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discovereing architecture in malaysia



















Dr.Veronica Ng

Adriana Roslan Alfred Lee Cheong Siew Leong Helsa Josephine Ho Leon Jeremy Tay Fu Jin Joash Lim Yun-An Lim Shu Yin Lim Su Ying Lim Wei Ze Liong Lee Yee Look Yik Yeong Ng You Sheng Norkhadizah Harunsani Qistina Shah Ruzain Azizul Soh Wei Aun Tan Foo Wong Tan Wei Sheng Yiew Qunhe Yong Chang Theng Zhafri Azman


Jeremy Tay Alfred Lee Liong Lee Yee

GRAPHICS Lim Shu Yin Lim Su Ying Ruzain Azizul Yiew Qunhe



School of Architecture, Building and Design Taylor’s Lakeside Univeristy


Experiencing Malaysian Architecture

FORWARD The module, Experiencing Malaysian Architecture, is a modest attempt to heighten the awareness of students of architecture, the value and the diversity of contemporary Malaysian architecture. It attempts to push the limits of how architecture can be taught beyond the confines of the classroom. On one tangent, the module is delivered via Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), and one the other, the module takes on the approach of “experiencing” as part of learning. The reciprocal relationship between using MOOC as an online learning as “flipped classroom” and the first-hand experience of architecture and place, a unique learning environment emerged. It alludes to the notion that: learning can occur everywhere, but the theoretical framing of how students “read”, as oppose to merely “seeing” the built environment, is central to learning. While the premise of the module is based on contemporary Malaysian architecture, the module serves as a series of case studies that can educate and inform architectural design knowledge within students of architecture.

Learning is infinite, more importantly, the pedagogy of “learning how to learn” is emphasized.

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Experiencing Architecture


forms part of how we learn. This belief forms the foundational premise of how architecture is taught. While many taught modules in architecture focusses on classroom and studio teaching and learning, knowledge in the form of experience makes learning authentic and meaningful. Architectural visits to the Pod, Chempenai House, Kenanga Wholesale City, Wooi Residence, S11 and 38Mews offer a cross-section of the diverse approaches that generated contemporary Malaysia architecture. The visit do not merely attempt to be descriptive, rather it seeks a cognitive tasks, by asking a simple question of how does each work stem from diverse themes of symbolism and metaphor, modern “tropical”, community and place, tectonics, and sustainability. The experience is recorded through narrative, sketches and photography.

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A New Wave the pod // hijjas kasturi associates sdn & studio nicoletti associati


As a landmark for this area, the Developer engaged Hijjas Kasturi, an architect who has a substantial resume of creating icons, to create his on-site offices and sale’s showroom in a picturesque landmark that would reflect the spirit and the architectural style of the future development. Wehn one is asked now about Petaling Jaya Commercial Center, most would say “what...?” This was Hijjas Kasturi job to change. His response was to create a series of rhythmic spherical forms creates the sense of a ripple, much like the tremor from a droplet falling into a body of water. Quite fittingly the water droplet is set to cause a ripple through the PJCC area.

Being there in person for the first time, only then the resemblances to a water droplet strike me because previously it seems like a series of sliced potatoes. Inside the POD, the exterior form is continued indoors, with elements of rof and wall being undefined. The elliptical sections of variable widths and heights with slithers of windows brings natural daylight into the spaces below. The main exhibit is double volume with light entering from windows that are flanked by an infinite ponds that gives a sense of tranquility and feng shui. The combination of water and greenery contributes to the Bioclimatic behavior and wellness of its ocupants.

The symbolic inspiration of the POD is a water droplet falling on left, causing a rippling effect across the area. The POD sits on a beautifully sculpted garden that is metaphoric for a leaf, while a series a sectional ribbons of warying heights and shapes represents the bead of water. There are many ways to interpret a water droplet but the brief given to Hijjas Kasturi was to create a sophisticated yet elegant form. In time, after the projects have been sold, the now boring rectilinear site will turn in water droplets. The minimal openings are on the north and south sides that allow serene water reflection to enter.

This experimental design is acceptable for it function because the exhibit hal is simply space to display and sell future project developments in the area, therefore any volume with adequate floor space is sufficient. This structure is made possible by tubular steel space frame work designed by Studio Nicoletti Associati. This allows for the infinite continuity of the ex hibit area. Walking around outside, the spectral aluminum panels reflect the sun and give a variety of hues. Going against the words of Henry Louis Sullivan, the private office area does not follow the ecliptic form. The soft interior curves area grotesquely contrasted by distinct lines of a rectilinear work place that is simply squared off with no regards to the exterior form. Oddly, the exterior surface is riddled with horizontal lines from the individual panels, when I believe it could have smoothen or made to a flush. While the images make the POD appear to be glistening in the sun then, currently, the exterior is decaying to dirt and stains.


