Luxury Lifestyle Awards recently spent some time with Sasta Jelantik and Jung Yat, the Co-founders of SHL Asia, an international architecture, landscape, interior and special artwork design consultancy that’s making impressive waves that are rippling through Asia’s design scene. The studio was recently awarded in the category of Best Luxury Architect Studio in Indonesia for 2022. We speak to them about this achievement, what underpins their design’s philosophy and what lies ahead for this trailblazing team.
Luxury Lifestyle Awards (LLA): Sasta, Jung – it’s great to have this time with you. We would like to start by congratulating you on your recent win in the category of Best Luxury Architect Studio in Indonesia. Can you share with us what it means to receive this award?
SHL Asia: Thank you so much! It has become another milestone for SHL Asia to receive such a prestigious award and we feel extremely honoured and proud at the same time. This award is both validation and vindication of our hard work and effort in delivering A-grade products and services for each of our clients. Winning this award means recognition and visibility. It allows us to represent and reintroduce our culture in the international stage through designs. It feels incredibly amazing to share our love towards the Indonesian and Balinese culture with the rest of the world and we hope we can continue celebrating it.
LLA: You launched SHL Asia in 2010. Can you please take us back to the events or circumstances that led you two to taking the bold step to collaborative in such a manner?
SHL Asia: When we looked back at it, it’s actually quite a funny story where faith really brought us together. Over a decade ago, when we didn’t know each other back then, we have worked at the same company, at a different period of time. Later on, we met at Bensley Design Studio and worked there for a couple of years before we teamed up to join a landscape design competition and ended up as the winner against big names. Being two young and carefree architects, we finally decided to be independent and established SHL Asia.
LLA: Sasta, what do you believe are Jung’s strengths and how have they contributed to SHL Asia’s success?
SHL Asia: What I admire from Jung is his commitment and integrity for SHL Asia. I believe in doing business and partnership, it is important to have these traits in order for the business to grow and Jung always gives his all. I also see Jung as a visioner where he can find opportunities and solutions whenever we face challenges. Most importantly, I have realized that we have learned to put our ego aside when we have to make decisions for a bigger mutual goal for SHL Asia.
LLA: Jung, perhaps you could answer the same question Sasta and also let us in on why you think your partnership works so well?
SHL Asia: I always believe success is not the result of one man, it is the collaboration of people with the same vision and value. Having Sasta as my business partner for more than a decade have been a great journey. Despite our differences, I feel like we complement each other very well. I am often quick in making decisions without thinking everything through and Sasta always balance this out. His detailed orientation and calm way of thinking has been keeping the company to stay afloat and on the right track.
LLA: What do you believe are the unique traits, or even features about SHL Asia that have enabled the studio to be as successful as it is?
SHL Asia: For the longest time we tried to figure out what is it that made us unique and stand out among others. Then finally on our 10th anniversary, we came to a realization that SHL Asia always provide a personalized design to meet every need and desire of our clients. We believe everyone has their own dream, their own perspective on beauty and function, we are here to translate them into an exciting design experience with the solid foundation of Desa Kala Patra philosophy that involve a lot of elements of local culture, art, and nature. SHL Asia does not have any particular characteristic, however, we always provide a unique and personalize design for each client and project. Once we did three different projects with the same client and each took on a different approach and applied different concepts.
LLA: The principles of Desa Kala Patra are closely held to your design hearts, what is it about this philosophy that appeals to you?
SHL Asia: Desa Kala Patra is one of the oldest Balinese philosophies on the flexibility of the society to interpret a certain place (Desa), time (Kala), and situation (Patra) or act and behave accordingly, in-short. This particular concept has become the solid foundation for SHL Asia in creating designs to always respond accordingly. After being in the industry for over a decade, we have carried on this value with the element of culture, art, and nature into each of our designs. Although every client and every project are different from one another, we have channelled this value throughout the years regardless. It can be challenging at times; however, we thrive to always bring something different and personal to the table. Each client, each site, each project is never the same as they imagine, and projects differs in design.
