton, Alicia Meagher, Julia Goldsworthy, Crystal Tjandra.