Let’s Get Tropical Chempenai House // WHBC Architects


Cempenai House was the brainchild of frugal lawyer Chan Chee Leong, who wanted a simple maintenance free oasis away from a bustling city for his family. Many architects were contacted but only pragmatic solving architecture WHBC architects were chosen, who often encapsulate a strong central idea into a simple diagrammatic sketch. WHBC approach was very straightforward, simply break the sun, since it is a primary concern. However, it is easier said than done, heat gain is one of the greatest evils in designing any building in equatorial Malaysia. The scorching heat problem is coupled minimal wind and torrential rain. To solve one problem would magnify the other would magnify another. In many ways, modern tropical architecture is all about doing the simple things right. Many confuse the term tropical architecture with a particular design, mainly the local village (kampong) style. However, in reality tropical architecture is all about responding to contextual climate in order to achieve thermal comfort through the use of passive design elements like sunshades, cavity walls, light shelves, overhangs, roof and wall insulation and even shading from large trees to block the son. It may look very traditional, ultramodern or even high-tech.

Marrying ‘modern’ and ‘tropical’ is a forte of young and upcoming WHBC. The sun is “broken” with an interesting concrete egg crate, puzzle or Tetris envelope which provides shading. Chempenai House is elevated above ground, in order to alleviate the building from dampness. Trees and a pool keep the interior cool while concrete, just like stone, has a high ther mal mass in order to absorb heat. Openings all around the building allow for cross ventilation. In keeping with the underlying cost saving, concrete was chosen as the main construction material because it is the speciality of most construction workers. The squarer were made with accordance to wooden plank standards, which saves a lot of time, resources and ultimately money. From an architectural point of view, my critic would be that the egg crate building envelope does not entirely remove the need for mechanical ventilation. Being there and hearing from the owner, I guess the only major problem are leafs cluttering the roof gutter.

The word ‘modern’, has been coin for a long time despite its current connotation. The house associates itself with modernity by having an open floor plan that flows end to end through sliding doors. Concrete is kept raw and ornamentation free, for a clean visual presentation of materials. Perhaps the biggest clue that tropical Chempenai House is indeed modern, is in its purpose, since the design intention was simply to accommodate a small sized family.


Old New or New Old? Kenanga Wholesales City // ZLGdesign



It’s The Litle Things Wooi House // AR.Wooi Lok Kuang



More Than A Color

S11 House // Dr. TAn Loke Mun



Analysing Architecture Every architecture is generated from an idea(s). Where do ideas come from? And how are they executed into tangible built forms and environments? These are familiar and almost inevitable questions for any architectural practitioners and students common at two instances: (1) whilst trying to begin a design, (2) whilst trying to analyse a design. The collection of articles in this publication is an attempt of the latter. They are attempts to explain how ideas are generated, and how they subsequently informed the design work. These articles are deliverables from a group of Second and Third Year architecture students from the School of Architecture, Building and Design at Taylor’s University. The purpose is to dissect the rationale and outcomes portrayed in recent and contemporary Malaysian architecture. Besides that, the underlying purpose is to create awareness on Malaysian architecture and practice. The buildings included in this compilation are not an exhaustive list, but rather a selection of buildings that attempt to create awareness on alternative and uncommon everyday practice. It echoes a refreshing breath for architecture.

Its primary intention is to document design generators through the analysis of Malaysian architecture. And secondly, by being able to understand the underlying generators of others’ works, it may facilitate students’ ability of ideation and its manifestation for their own works. Being a Malaysian architecture school, it is also important that students are aware that in practice, the contextual conditions are almost a compulsory if not habitual design response. While context is imperative, the palette of buildings features in this publication is generated through varied approaches: symbolism and metaphor, hands-on making, community-driven, re-thinking typologies and pragmatism amongst others. Collectively, the offer possibilities and multiplicity in design thinking that reflect the meaning of Malaysian architecture.

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Tectonics In Ting Residence Ting Residence // Ar. Wooi Lok Kuang





Ting Residence is located on a hill at Country Heights Damansara in Kuala Lumpur. Regarding to the condition of the site, the contour is shown as steep slope and surrounded by greeneries. The building is an organic sculptural form and consist a dramatic curvilinear roof, while the curved line of facade and roofing are derived from the existing contour line. In term of tectonic, Ting Residence is a very good example which has explored different kind of material in making various kinds of spatial qualities, while integrating the traditional material with advanced building technology, especially timber as building material and innovative decorative element.

In the perspective of Ar. Wooi Lok Kuang, tectonic can be generally understand as how the things put together, how the joist and junction works. In terms of construction craft and details, Ar. Wooi took it as ‘Praxis’ which means ‘Practice of an Art’ to him. Hence, the journey through the Ting’s Residence is a tour of discovery that reveals an array of highly creative detailing. These creative architectural elements are out of ordinary and show the inventiveness of the architect when looking into details’ design. The characteristic are also shown in Ar.Wooi’s previous project, which curious about discovering the tectonic in representation of technology and poetic which will give user a special experiences and spatial qualities of spaces.

Tectonics is defined as the science or art of construction, both in relation to its usage and its artistic design. It encompasses the process of making the materially requisite construction that answer certain needs and at the same time transform this technical construction to a form of art. Tectonics also involves with the idea of how the building’s form and spatial qualities give a sense of meaning to the site or even reflects the site context.

