Kerry Hill: 1943-2018

Warwick Purser Shares Bali Memories of Renowned Australian Architect Kerry Hill Who Changed to Face of Bali

Kerry Hill, an internationally renowned Australian architect based in Singapore, has died at the age of 75. Beginning his career in Perth, Western Australia, Hill is widely credited with changing the way tropical resorts are built dating from his early “Bali style” involvement with the Sanur Hyatt, Alila, and Aman Hotels.

Today, buildings bearing Kerry Hill’s influence are found in Bali, India, Bhutan, Japan, China, Croatia, Jordan, Spain, the Middle East and across Southeast Asia.

When Hill was bestowed with the Order of Australia (AO) in 2012, his citation cited: “distinguished service to architecture, particularly as an ambassador for Australian design in South East Asia, and as an educator and mentor.” 

Much loved and remembered in Bali, Kerry Hill became a stalwart of the community, starting in Sanur in the early 1970s where the Architect was preparing The Bali Hyatt for opening.

One of Kerry’s life-long friends starting from this period is Bali stalwart Warwick Purser and Indonesian cultural curator who has generously shared his recollections of his friendship with Kerry Hill with

Tribute to a Special Friend

Warwick Purser

Warwick Purser Remember Kerry Hill AO

Kerry Hill was a man of many achievements but not a man of many words. He didn’t need words because his buildings expressed his feelings about life and, in the most sensitive manner possible, about the locations chosen for his architectural projects. You could be sure when Kerry did have something to say it was significant and totally relevant. Never one for small talk, one could often learn a lot from whatever he had to say. I know. I did.

We became close in Bali in the 1970s when our families, along with Donald Friend, lived side by side in the Batujimbar Estate in Sanur. At that stage, Kerry was building the Bali Hyatt, a project considered very progressive for its time. In fact, it arguably set the standard of future Hotel projects built in the tropics. Another Sanur friend, the late Made Wijaya (a/k/a Michael White), complemented the project with wonderful landscape gardening, equally groundbreaking both in concept and design.

Kerry and I remained close friends since those days. Our children were the same age and have grown up together. In the decades that followed, his architectural practice Kerry Hill and Associates, based both in Singapore and Perth, went on to create amazing architectural work across the breadth of Asia and beyond to Australia, the Middle East and Europe. At the same time, Kerry received countless accolades, including the prestigious Aga Khan award, The Singapore President’s Design Award (Singapore), The Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal, and the Order of Australia. His importance and contributions cannot be underestimated – he truly is legendary.

Known as the architect behind some of Asia’s most innovative buildings from The Sukothai in Bangkok to the more recent Aman in Tokyo. His footprint in Bali remains with the original Chedi (now Alila Hotel) at Manggis and Ubud, and the Aman Nusa.

Kerry truly loved Bali, he admired the Island greatly, forming a life-long affection for the artisanship and skill of the people.

Always modest about his architectural achievements and honors, Kerry Hill unfailingly paid credit to the large team of co-workers in his offices in Singapore and Australia.

Kerry's wife Ruth died eight months ago after a battle with cancer during which time, in typical Kerry Hill fashion, he remained a man of few words and never revealed his own condition, but instead remained courageously and lovingly at Ruth’s side. His sudden demise from cancer on August 25, 2018, was a surprise even to those close to him.  

Kerry will be greatly missed in the design world, both internationally and in Bali. But his legacy will remain via the inspiring buildings he designed throughout Asia and the rest of the world ensuring that this remarkable man is never forgotten.

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