Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Natural Selection. You’ve travelled far to come home…

A Rhythm

Here is a place where time is measured not by schedules and clocks, but by the rhythms of nature. A place where each day brings new sensations. Sky, mountains, forest, sun, rain and wind create a living picture that shifts from moment to moment before your eyes.

Days begin with morning mist, before the sunrise lights up hills covered in lush rainforest. During the day, the natural world changes in front of you, creating different moods. Sunsets are golden and serene.
And you could be experiencing all this beauty in one of the most exclusive homes in Malaysia.

An Estate

Deep in the thickly forested highlands of Pahang state Malaysia, just under 100km from Kuala Lumpur, lies Casabrina. Nestled delicately in the landscape and fringed by virgin rainforest, it is a place for only a select few.

Casabrina brings together 11 exclusive residences of three and four bedrooms, each unique, each carefully designed to harmonise with its natural surroundings.

These are the creations of Balinese architect AA Yoka Sara, a man whose love of nature was a key factor in the design of Casabrina’s villas. Casabrina began six years ago with Yoka Sara spending days simply walking among the hills, usually at dawn and dusk, so that his designs would fit with the environment. The different location, views, gradients, wind direction, height and orientation of each site means that each villa is a unique and beautiful creation, a work of art that comes both from nature and the architect’s inspired ideas.

More than static structures, Yoka Sara’s creations take visitors through a sequence of distinct and complementary stages that reveal each villa’s special characteristics. These steps are designed to excite different emotions: an initial Reception area is followed by a brief journey which culminates in a Discovery point – the first tangible impression of the villa. Excitement follows, in the revelation of the main living area and the vista it enjoys, then Relaxation is embodied in facilities like the horizon pool, deck and lounges all framed by breathtaking scenery. Finally there is Rest in the sleeping compounds, all built to bring you closer to nature.

A Home

Through the symbiosis of natural and built elements, Casabrina offers a space where the simple presence of beauty rejuvenates you. Awaken to a vision of boughs lit golden by the first kiss of morning sun, the air alive with birdsong even before you’ve left your bed.

Swallows flit playfully from treetops to rooftop, troops of monkeys venture to the forest edge in search of fruit and wild boar hurtle briefly across hillsides. The unique ecology of Pahang’s ancient rainforests plays host to a rich diversity of wildlife, including several indigenous species. At Casabrina, you’ll find them virtually on your doorstep.

Each of Casabrina’s unique accommodations narrows the boundary between what takes place inside and the rhythm of the world outside, each also delivers world class services and facilities. It’s as though a Garden of Eden had been created just for you.

Villa Amertani

For 30 years a rubber farmer would come to the crest of a small ridge to eat his lunch, drawn by the constant breeze that kept it cool and the feeling of energy it gave him. Today, this place is Villa Amertani.
The first visual impression of Villa Amertani is its sinuous roof, echoing the undulating lines of the surrounding hills. Approached from the west, it seems hidden, embedded in the hillside. This side of the house has expansive views of distant mountains. Enter, however and you are presented with a stretch of magical forest on the other side, just a few metres distant. Teakwood balconies on two levels bring you yet closer to the tree line, while this side of the house drops dramatically with the gradient of the ridge, supported by tall, roughly hewn wood pillars.

The main living and entertaining area is clad in timber with exposed roof and floor-to-ceiling glass on both sides creating a kind of portal connecting the two very different settings. The horizon pool runs the entire length of the house, reflecting the trees that surround it, just as the glass reflects the sky and the mountains on the horizon. Villa Amertani is clad in white stone, whose neutral, reflective aspect creates a constant play of shadows and subtle colours as the sun passes through its daily cycle.

Villa Aranya

Villa Aranya has the feel of an Elves’ dwelling place, a palatial tree house that seems to have emerged from the forest itself. Facing a lush thicket of trees, each of its two levels extends beyond the lip of a steep valley; two flat roofs, one set with a shallow pool reflecting the sky, the other planted with local grass, draw the environment closer, while a peaked pavilion roof in the traditional Balinese style covers a flight of steps leading downward to the main living area. Aranya means forest and the villa is well named, for its whole orientation is designed to achieve a sense of intimacy with the forest. From each of the three bedrooms, one above the main living area, the other two in a separate compound on the other side of the expansive horizon pool, you can watch eagles flying to and from their eyries, monkeys feasting on fruit and rare, brightly feathered birds.
Garden balconies planted with thick lawns of well tended grass stretch over the valley’s edge, geometric lotus ponds offer glimpses of darting goldfish…
And always, you find yourself turning your gaze back to the forest.