Regarding to the concept of Ting’s Residence and client’s request, the spatial is based on the quality of free air flowing into and around the house. To achieve the requirement of the client, the floor plan is resulted more toward to open plan, especially at living area, dining area, gallery, gymnasium and bedroom. Furthermore, in order to increase the numbers of opening to maximize the cross ventilation in this house, the structure system is generally based on reinforced concrete frame structure. The load bearing or retaining walls are only seen in the steep slope area. Furthermore, based on the hierarchy of spaces planning those areas are kitchen and staircase core. Instead of using ordinary concrete column, the column on ground floor are replaced with an innovative building material, a group of five API pipes to enhance the expansive view. In term of representation of poetic, those groups of API pipes are also camouflaged with the vertical timber screen and trees which surrounded the house, to enhance the sense of conti nuity. Apart from that, reflecting with natural contour of site and organic sculptural form, the roofing design is resulted as a dramatic curvilinear roof. Regarding of roof structure, the timber rafters are bolted along the curved tubular mild steel spines and sit on the reinforced concrete beam. At the first stage in schematic design, Ar. Wooi planned to use timber, Yellow Balau as the structural material. However, due to the technical problem and high construction fees in construction, the spines is ended up with steel which is more direct and convenience for casting. In other hands, one of the significant details that developed by Ar.Wooi is the handrail of the staircase. The post of handrail is different in such way that it wraps under the threads and create a unique experience to user, instead of end up on the step like a contemporary design.

1 Steel spine of roofing structure 2: 2 Innovated handrail post that create the floating effect 3,4: Construction method of the roofing where the curved central spine is modelled using 3D computer software and the yellow balau rafters are conncted to the spine via metal plates. 5:API pipe as column while camouflaged with building element and trees


6: The high slope on the back level covers the back of the building from public view. Walls are replaced with open-able windows to allow natural daylight and wind to penetrate the internal space. 7: Years after the construction finished, trees continue to grow and plants blooming covering the whole structure with greenery and nature 8: The distance between road level to the first buildable platform 9: The viewing angle differs from room-to-room and corridor-to-corridor due to the irregular and organic shape of the building 10: Abundant glass walls are located along corridor facing North and South to allow sunlight penetration into the internal spaces

FORM AND SPATIAL QUALITIES An early interview with Ar. Wooi provides us an in-depth detail and explanation on the design i ntention and idea of this building. After visiting the site for the first time, he pointed out that the goal is to maintain the context in design. Context in his perception are topography of the site – hill slope & nature; and tropical climate of Malaysia, but giving more focus on the climatic condition. The location of Ting’s residence is situated on a steep slope. The gradient of the slope is too high that the reasonable way of solving this issue is to use cut and fill method which cost more budget to the client and not to mention resulting in the destruction of the unique topography of the site. Thus, instead of using the cut and fill, he proposed a big retaining wall on ground level to support the overall contour during construction process. It simultaneously creates a driveway on the road level for the parking area. The uniqueness of this existing terrain is that it allows for the back of the building to be as opened as possible without sacrificing the sense of containment and privacy of the owner. The form of the building is an example of extroverted exterior which belies the simplicity, pragmatism and grace of its interior and overall design. The architect intend to design this building in a way that embraces the notion of making a normal building, abnormal yet engaged in an unreal senses of its surroundings. Contrary to popular beliefs, the shape of the building follows the existing trees on the site and not inspired from leafs or plants. Due to the terrain’s slope and the implementation of high retaining wall, the first platform that can be built is 60 feet above road level equivalent to 6 storey high building, which locates the first habitable level that houses living and dining area. The views on the level are breath-taking, overviewing the natural environment of surroundings with the help of large fenestrations. Second level view – a private space where bedrooms are located – has even better viewing angle, and due to the natural curvature of the structure, each rooms and corridor boast different views throughout the area.

In terms of internal spatial quality, the architect makes use of the tropical condition of Malaysia. He is a man who doesn’t believe in being sustainable for status purpose – platinum ratings, active advent, etc – but rather being sustainable by nature. Most of the spaces are passively designed and integrated. Multiple openings and fenestrations are located on the north and south side to allow maximum daylight penetration, thus significantly reducing artificial lightings. Large retractable windows help creates cross ventilation throughout the 1st and 2nd level, giving the sense of natural ventilation. Master bedroom is oriented facing west to act as a buffer zone and keeping heat from master bedroom. These passive approaches benefit not only the owner’s electricity bill but also accentuate the sense of living with nature.


