“Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.” —Leonardo Da Vinci

“Every decision you make, you should think seven generations ahead.” —Toshiko Mori

As the world comes to recognize that the notion of climate change is morphing into a full-fl edged climate disaster, it increasingly falls to us as architects and designers to fi nd ways to mitigate and minimize the impacts of the developments and buildings that we design. Every question and decision that we make, including perhaps whether to build at all, can be studied through the lens of environmental impact as we seek to go beyond merely sustainable as an ambition to a proposition of community and endeavour that is “sustaining” and restorative not just less bad.

Our Studio will take us to the remote island of Gili Meno, one of the Gili Island Group located off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia. Here we will develop proposals for a new type of beach-based resort, built around the principals of sustainable development, designed to minimize environmental impact in construction and operation and to be restorative to the ecosystem and the local community.

The studio will focus on the impact of global tourism on these fragile environments and will work to develop propositions for a particular site on this tropical island. The ambition however is that your proposals could have a more universal application in other similarly threatened environments through thoughtful and provocative design. Your designs should propose new ways of thinking about this future resort typology to make resilient and renewing places that both protect the natural environment and ensure that it can survive for the enjoyment of future generations.

Sustainability is without scale but it is fundamentally a comparative term—one can make decisions that may be perceived as more or less sustainable against different objective criteria (carbon emissions, water use, material properties, toxicity etc.) but achieving an absolute state of being “sustainable” is not likely. So our language and exploration needs to target more positive absolute conditions throughout.


The studio will focus on tourism and the growing concern at its impact on some of the most fragile ecosystems on the planet and how architecture might play its part in mitigating the impact.

Accepting that, at the moment, there is little we can do to stem the tide of global travel and man’s desire to visit remote parts of the world, how do we design sensitive, sustaining destinations that meet the needs of the modern traveler whilst also responding to the need to protect the natural environment and deal with the impending changes in climate.

Should we just say “NO, we should not build here”? Well, maybe, and this is something we will debate. But as architects and designers we are frequently retained to take on projects where our first reaction might well be “better to do nothing.“ The question then is how to take on the project and make the most of it by challenging ourselves and our client to make the most of the opportunity for the long term. Locating this project in the most precarious of places, requiring significant offshore resources to build and operate, while being exposed to the extreme threats from seismic activity and climate change, should help us to uncover what it really means to be “resource efficient” while planning for the long term.

The studio will study particular climatic issues including rising sea levels, increases in extreme weather patterns and geological actions like earthquakes, volcano eruptions and the associated tsunamis. We will then seek to propose design solutions to combat the effect that these natural and (potentially!) man made phenomenal have on buildings in areas that are affected.

We will encourage investigations into Bio-mimicry in design where we can develop ways of existing in increasingly harsh environments by learning from the natural world. For example, how the Camel’s Nostril has informed ways of controlling temperature and water conservation in harsh climates. Or the way termites have developed ways to cool their vast nests using thermal mass, convection and evaporative cooling.

We will also be investigating ways of the development being as self-sustaining as possible, by generating power or growing food or materials (bamboo for example) to be used on site. Can the development give back more than it takes?

We will also encourage the exploration of indigenous architectural forms, structures and materials and traditional building techniques which could be adapted with modern materials from sustainable sources to make a design that refers culturally to its area and specific site location. The islands of Indonesia have a strong vernacular tradition that is rooted in an understanding of the environmental performance as well as the strong community influence, evident for example in the Balinese long-houses and the Sasak houses common on Lombok with their suspended floors and steep grass roofs. The goal is for the land, site, topography, climate, geological and cultural influences to grow the project not the other way round. It will also need to be a beautiful and well considered piece of architecture that sits well in its surroundings.

The project will need to be grounded in some form of commercial reality and an outline appraisal and cost plan along with an area schedule will need to be developed for commercial appraisal. We will also be asking you to tailor your own program based around the program below.

You will be asked to choose between two types of tourist:

  1. The up-market 5-star traveler, getting away from it all with access to quiet and seclusion with associated wellness, sports and fine dining facilities

  2. The mobile young/millennial/chic hippy market, also getting away from it all but seeking a more active, social and communal experience with emphasis on beach, challenging sports and a lively nightlife

The final outcome will be a resort for the future that responds to the unique topography, geology and biology of the site. It will provide a world class resort for the particular user you have identified, will have in-built resilience, be a model of sustainable design and be a beautiful timeless piece of architecture that gives a unique holiday experience.