Villa Plava

Villa Plava is built deep in the fold of a hillside, approached by a narrow path set with pastoral art pieces, leading you inward as though into a fairytale. After 20 metres or so, you come across two translucent gateposts and the first glimpse of the villa itself, which appears to be floating on water. Spanning this narrow cradle at a raised elevation, Villa Plava is a revelation in itself, a compound set at different levels, with two bedrooms raised on one side of the ridge, the other bedroom above the living area on the other side. The spatial centre point of Villa Plava is a cascade which is little more than a trickle until the rains come, transforming it into a gentle torrent of fresh mountain water. A traditional Bale Bengong pavilion adds to the fairytale atmosphere.
Villa Plava is characterised by a fluidity of design, with flowing lines and a sense of movement recalling the natural contours of the hillside. The main living area draws the eye back out, towards high mountains etched on the horizon behind which the sun sets. Villa Plava draws you first into the bosom of this hillside, then turns you to reveal an unexpected and picturesque panorama.

Villa Air

The atmosphere of Villa Air is in the manner of a tropical water garden. Its architecture redefines the natural setting, a shallow basin at the foot of a hill, by setting different elevations. Broad steps lead downward from the parking area, revealing a play of pavilions at different levels. The main living area is set in a curved cupola smoothly carved from the hillside, to echo the profile of the site, while an horizon pool extends outward toward the bedrooms. Two intersecting walkways connect from the living area to the sleeping compound which is bordered by a spherical lotus pond at the lowest level and two smaller ponds above, so that each of the three bedrooms sits on a carpet of water. Sunken into the landscape yet rising above it, Villa Air captures the soft, welcoming atmosphere of a lowland idyll with enticing views of the surrounding mountains.

Villa Kacapuri

Villa Kacapuri’s startling geometry is characterised by clean straight lines and the lavish use of floor to ceiling glass across two floors, offering expansive views of tree clad slopes on the far horizon. Built from wood and glass, Villa Kacapuri is approached from a bridge that leads directly into the open plan living space, with its glorious transparent fascia. There follows a deck and horizon pool which sweeps off to the left, oriented to catch the sun throughout the year. Its waters seem to lap gently into the valley below. The entire living area and pool deck, clad in pale Indian slate, faces a distant panorama of mountain peaks. Bedrooms are secreted in the hillside, oriented to face the setting sun. Light materials are used throughout to create a space of transparency and reflection for this is a place where wind and light converge.

Villa Melayu

Inspired by the artistry of the Malay culture, Villa Melayu occupies the lower slopes of the Casabrina estate like an elaborate ornament. Whimsical, Toraja style roofs, elongated balconies and a vast, intricately carved screen delight the eye, while looking outward, clusters of trees give the feel of a summer orchard.
The approach to Villa Melayu follows the curve of the hillside. A procession of stone monoliths afford brief glimpses of the main structure, before the path opens onto a foyer floating on a carpet of water. A bridge takes you to the living area, horizon pool and deck which are oriented to reflect the surrounding flora. The master bedroom has a contemporary feel, with a flat roof contrasting the peaks of its Toraja inspired neighbours.
Villa Melayu is a structure that marries art with architecture, a bold design that is yet delicate enough to complement the shallow slopes it occupies.

Villa Gita Giri

Built on the mountain’s shoulder at the confluence of two rivers, Villa Gita Giri begins with just the intimation of distant peaks on the horizon, as you cross a small bridge to a reception area. Hidden stairs then take you down into the main body of the villa, where an open living room is revealed and beneath it, a crescent shaped pool. The living spaces are staggered, with a four metre vertical distance between each, following the gradient of the slope – the pool lies at the lowest level, seemingly within touching distance of the forest’s edge. The grouping of the bedrooms, offset one atop the other, frames the sylvan scenery – the green of the forest canopy and the shifting patterns of the sky above. Light materials are used throughout – steel struts, scattered randomly, echo the natural growth of the surrounding trees, while extensive glass narrows the distance between outside and inside yet further.

Villa Mayomaya

Built at the highest point of the Casabrina Estate, Mayomaya connects two symmetrical swells of a hillside. Approached from below, steps lead upward to an open reception area. The sense of discovery comes with the appearance of the villa itself, as the whole structure settles into view: a lengthy expanse of terrace, semi-covered, fringed with decking and a curved horizon pool draw the eye outward towards a distant panoply of mountains. A bale bengong pavilion graces the southernmost tip of the compound, while a stretch of forest borders the pool, its treetops seemingly within arm’s reach. The main living area is open plan, connecting directly with the terrace to create a seamless flow from inside to outside. A central decorative wall of asymmetrical, intertwining struts evokes the tangle of rubber trees that form a backdrop to the site. Bedrooms are encased in glass, while a back wall, clad in a mosaic of local stone, features cantilevered steps giving access to the upper level bedrooms.
With its generous proportions and privileged position high on a hillside, Villa Mayomaya offers a myriad views and orientations, like an eagle’s eyrie above the trees.