MATERIALITY To Ar. Wooi, tectonics is sunject to each architect’s personal definition. His take on tectonics is the way the building is put together that conveys the underlying meaning or stories of the building itself. In terms of materiallity, the properties of materials lend way to how they will manifest themselves or behave in a certain way. For example, bricks are good in compression and give a raw aesthetic for the finishing is left unplastered. Even though a straight edge material, iterations of arrangement allows for organic curves to be built. Ar. Wooi took the conventional material and use it in a way that is rarely seen and that reflects his characteristics as anarchitect. The tectonics that arise from the conventional material of concrete and bricks is special in this case as it stands out form the normal architecture in Malaysia. The unfinished aesthetics goes in trend with contemporary Malaysian architecture, saving cost and at the same time providing a sense of rawness. Timber, being a material readily available in Malaysia, is also a material Ar. Wooi like to explore. He said: “Timber is the material that the more I learn, the more things discovered that I don’t know about”. His fascination and interest towards timber is apparent as it is used widely in his projects. On the roof of the building, yellow balau is used for the rafters, with a central steel spine. The spine is at first intended to be Glue Laminated Timber. Due to the lack of experience of the workers, the spine is changed to steel instead. This shows that many things can give rise to the tectonics of the building, in which this case is due to the skill set of the workers on site. The intention might not be original from architect, but the subsequent result tells the story of the building when it is contructed, thus contributing to the uniqueness of the tectonics. The tectonics tells the story of construction that is unique only to this project.

Different kinds of timber manifest in many ways, sizes, shapes and how the jointing works. This contributes to the tectonics in which the kind of timber used and the way they behave tell stories of the whole building. Coming from a kampung background, Ar. Wooi is exposed to a lot of timber construction. The most famous of wood is probably cengal, a type of hardwood locally available in Malaysia. As an architect that puts a lot of emphasis on utilising and understanding fully the resources available, he utilised cengal extensively as sun shading façade in Ting House. Cengal is sourced locally but not in a unsustainable way. Cengal used are limited to thin strips and this contributes to the repetition of the undulat ing façade, providing just enough penetration of the sunlight to naturally light up the interior and giving the exterior its signature foresty look. The timber will smoothen and turn silver when exposed to the elements, and that property allows the building façade to age well and change subtly with time. The verticality of the strips reflects the tress growing around Ting House, blending in with the surrounding language. One can notice that the columns are also designed the same way, clustered API pipes that blends with the tree trunks outside. The clusters of columns also seem lighter than thick conventional concrete columns, thus the building does not look bulky. Tectonics of the materiality also tell a story of the problems and opportunities on site. A prime example is the boulders seen at the front façade. The boulders are not intended in the original design, and the story in which they are discovered and used forms a part of the tectonics of the building. Excavated from site, the boulders are covered in earth and moss. Due to lack of storage spaces and transportation, the boulders pose a problem. However Ar. Chooi sees this as an opportunity instead of a problem, and thus decided to incorporate the boulders as part of the backfilling and retaining wall of the house. The rawness of the boulders incorporates well with the foresty, natural façade of Ting House, perfect as a platform for the house to sit on. This overlap of desing intention and site condition gives rise to the way the building is put together, resulting in previously unexpected form, spaces and user experience, thus creating a different kind of tectonic from what is experienced elsewhere.


CONCLUSION To conclude the report, it can be said that Ar. Wooi has a personal definition of tectonics as how the building is put together, the construction, the site context and conditions that in the end tells the stories of meaning of the building. One can glean how the Ting House come about, what went into the design and construction through an understanding of the tectonics. The resulting Ting House reflects these factors overlapped with the client’s and designer’s intention, and Ar. Wooi’s signature style can be seen clearly throughout the house, mainly from the natural form, space and experience that the house conveys. As a Malaysian architecture the tectonics reflect the current trend without neglecting the cultural ref erence of the local traditional architecture. The tectonics of Ting House might be out of the norm, but it does so in a good way that gives birth to a refreshing architectural work.


Poetic Designing With Tectonics In A Domestic Architecture The Telegraph Pole House // WHBC Architects HELSA JOSEPHINE // LIM SHU YIN // LIM SU YING //


INTRODUCTION The Telegraph Pole House by WHBC architects begins from the simple concept of building a residential home in the style of a Malaysian timber long house. Situated in the rural countryside of Langkawi, the house was designed and built for the client, a retired British couple. The minimalistic design emphasizes on the house’s structural details, a signature approach by WHBC Architects which is humble and adheres to the site context. The Telegraph Pole House not only serves as a shelter, but is deeply rooted in the local context through tectonic themes. Within 18 months of construction, The Telegraph Pole House is completed, the unique house that sits on the top of a hill, surrounded by tropical greenery and kampong houses in the valley below. In this article, we seek to discuss about the poetics of structure within the Telegraph Pole House.

TECTONICS AND THE TELEGRAPH POLE HOUSE Tectonics in architecture is understood as the science or art of construction. It is the making of details, structure, construction and material into the definition of architecture to create the poetic of the building. According to bĂśtticher the true tectonic is what he refers as the eclecticism of the spirit resides not only in the appearance but rather in the essence that lies behind the appearance. In the case of the Telegraph Pole House, structure and materials plays an important role in presenting the architecture. The idea of cutting down trees as a source for their building materials did not appeal to the architects, not only due to the fact that it is not a sustainable approach, freshly cut timber may be problematic if not properly dried. The task to seek out an alternative material eventually led the architects to the observation of old timber utility poles being replaced with concrete poles throughout the country. Considering the quality of the timber poles, WHBC reached the decision of utilizing these telegraph poles as the main structure of the house. Apart from the timber poles, several materials used in constructing the house are also recycled. That includes the timber pool deck and roofing of the house which is made of boards from a former jetty in Penang and recycled roofing from an old airport in Penang respectively. In tectonic architecture, it is important to allow building materials and its construction as the main expression of the design and architecture. Such is the usage of raw or unfinished materials and the exposing of construction joints in the Telegraph Pole House. (Figure 1)