The Site—Gili Meno—The Gili Islands

“Look deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” —Albert Einstein

Why the Gili Islands?

Gili Meno is the middle of the three islands that make up the Gili Islands off the northwest coast of Lombok in Indonesia. Before permanent human settlement, thought to have started in the 1970’s, the islands were pristine mangrove habitats with a rich abundance of marine life on the coral reefs. They may have been used temporarily as stop-off points for local fi shermen on their way to and from Lombok.

During the Second World War Japanese forces occupied the Islands and used them as lookout posts and prisoner of war camps, but life was harsh due to lack of power and fresh water.

Since the fi rst permanent settlements in the 1970’s the islands have seen a growing rise in the tourism with travelers attracted to the remote islands, clear waters and reefs for snorkeling and diving. As tourism developed, more buildings were built and hotels and resorts were constructed.

As in so many other parts of the world, the rise in the number of tourists to the small islands have started to have damaging effects on the marine ecosystem, the land and the purity and beauty of the place. The very reason that people came to the islands is being eroded and serious thought needs to be given to how resorts of the future can preserve the natural beauty of the Islands and how man and nature can live more in harmony.

Today there are a number of resorts on the islands attracting people from all over the word. Motorized forms of transport are not allowed on the islands so people get about by bicycle, foot or on horse drawn carriages.


Just after 7.30pm on the 11th August 2018 two serious earthquakes on the island of Lombok shook the Gili Islands. The stronger second quake, measured 6.9 in magnitude and destroyed many of the buildings and most of the infrastructure leaving over 320 people dead, 1,000 injured and 270,000 homeless.

Thankfully there was no tsunami or it could all have been much worse.

The guests at the Karma Reef on Gili Meno were unhurt but the experience and the fear overnight with limited elevation above the ocean and no communications or power was something they will never forget.

This horrifying natural disaster gave us pause for thought as we discussed the location and context for this studio. Where better for us to go to study at the limits of sustainability than the most fragile of low lying islands, with limited resources, threats from man-made and natural disasters all around and an ever increasing demand from the outside to be one of the most idyllic and ‘natural’ holidays in the world.

In many ways the problems and issues that face the Gili Islands, and every other low-lying inhabited island, right now are a foretaste of the problems that bigger ‘islands,‘ including the USA and the UK, are destined to face in the years ahead. Everyone on the planet is effectively surrounded by water to a greater or lesser extent and enormous numbers of people will be seriously impacted by the climate emergency. (See Buckminster Fuller Dymaxion Map over leaf, which is a flat earth map with very little distortion of any land mass and sees the world as a single island in a single ocean).

Rising sea levels and climate change will fundamentally alter the way that we need to think and act as designers. Access to resources, designing with the climate and natural systems, investment in the circular economy, resilience and efficiency are just some of the issues that we need to confront—all are to a large extent scalable and our attitudes certainly need to be.

The Site—Karma Resort—Gili Meno

The studio will work to develop propositions for the sustainable redevelopment of the Karma Reef resort on Gili Meno. Each student will develop their own proposals and will play a part in the development of their brief, working closely with John. There are a range of types of guests that visit this type of resort, but the students will need to work with one of two alternative demographics and build their designs around either:

  1. The up-market 5-star traveler, getting away from it all with access to quiet and seclusion with associated wellness, sports and fi ne dining facilities

  2. The mobile young/millennial/chic hippy market, also getting away from it all but seeking a more active, social and communal experience with emphasis on beach, challenging sports and a lively nightlife

Within these broad demographics the students will have the flexibility to select a specific type of traveler, market or theme, turning the dial up or down on different areas of the program in discussion with John and bringing in additional facilities and a building if appropriate for their chosen traveler.

Initial group work will be limited to shared research into issues of culture, resources, transport infrastructure, environment and climate and how they will impact all the projects. There will also be a shared site model that the studio members will be required to build together.

The ambition is that the proposals could have a more universal application in other similarly threatened environments through thoughtful and provocative design. Your designs should propose new ways of thinking about this future resort typology to make resilient and renewing places that both protect the natural environment and ensure that it can survive for the enjoyment of future generations.

The 4 Ha (approx) “L”-shaped development site on the East coast of Gili Meno includes Lots 1 and 2 marked in red on the aerial view below. It has approximately 180m of beach frontage and a hinterland extending 320m inland to join the access road. The site will also include an extension into the ocean of up to 200m across the width of the beach.

