Somehow, it seems particularly apt that acclaimed Bali-based architect Joost van Grieken’s home takes its name from the humble breadfruit tree or “pokok sukun”. With its high yields and propensity to thrive in tropical climes, the breadfruit tree is much-loved wherever it grows, from Southeast Asia to Polynesia and Hawaii, ensuring nourishment and shade for all who live in its shadow. It is in tribute to the tree’s generous, bountiful nature that Joost built his sprawling home in Bali’s cultural heart. “I was living not too far away, in Sayan, near Ubud, and I moved into Villa Sukun in 2009 after a full year of construction,” he says. “My previous home, which was along the Ayung River, was a rented one and, of course, an architect always wants to build his own house. And as this home is also located on the banks of the Ayung, you could say, yes, I do follow the path of the sacred river.”
Having lived in Indonesia for close to three decades, Joost spent the first eight years working in Jakarta before finally being lured by the gods to share their mystical island home. When asked what initially drew the Delft-trained architect to the archipelago, his reply is succinct but telling: “Adventure,” he says, eyes twinkling. “I left Jakarta to come to Bali after the Asian financial crisis hit, thinking I’d give myself a sabbatical but, bit by bit, the projects came.”
Now one of the island’s foremost architects, Joost’s aesthetic touch can be seen in many iconic Balinese villas and commercial spaces while on Malaysian soil, he is known for creating the garden-like haven that local dance legend Datuk Ramli Ibrahim calls home.
Standing on what was once a breadfruit grove in Mambal, Joost’s 4,000 sq m estate is still studded with a number of breadfruit trees. The far end of the garden slowly tapers off into the Ayung and, on a clear day, you can just about make out the profile of Bali’s mother mountain, Gunung Agung, in the distance. “The built-up of Villa Sukun is probably just around 10%,” Joost observes. “And that includes the main house, guest pavilion and staff quarters. It’s nice to have a big garden and, besides, I like to live in nature.”