To enhance the unique identity of the house, the telegraph poles gathered for the construction of this house is left exposed with the patina of weathered timber. The labels and numberings that used to indicate each telegraph pole is retained. (Figure 2) This small gesture taken by the architects gave a strong impact to the identity of the house itself as it retains a rustic accent. To better highlight the worn timber textures of the house, dark steel is used in the structural detailing of the staircase, window and door frames(Figure 3). The stark contrast between timber, steel and glass gives a dash of modernity to the house, engaging the architecture with contemporary lifestyle and ideals.

Figure 2

Figure 3

Apart from the material selection, tectonics in architecture also focuses on construction detail and how it gives the poetic value towards the building. A construction detail that could convert a physical value into a metaphysical value can’t just be a mundane type of construction detail. To be able to convey poetics, a construction detail of a structure needs to be unique. Unique in construction detail doesn’t mean that it always have to be something new or fresh, rather it should be an innovation of material and construction usage. Tectonics in architecture can be well-presented by how one derives or executes the ideal type of construction for a certain project. WHBC applied various ideas on the synthesis of vari ous materials to different methods of construction, with the final result being a unique and eccentric design compared to the typical traditional long house. (Figure 4) The Telegraph Pole House can be categorized as a successful example on delivering tectonics architecture through their structure and details.

Figure 4


THE TELEGRAPH POLE The structural aspects of the Telegraph Pole House has great importance, WHBC uses a combination of materials and methods in the construction and assembly of each structural elements. The column of the house is the main feature of the house, not only from the construction point of view, but also from the perspective of aesthetic value. (Figure 5) To create the main columns of the house, 4 telegraph poles were used for each column. The 4 poles are bolted and elevated above the ground with a dark steel pin base. (Figure 6) This is to prevent the timber columns from termite attacks, which at the same time creates an appealing structure which seems lightweight and elegant. By having the columns as the main structure on ground floor, it omits the need of load-bearing walls. Thus, an open plan is created with unobstructed views of the surrounding scenery of paddy fields and lush greeneries. Moreover, it allows the main body of the building to be elevated off the ground, just like the traditional long house where new views are introduced for the occupants within the building. (Figure 7) The design details incorporated into the construction of the columns are the results from critical thoughts on problem solving. They were derived from the situation and function that the house needs. It is inspiring how practical solutions can also accentuate the aesthetics of the architecture.

Figure 5

Figure 7

Figure 6

Figure 8

Figure 9

STRUCTURE AND DETAILS The structure of the house can be described as clean and practical, where timber columns carry beams supporting the floor and the roof above. A joint method of traditional and conventional timber construction was used in connecting the beams. Each beam that go across the house is made up of 3 telegraph poles joined by traditional scarf joints (Figure 8) and bolted in the sections, offering the correct length for the framework to support the roof. From these timber beams, the staircase is suspended using dark steel rods that form loops which allow timber steps to slot in and sit upon the loops. The illusion of the stairs suspended by thin lines presents a statement of transition, where one begins ascending towards the living quarters. The structure balances its large overhang roof on the sturdy sets of columns. At the same time, the mass of the structure is relieved by the steel pin base that elevates the columns from the ground, enhancing the visual experience of the house as a well-proportioned structure. Every single detail of construction left exposed, (Figure 9) was executed with a careful examination where it is adequate and actually plays an importance in highlighting the essence of the architecture throughout the house.


SPATIAL QUALITIES From the design of the structure, a simple and neat spatial organization is created. Divided into two storeys, the pilotis structure on ground level provides an open level whereas the upper floor is more enclosed with wide balcony spaces for views of the scenery. The large open area on the ground floor houses the living area and the kitchen. (Figure 10) Having no solid walls except for the glass encased kitchen space, the permeability of views is maintained. The structure of the house coincidentally frames the breathtaking scenery of the distant village and greenery in a picturesque manner. The structure of the house is greatly emphasized by the reflective quality of the pool which compliments the minimalistic spaces as a whole. The first floor sits atop a timber flooring, connected via the suspended staircase at the side of the house. (Figure 11) The upper floor consists of living quarters and family spaces. The most interesting aspect on the first floor would be the wide stretch of veranda space, overlooking the pool below and views of the distant village. The experience intends to draw out a soothing atmosphere, a space that allows lazy evenings submerged in nostalgic reminiscence. The theme follows closely to the original brief of having a Malaysian timber long house design, with added elements of modernity and vernacular architecture. The elevated structure with an open planning allows the entire space to be well ventilated by gentle breezes, constantly keeping the temperature cool and comfortable. Above the house is the large overhang roof, as seen in the traditional long houses. Natural light is let in freely to illuminate the open spaces, while rain is kept out. The essence of a traditional long house seated within the local climate is captured and reinterpreted in an innovative and urban concept. The linearly spanning structure ties all the elements and spaces of the house together; it is the factor that depicts the structure as a shelter, the balancing mass to the structural frame. The Telegraph Pole House is designed with a very minimalist design, which brings out the elegance of each space and the house as a whole itself. There is no excessive ornamentation added to the house. The architect, as mentioned, focus on exploring the poetic of materials used to shape the elegance of the house.