LLA: In your view, how is this ancient Balinese approach relevant to design across the world – how can it be interpreted and applied by designers across the globe who don’t share your Balinese heritage?
SHL Asia: The concept of Desa Kala Patra is actually not a design philosophy but the whole philosophy on life. It is universal as it can be implemented by anyone and anywhere. Back in the days, the Balinese believed that Desa Kala Patra served as a guideline to carry out good deeds. As Balinese, we have been implementing this concept on the daily basis. We were taught on how to respond accordingly to every place, time, and situation in every aspect of life. Every architect and designer can apply this approach only if they remember to put their ego aside in order to see whatever local context there is and implement it into the design.
LLA: Balinese design and architecture is quite distinct – it has its unique features that make it relatively easy to identify its influence. With that said, do you think there is room for it to evolve?
SHL Asia: Yes absolutely. Because of how organic and fluid Balinese architecture is, it has been evolving throughout the years and even popularized by the implementation in hospitality design for top class resorts and hotels across Asia and the world. When talking about Balinese design and architecture, we are talking about identities and philosophies. There are main principles that it follows for example for the proportion (Tri Angga) and layout to zoning (Mandala) and the relationship with the surrounding (macro & microcosmos), however, in terms of visual and appearance, it is up to every designer to be as creative in responding to the demand. A quick example from one of our architecture projects, Asa Mansion, a luxury mansion in Umalas, Bali. We implement Balinese architecture in a more modern and contemporary way such as a simplified Balinese gate, the layout of the house with the inner courtyard (natah) and the semi-open concept to create harmony with the outside.
LLA: There’s a global push to be more sensitive to the environmental needs of our planet. What do you believe is the role of architects and their designs in achieving this? How do architects contribute to a more sustainable world?
SHL Asia: As architect and designer, we are responsible for reducing the negative environmental impact from a built environment as we are also the citizens of our environments. Our role is basically to preserve and improve a quality-built environment under our design. In Bali, we have always been taught to respect our surroundings, to always find harmony and synergy with everything around us (Tri Hita Karana). In order to do so, we need to be aware and mindful to the environment. It is important to create harmony and synergy with the nature, preserve the existing contour as much as we can and minimize footprint. Landscape also plays a huge part in revitalizing the environment by prioritizing green space for each project as well as make use of any existing tree. We also encourage the application of local materials to reduce carbon footprint and support local craftmanship as it is also one of the ways to create a more sustainable world for nature and socio-cultural.
LLA: In your view, what have been the luxury architecture trends to emerge in the last few years? Has the pandemic influenced these at all?
SHL Asia: We see luxury nowadays by having space and being close with nature. Since the pandemic effected the use of space and circulation, it is now become essential in design and architecture. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford or have the privilege to access these things thus it becomes luxury. For our luxury mansion projects, the use of space is being maximized with each room and spread across, and there are a lot of openings throughout the house that allow abundant natural air and light to circulate. This is also a way to create the impression of how the inside and out is somewhat connected.
LLA: Speaking about the pandemic, what are the lessons you’ve learnt about building a resilient studio that can withstand pressure?
SHL Asia: In this world full of competition and rivalry, we believe that collaboration is one of the keys to succeed. Not only within the company but also with other designers and creators. Together we created opportunity and inspire others. Other than that, the pandemic also taught us to be open minded with technology and the digital world. It was not until the pandemic that we started shifting into online orientation in doing business as a whole without reducing the quality of our products and services and it turned out to be the right decision for the company.
LLA: What does the future hold for SHL Asia? What can we look forward to?
SHL Asia: Our vision is to be a multi-disciplinary design consultant that can provide personalized designs based on the philosophy of Desa Kala Patra. For the next five years, we will be focusing in expanding our business to provide clients with comprehensive services beyond designing which include general and landscape contractors, to artwork suppliers. In the meantime, we will continue helping clients in realizing their dreams through design that is enriched with the element of culture, art and nature for the ultimate timeless design experience.