Villa Atas Awan

The most substantial residence in the Casabrina Estate, Villa Atas Awan is set on a narrow shoulder of land with a sudden drop below and a full 180˚ sweep of landscape visible from different areas of the compound. Cantilevered out from the hillside for a full 20 metres, the horizon pool seems genuinely suspended in the air.
A HOW LONG path excites the anticipation which is then fulfilled as a tableau of mountain tops and virgin rainforest hoves into view behind sliding glass doors.

Villa Ulun Thani

Taking advantage of two subtly different spaces in one site, Villa Ulun Thani is accessed via steps which frame westerly views of mountaintops, before emerging onto a broad landing point set on a carpet of water. This serves as the villa’s interface, giving access to distinct areas each of which connects to the landing point as a satellite compound. The main living area can be glimpsed from the landing point, set at a lower level, with the horizon pool built at the lowest of the villa’s three elevations following the curvature of the hillside towards a stand of trees to the south. A bedroom compound is also situated at the southern end, secreted in a fold of the hill seemingly amongst the treetops, while the master bedroom is above the living area at the same level as the landing point. Villa Ulun Thani inspires with a sense of openness thanks to its expansive views and at the same time, concealment afforded by the forest.

Villa Agra

The first thing that appears as one approaches Villa Agra is a screen of vertical wooden strips, the first evocation of the main living compound. Steps descend to a bridge which passes above treetops towards the north, arriving at a terrace located directly above the two bedrooms with the orientation shifting towards the west with its distant range of mountains. Steps lead down to a platform afloat in a water garden following the contours of the hill and connecting the main living area to the bedrooms. The two guest bedrooms are ensconced in a fold of the hillside.
The pool lies beneath the living area as close to the forest’s edge as possible, with and integrated sauna and gym at the same level. Villa Agra reveals itself in stages, saving its majestic views for the moment when one emerges into the living area…it is a journey that brings you step by step closer to the natural surroundings.

The Developer

Felix Tee is a self-made entrepreneur and business of extremely high standing internationally. A co-founder of Unisem Bhd, an international company with staff numbering well over 4000 and the creative force behind a number of smaller business, Tee has 17 years of experience in construction and mechanical engineering and high tech business. He has brought this experience to bear with Casabrina, having already developed two villas and the infrastructure that will support the remaining nine. It is his love of the arts and of fine design that has enabled the unique vision that is Casabrina to emerge amidst the magical mountains of Pahang.



AA Yoka Sara comes from a long line of celebrated artists and craftsmen. His vision springs from the natural world and the elements that animate it, from the rich Balinese culture and from his own singular eye for design. With an ever expanding portfolio of projects behind him, including exclusive private homes, boutique hotels, nightclubs and villa resorts within the pan pacific region, Yoka Sara counts among the leaders of a ‘New Wave’ of contemporary Balinese architects.


- Balisani Hotel, Legian, Bali

- Balisani Suite Hotel, Batubelig, Bali

- Sekilak Island Resort (designed), Batam.
- Sumba Reef Lodge (designed), Tambulaka, Sumba.
- Wardani's House, Padanggalak, Bali

- Waka Maya, The Villa, Sanur-Bali.
- House of Mr. Guiseeppe Villa, Seminyak.
- Wisma Sakura, Denpasar, Bali.
- MILO'S House, (collaborated with Milo), Seminyak, Bali.
- ARTEKA GRAHA, Head office (designed), Denpasar, Bali.
- Villa Tanjung, Tanjung Benoa, Bali.
- House of Mr. Thomas Hall, Tangtu, Bali.
- Jezz Gallery, Denpasar Bali.
- Villa Lagoon, Annex to Nikko Hotel (designed), Sawangan Nusa Dua.
- Villa at Kelabang Moding, Ubud, Bali.
- House of Mr. Mateo, Petitenget, Bali.
- The 8 Villas (Conceptual design), Tangtu, Bali

- House of Mr. Felix Tee, Damansara Height, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
- Private resort of Mr. Felix Tee, Tras-Pahang, Malaysia.

- Maya Resort Ubud (collaborated with Made Wijaya) a project concept
(suspended) Tukad Petanu, Ubud, Bali

- Waka Gangga Resort (Collaborated with Ketut Siandana), Tabanan, Bali

- The Kamasutra Club & Lounge, Kuta, Bali

- The Sungai Villas & Spa (designed), Pererenan, Bali.
- Emerald Villas for Mr. Eric Lorin, Canggu, Bali.
- Ayulia Boutique & Spa (under construction), Denpasar, Bali.

- The'TRA' a villa for Mr. & Mrs. Traversa, Canggu, Bali
- CASABRINA, Resort Villa Annex (9 diverse villa) in Tras, Pahang,

- Banjar Gerenceng, Denpasar

(Conceptual + Design Proccess)
- The Sungai New, Pererenan
- Residence at Damansara, Malaysia
- Residence at Saujana. Malaysia
- Villas at Kesari, Sanur


2006 - BCI Asia & Schott Design Award for Architecture with glass