To the South there is a further area of 1.2Ha is community, or ‘village’ land and cannot be developed for resort use. However, the students will be encouraged to think about and come forward with proposals for potential investment on this tract of land to enhance community engagement and use, potentially, but not necessarily, related to the sustainable development of the adjoining resort site. This could be community-based agriculture, permaculture, sustainable manufacture or another appropriate activity that they would like to suggest and develop conceptually for the betterment of the community and population of the island. Ideally the use would be associated with, and derive income from, the adjoining touristic activities.

The Environmental Brief

“We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.” —Terry Swearingen


Should we even be travelling to the Gili Islands for leisure reasons? Should numbers be limited? The Islands of Fenando de Noronha off the North East coast of Brazil limit the number of tourists that can travel there each week to protect the Islands and the eco-systems. How can we reconcile the desire to travel and see the world with the impact that travel is having on the environment?

If we accept that we can deal with the carbon-offsetting and other issues generated by travel itself, what are we travelling to and can design limit the affect we have on its ecosystems?

Enshrined in the development of a response to the architectural program, namely the design of a resort for a specific user group, is the broader question of how this might be achieved without costing the earth. People need help to develop a more sustainable lifestyle and thus this resort must be designed in such a way as to make it easier for visitors to reduce their ecological footprint and carbon emissions.

In the background, the infrastructure at all scales also needs to be re-cast in ways that make the activities of every tourist at worst carbon neutral—at best, sustaining and renewing. Typically, these islands are supplied with diesel fuel via tankers to run generators to make electricity. This is not sustainable so what are the alternatives?

In this particular context, ‘infrastructure’ has to include transport, energy, water, materials, food supply, and waste management. Resources, and their effective deployment, thus become a key part of the puzzle. In order to better understand the opportunities that this effective deployment will bring, the early part of the studio work will involve the mapping and appreciating of these resources, with a focus on the best ways, environmentally and architecturally, that they can be leveraged. How will the resort give back more than it takes?

In this studio we are asking students to think about circular economy and the growth of bio-mimicry. What can we learn from nature that can influence a new way of designing that is more resilient and less focused on energy and fossil fuel consumption to survive.

We will look to nature and building physics to find ways of naturally cooling the buildings and spaces with the minimum of mechanical intervention? We must recognize that practically this type of development requires energy and power to function. How can we generate the necessary power in a sustainable way to minimize the overall impact of the operations, deal with the peaks and troughs of demand and provide reliable supplies that also provide autonomy and resilience in the event of natural or man-made disaster? Can we harvest rainwater to provide secure water supplies throughout the year and process waste outflows to minimize external impacts.

Enshrined within the project brief is to look in detail at ways that through design we can minimize the impact that the resort has on the environment during its construction and in operation for years to come.

Project Program/Schedule of Accommodation

In the first few weeks you will carry out some research to inform your project:

  1. Formulate your own brief for the hotel in discussions with John and the tutors and based on the typologies suggested above.

  2. You must identify one additional building/space (not listed below) on the site to compliment your chosen group. eg a star gazing platform

  3. You must also have a strong sustainability agenda to support your project proposal, both in the design of the resort and its facilities and in the development of proposals for the adjoining Village land site to the resort that will benefit the wider community on the island

Accommodation—Schedule of approximate areas. Apart from total developable area all areas can be changed

Total Site area (Excluding optional land) 46,000 m2
Total developable area of 25% of site area 11,500 m2
Allow 15% of 11,500 for circulation 1,725 m2
Allowance for back of house accommodation 1,500 m2
Total area for front of house and rooms 8,275 m2
Rooms (sizes to be determined - approx) 4,500 m2
Front of house areas 2,500 m2
Environmental support buildings 1,275 m2


Room types and sizes will vary depending on which demographic of traveler you chose. You will debate this with John in the early stage.

Common areas will also vary depending traveler demographic, but consider:
Restaurant(s), Resort Bar, Beach bar (over water?), Gym, Wellness suite - Spa/Yoga/pilates, Games Room, Dive center, Library, Entrance lobby, Bike parking, Doc Surgery

Back of house areas to consider:
Servicing area, office, luggage rooms, laundry, kitchen, food storage, other storage, doc surgery, gardener’s hut, maintenance area.