Figure 10

WHBC architects often incorporate tectonics of architecture in their works, having strong beliefs on honest materiality, leaving the materials mostly raw as how it is. Most of their works attain poetic through tectonics in architecture, including the Telegraph pole house. This can be seen on how the architects applied the materials that they recycled to be left ex posed as how it is. The detail in the materials that indicates it as a recycled material depicts the unobserved value of an otherwise ordinary material. This is a part of tectonic quality in the architecture of Telegraph Pole House that gives a strong poetic feeling and a strong identity towards the house. Not only the painted signs in the poles, but the architects design the house in such a way that user can experience the true and the honest texture of the materials. Users can feel the roughness of the timber poles through both their sight and touch, the gnarled and uneven texture of the jetty board that is reused as the floor of the house, and the different sensation of smooth and cold both concrete and the metal plate offers. With a very honest exposure of materiality, users are pampered with the richness of texture through almost all of their senses.

Figure 11

CONCLUSION What makes the Telegraph Pole House so outstanding in the end is due to the structural poetics derived from the synthesis of details, construction, structure and materials. Beginning from a very long process of thinking and design process to the hunt of the recycled materials, to fulfill a dream house of a retired couple, this house has become something more than just a residential structure. It was valuable, each of the recycled materials having their own history to tell. It was authentic, the construction stuck with the traditional methods of kampong house building with a few improvisations. It was practical, the structure of columns upholding the upper floors and the roof in unity. Hence it was not just the typical traditional long house but rather a contemporary design that fits seamlessly into the context of a traditional long house. The way that WHBC Architects design this dream house is thoughtful with every single detail to form the ambience and the well-versed usage of tectonics in architecture design to bring out the grace and the poetic value of the house.



Chempenai House // WHBC Architects



Modern architecture is now a global architectural language that is being adapted and explored in many different ways. In the context of tropical country, modern architecture has been transformed and redefined with the combination of tropical architecture elements that contextualized the international language into the local design. Thus, this forms a unique architectural language and it has become a trend in Malaysian architecture industry. Nestled among the lush greens of Bukit Damansara, the Chempenai house by WHBC architects is a concrete tropical box that stands out from the neighboring houses. Completed in December 2012, the integration of modern architecture principles including brise soleil and brĂŠton brut are the main factors, which define the building amongst the typical pitched roof and painted facade neighbors with its iconic egg-crates structure on the exterior. WHBC architects was awarded the project by the owner due to their problem solving architecture which creates contextual and sensitive buildings with enhancements of tectonics and materiality.

TROPICAL FEATURES + CONTEXTUAL SENSITIVITY Uniquely placed on an elongated hilltop site, the Chempenai House has adopted various tropical features in order to adapt to the harsh Malaysian climate. Responding to the naturally sloping site, the main part of the house was elevated from the ground to keep moisture and pests out, a very identical approach to the vernacular architecture practiced in Malaysia for past decades. The elevation of the ground level was also to provide sufficient height clearance for the lower ground spaces without having the need to carry out extensive excavation of the site. Therefore, this measure was taken by the architect to primarily preserve the mature trees and the undulating topography pattern, which originally existed on site. With these design strategies, the house today sits harmoniously amongst the canopy of these surrounding trees.

Accommodating to the orientation of site, the two major facades was orientated towards the east and the west. Hence, the architect had introduced the iconic egg crate structure in purpose of breaking the harsh sunlight and passively provide thermal comfort for the occupants. Wrapping around two sides of the house, the structure not only filters out excessive sunlight but at the same time doubles function as frames to capture views strategically around the house to provide pleasant views for the occupants. With the initial concept of ‘Tropical Box’, the foliage of the mature trees was preserved both inside and outside and integrates it as prominent design element in the dwelling. The trees have also played a role as the secondary barrier to filter the harsh tropical rays by providing natural shading.

1: The conceptual sketch of Chempenai House. Tropical Box’ is the main idea behind the design. 2,3. The elevated feature of Chempenai House is similar to vernacular design. 34 Sketch roof plan of Chempenai House showing the vegetation condition at surrounding. 5,6: :Sketch above is showing the characteristic of given site. 7 Sketch of Chempenai House.

The swimming pool on the south end of the house is also another prominent tropical feature that could be identified in the design of the house. The water present promotes evaporative cooling, a passive design strategies that is usually carried out in this tropical climate to cool down the room temperature. As water evaporates, it absorbs heat from the surrounding which theoretically decreases the ambient temperature of the area. When necessary, partitions in between the living area and the pool can be opened which creates one large open space allowing natural ventilation through the spaces. Besides, by having this open design at the living area, the tropical design idea of blurring the boundaries between both interior and exterior is injected to allow spatial continuity and exposure to the natural surroundings Due to the presence of a neighbouring house on the eastern side, the design approached by the architect was to decrease visual permeability from this side of the house comparatively to the western facade, which looks over multiple vacant lands. Solid walls were staggered on the eastern facade in order to have minor openings, which face the north and the south to allow daylight penetration to lit the spaces within. However, due to the insufficient lighting from the small openings, an internal courtyard was used to allow more light penetration into the house while maintaining the much-needed privacy from the neighbor on the east.






