GFAB Architects

img | April 2, 2021

by Gary Fell | Building Amazing Tropical Homes in Bali

On October 23rd, Bukit Vista had the opportunity to discuss with one of the greatest architectural firms in the world, namely GFAB Architects moderated by Jing Cho Yang (CEO of Bukit Vista).

GFAB was started by Gary Fell in 1999. Gary was studied in London at UCL’s prestigious Bartlett school of Architecture, completing his postgraduate studies in 1994. Whilst still a post graduate student, Gary and his collaborators were shortlisted for the Cardiff Opera House competition alongside luminaries such as Zaha Hadid, Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas and others. Subsequently, Gary worked on the Four Seasons Sayan project in Ubud. This brought him to Bali. Upon completion of this project, Gary was asked to undertake residential projects in Australia and Gfab was born.

GFAB studio is based in Bali and it has around 30 staff employed. It undertakes projects throughout the Asia Pacific region and beyond. They currently have on-going construction projects in Indonesia, Thailand, India, Turkey, Vietnam, Cambodia and Australia. They provide architectural design, interior design and master planning services. Their work comprises predominantly of residential, resorts and “gated community” type projects, for which they have won multiple awards including Bloomberg Google (World’s) “Best Architecture multiple residence” (for Istana Phuket 2011) and Asia Pacific (same category, for Samujana in Koh Samui 2013).

This Bali-based GFAB studio is located at 28 Jalan Kerta Husada III, South Denpasar, Bali 80224, Indonesia

There are 4 main points/sections that we talked about in our online meeting at that time. The first point is Gary Fell’s story about how his work positively impacts a property owner in terms of value, relationship, and legacy. Gary says that in terms of value, his team wants every property building they design to last. He and his team really always want to make sure the building materials are quality materials and they try to use local materials. Apart from that, they always try to keep all parts of the project in great detail and ensure that the project will not fall apart in a short time.

In terms of relationships, he said that a well-established relationship with property owners is very important for his company because it will affect ongoing communication with the owner and will automatically promote his work for both the current owner and prospective owners who will see the results of their work performance. In addition, it is necessary to make the property owner a friend, how do we get to know them, spend time with them, and support and ensure that we provide quality products and services. In terms of legacy, Gary stated that their delivery of products is to draw more project designs, take precise, detailed and interesting property photos, and ensure that every property project has some kind of direct relationship or blends with the environment the property is in, in essence according to the characteristics / environmental identity. Apart from that, what the client needs also becomes the fuel for the GFAB team to find the right solution, as we have a clear brief from the client.

In the next section, one of the projects that really demonstrate Gary Fell’s credibility and talent, according to him, is the project in Samujana, Thailand. Samujana is located in the north east of the resort island of Koh Samui. The magnificent site has over 90m of elevation from beach front to summit of the hill and has an aspect which takes in the view of the entire island and the small islands located in the gulf of Thailand beyond. Samujana is a milestone in the development of GFAB and this project has been developing for a long time over time. The community situation there is completely gated. There are about 28 villas there with 25 different owners, which means that GFAB faces 25 different personalities or 25 different temperaments. These 25 professional partners with different personalities are a big challenge for GFAB to grow better and it certainly requires a lot of effort to face those challenges.

In the third session, Gary thought that the right client to get his service was whoever enjoyed the design and it also depends on the project the client wants. One type of client that is right for GFAB is an honest and expert client who also has a good understanding of how to consider the cost of project design. GFAB is very happy to work in accordance with the existing budget, there is no need to force it if the funds are not enough, according to what is available. In other words, Gary advised, “Build honestly.”

GFAB calculates around 10-12 million rupiahs per square meter, which they really don’t like making such tariff provisions, but such calculations aim to encourage owners to get an idea of a project to be built that fits the owner’s budget. Because if you don’t adjust and consider your wishes with the budget properly, the owner will be disappointed because he cannot build the property according to his expectations. Gary also advised that the owner did not need to build a large building and buy materials that were very expensive, many local goods were also of high quality and quite cheap. So, the owner needs to think carefully about what he needs to build with GFAB in accordance with the budget he has and honestly cooperate. The wrong owner is an owner who is greedy and doesn’t fit the budget he has. In addition, the right type of owner according to GFAB is the owner who trusts GFAB as the architect to design the projects they need. The right owners are also those who can appreciate the designs that have been made. Gary also said that we need to check the owner’s background and expectations in terms of project design, what the owner likes and what they don’t like.

Gary Fell also gives his opinion on how he typically charges for his services – in the simplest way possible. He said that basically, GFAB sets a price that includes all of their services, including interior design, architecture – except engineering – and arranges cooperation with regular connections and collaborators. The stages of charge for their services are starting with a deposit payment, then submitting the first draft. After that, going through a briefing with the people, they studied the site in depth, conducted a survey, and got into the concept again. Then they do modeling, and sometimes there is a repetition of the stages from the beginning, to development.

That is the summary of Bukit Vista online discussion with GFAB Architects a few days ago. For more information about the entire discussion content in detail, you can watch the video recording of the discussion on the Youtube link below. There is also a link in the form of the architectural firm GFAB website page which contains detailed information about properties that have been designed by GFAB in various countries, especially Bali, Indonesia.


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