The requirement for resilience against natural disasters suggests that one or more of the larger spaces will need to provide refuge for guests in the event of a tsunami (for example) or earthquake—these provisions will need to be specifically identified and designed with suitable elevation, construction and resilience to ensure passive and active survivability for guests and staff.

Supporting sustainable infrastructure:
Energy Centre, water center, waste recycling center to be developed.

Sustainability/community measures to consider on the additional land marked blue:
Food production farm, Community center (perhaps educational/manufacturing) Solar farm, Algae farm, Wind farm, tidal energy, Recycling center

Reading and Research

Essential online research into the following resorts:
Karma Resorts, Soneva Fushi, Gili Lankanafushi, Six Senses, Aman Resorts, Como Resorts, Alila Resorts

Recommended Reading

“Hawaiian Modern – the architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff” Sakamoto and Britton Yale University Press ISBN 9780300214161

“Bali Houses” - Gianni Francione ; Periplus Editions ISBN 9780794600136

“Putting Tourism to Rights - A challenge to human rights abuses in the tourism industry” - Pub: Tourism Concern ISBN 0 9528567 2 7 Oct 2009

The Eyes of the Skin – Architecture and the Senses; Juhani Pallasmaa, Pub Wiley. ISBN-10: 0470015780

Factor 4 – doubling wealth, halving resource use – Lovins and Von Weisacker, Pub Earthscan ISBN-10: 1853834068

An Inconvenient Truth – Al Gore, Pub Rodale ISBN 1-59486-567-1

Climate Design: Solutions for Buildings that Can Do More with Less Technology –Hausladen, de Saldanha, Liedl + Sager ISBN 10: 3-7643-7244-3

Sun, Wind & Light: Architectural Design Strategies, Brown, G.Z. and DeKay, Mark (2001) Pub John Wiley &Sons, New York.

Heating, Cooling, Lighting; Design Methods for Architects; LECHNER, Norbert (2001), Pub Wiley ISBN-10: 0471241431

The Technology of Ecological Building: Basic Principles and Measures, Examples and Ideas, Daniels, Klaus (1995) Birhäuswer Verlag, Berlin.

Introduction to Architectural Science: The Basis of Sustainable Design, Szokolay, Steven V. (2004), Architectural Press, Oxford.

“The Ethical Travel Guide” 2nd Edn. Tourism Concern, Pub Earthscan ISBN 978-1-84407-758-8

Into the Cool – Energy, Thermodynamics and Life – Schneider and Sagan

“A brief History of Indonesia – Sultans, spices and tsunamis” by Tim Hannigan. Tuttle Publishing 2015 ISBN 978-0-8048-4476-5

“A brief History of Bali – Piracy, slavery, opium and guns” by William A Hanna. Tuttle Publishing 2015 ISBN 978-0-8048-4731-5

“Paradise by Design” by Bill Bensley. Periplus Publishing 2008 ISBN 978-0-7946-0493-6

“Being Ecological” by Timothy Morton. Pelican Books 2018 ISBN 978-0-242-27423-1

“Eating the sun. The everyday miracle of how plants power the planet” by Oliver Morton. 4th Estate 2009. ISBN 978-0-00-717180-4

“Drawdown – the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming” Ed Paul Hawkin. Penguin Books 2017. ISBN 978-0-141-98843-6

“101 Rules of thumb for Sustainable Buildings and Cities” by Huw Heywood. RIBA Publishing (UK) 2015. ISBN 978-1-85946-574-5

Recommended Listening
Karma Groove
Scary Monsters – David Bowie
Paradise Valley – John Mayer
LCD Soundsystem - American Dream
Arcade Fire - Everything Now
War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
Mount Everest : The Base Camp Mix - Paul Oakenfold
Live at Nammos beach Bali - Jon Sa Trinxa

Bali Trip Carbon Offset
The carbon footprint associated with the trip to this remote location will be offset by the course instructors through the purchase of carbon offsets. We recognize that offsetting in this way does not represent a solution to the global emissions problem but we intend nonetheless to mitigate the impact of the studio trip as much as we can.

All Semesters

Fall 2021
Advanced Design Studio: Potent Voids
Lina Ghotmeh, Surry Schlabs
Fall 2020
Advanced Design Studio: Troubled Waters
Tod Williams, Billie Tsien, Andrew Benner
Fall 2018
Advanced Design Studio
Lisa Gray, Alan Organschi
Fall 2017
Future-Proofing the Waterfront of Devonport, New Zealand
Peggy Deamer