From the exterior, the overall building form of Chempenai House is very simple and rectangular. With this strong sense of geometry, the modern architecture language of Chempenai House stands out on it’s own and juxtaposed to surrounding. Nevertheless, the clean cut building form is stylized and elegant with the egg crate building structure, which well represents the idea of modern architecture in omitting decorative element. Besides, the egg crate design reminisces to the idea of Brise Soleil proposed by Le Corbusier in the design of Palace of Assembly, Chandigarh. With the same purpose of deflecting the sunlight, the Chempenai House break the traditional form of Brise Soleil and rearrange the frame pattern with the consideration of material’s characteristic and building structure, which pushing the building construction technology further by making the egg crate as a load bearing structure.


8: Sketches above showing the massing design development of Chempenai House. 9: Ground Floor Plan of Chempenai House. 10: Lower Ground Floor Plan of Chempenai House. 11: First Floor Plan of Chempenai House.

Designed for a family of 4, the owner had given a specific brief on spatial planning to the architect to omit any unnecessary spaces in the house. This has resulted in the outcome of a modest yet homely dwelling for the family. Unlike typical houses found around the neighborhood, which could be categorized as mansions, the 6000 square feet 4-bedroom house camouflages itself between the coverage of the mature trees surrounding it, leaving a utterly reserved impression to those who passes by. The visitor’s approach from the entry is via a sloping walkway cutting through a grove of trees that was previously preserved before construction toward the main entrance on the elevated ground plane. From the entrance, guests are greeted at the guest lounge then continue their journey passing through a series of spaces down a walkway bounded by a staircase and a courtyard. The journey ends with a sudden change in scale of space while arriving at the large open living area. The ground floor caters for family congregations with a sleek modern aesthetic. On the left, simple wood shelving forms a mini library to showcase the owner's vast collection of books. It also double functions as a mini bar for the owner to stir up a few cocktails during special occasions. On the opposite end, the open kitchen anchors the space with a series of gloss white cabinets, which contrasts the dull textured concrete wall. By having this free plan design, the family space at ground floor is large and connected, which making the interior much more modern compared to traditional party wall design. On the upper floor, the 4 bedrooms each were designed carefully to have controlled view into the gardens while at the same time providing necessary privacy for the user. While making use of the existing sloping site, the architect had tucked the major service and utility spaces in the lower ground level. These spaces include a generously sized maid’s quarters, a garage for three cars which sits snugly under the pool deck away from sight.



Another brief that was given to the architect was to design a house that would require minimal maintenance cost. This decision had in many ways caused and impactful influence towards the building’s design. One of the prominent characters in this low maintenance design was the architect’s selection of materials. The architect had created a modern structure in influence of the Breton Brut language, which majority of the architectural elements and finishes were left raw and bare to celebrate the character of each material. Concrete was widely used in the building primarily due to its great thermal mass properties and also minimal maintenance is required. On the other hand, the decision of using wooden flooring primarily in the bedroom and common space at first floor had given users warmth in contrast with the cold and dull concrete.

Besides the choice of the materials, the architect had maintained a neutral color and material scheme throughout the design of the dwelling. Similar to the concrete egg crate facade of the house, majority of the structural elements, internal walls and floors were also kept as unfinished off-form concrete. On the exterior, the algae growth on the concrete facade had shown sign of aging in this tropical weather as if nature was colonizing the building slowly across time, blending in together with the lush green foliage surrounding it.






Integrating the idea of Brise Soleil, the egg crate structure on the exterior of the house certainly gives the house a unique identity compared to its neighbours. Besides breaking heat radiation and aesthetic purposes, the egg crate structure cast varying shadows over the open deck throughout the day. These shadows certainly add details to the plain concrete wall during the day bringing the space to life. The egg crate structure is also featured in the open living area. These off form concrete that were elaborately spread across the ceiling of this large open space certainly was not structural however a form of expression by the architect. The interplay of lights through various types of openings in different spaces prompts visitor to explore the house upon arriving. From the point of entry, users pass through a series of darker, enclosed spaces led forward by the brightly lit living area. The scale a difference between these spaces gives user a sense of relief upon arrival at the living area with the extraordinary framed view of the pool deck towards the horizon. This is very similar to the approach that was also observed in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water.


In a nutshell, the Chempenai House by WHBC architects had shown the ability to critically utilize modern architectural language in adaptation to our local tropical climate. In term of form creation, the translation of Brise Soleil offers the design of the dwelling a modernist characteristic with tropical feature of sun shading effect. The house today sits within the site harmoniously despite being different when compared with the surrounding neighbours. The unique modernistic form and layout along with the interplay of poetics had given an unique identity to the house, however had always been criticized by many due to its brave and bold approach by having a huge and raw concrete box for a residential design. With critical sensitivity towards the site conditions and a modernist sensibility, the house today have become one of the prominent example of modern architecture in Malaysia.

12: Sketch of Palace of Assembly, Chandigarh. Brise Soleil, the sun shading design. 13: Integration of structure and vegetation making the Chempenai House become a ‘Garden in the Box’. 14: The natural light that penetrated in through the central courtyard creates visual ‘pathway’ to guide the user to explore the house. 15: : Interesting shadow casting along the full height window creates poetic feeling. 16: The egg crate framing the view specifically in different spaces.


ARCHITECTURE OF NECCESSITY Vermani House // Ar. Eleena Jamil



Vermani House

is the name given to a recently remodeled and extended 2-storey semi-detached house located in downtown Kuala Lumpur designed by Ar. Eleena Jamil. The new additions are a mix of enclosed and open-air spaces, made to accommodate the daily life of a young couple and their young daughter. The architect is based in Kuala Lumpur and she focuses on creating enduring architecture by seeking tactile spatial solutions with strong reference to context and culture. Strong shapes of the design were created and inspired by the simplicity of modernism but designed to be both eminently practical and comfortable. This article illustrates architecture of necessity and the architect’s simplistic design approach with the philosophy of tectonics, inhabitation and utilitarian in architecture.




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1: Plans of Vermani House (From 1-10 : Main Entrance, Pool, Slide, Living/Kitchen, Courtyard Terrace, Master Bedroom, Study, Gym, Family Room & Bedroom) 2: Honesty of construction materials

OVERALL DESIGN The existing house is being removed leaving only its building structures onto which new walls and roof are added. The idea of the house is to be rough, to feel real, for the interior and exterior. Vermani house displays raw construction and tectonic quality to give a poetic dimension. The architect choose to use concrete extensively as the main material for the Vermani House due to local construction industry context where concrete can be easily found and labour intensive culture. There is also brick wall which also forms the party wall with its adjacent neighbor. The architect also carefully consider the natural sunlight in the house, there are only certain selected openings on the walls and roof bringing in a combination of diffused light and rays of sunshine according to different time of day. A new pavilion is added to the rear to accommodate the private spaces such as bedrooms, study area and gym. Private spaces were separated from the main house by a circular courtyard as the heart of the house.


TECTONICS // THE SCIENCE OF CONSTRUCTION TECHNIQUE Honesty in materials are important to express the tectonics quality of a building. The first step was to reveal the building's inherent construction beauty such as masonry walls and concrete floors by peeling away superficial enhancers such as tiles, plaster and paint. This allows the occupants to appreciate the natural beauty of building materials in both interior and exterior of the house. Furthermore, it is more practical and cost effective to use exposed building materials by reducing the cost for house painting and furnishing. Unfinished surfaces also have another advantage where the risk of being affected by sick building syndrome could be avoided. Research has found out that paint fume can contribute to sick building syndrome which may cause discomfort orserious health problem. Vermani House emphasizes on expressing the visual pleasantries of structural elements such as skeletal concrete, steel support columns and service piping. Structural joints are left exposed in order to intrigue the dweller's understanding of how spaces function and this heightens one's appreciate towards minor details to create a greater picture. Vermani House exhibits a strong appeal with its earthly colour palette of warm brick red and concrete grey mixed with cold steels while being punctuated by exposed PVC pipes.

INHABITATION // AN ACCOMMODATING ENTITY Humanity have been in the pursuit of comfort whether metaphorical, financially or physically and one of architectures fundamental purpose is to provide these comforts for living. More accurately, thermal comfort which is concerned with pleasing the individual mind through temperature, ventilation and humidity. There is a long list of passive designs under Malaysian vernacular architecture that help eradicate the blistering equatorial heat and humidity which is the main culprit for causing thermal discomfort. In Vermani House, a subtle stack ventilation is used to cool the interior, a vegetated central courtyard creates a low pressure area that inhales fresh outer air and expels warm air through the roof opening later. This system is aided by a body of water that moderates entering air which creates an evaporating cooling effect for the house. The aluminum roof extends beyond its floor space and acts in a similar way to a tree's canopy, providing shade from sun rays and protection against rain. The heavy thermal mass materials, brick and concrete have low thermal conductivity which means they are not good in transferring heat when comparing to other materials like metals. They function to keep the interior cool by absorbing all the heat into its great latent storage. All this eventually equates to the occupants only needing a couple of fans to keep themselves comfortable regardless of the activity.

3: Interior Perspective of Vermani House 4: Courtyard Concept as the prominent feature 5:Stack Ventilation of Vermani House

THE COURTYARD Kuala Lumpur is a thriving metropolitan where its lifestyle is on a faster pace when compared with other area. Therefore, an emphasis on a balanced lifestyle is much needed. Drastic changes was made to the original spatial layout where a new 'pavilion' like structure was built behind the original house which helps to create a courtyard that acts as a transitional space. Modern open floor plan surrounding a courtyard permitted the growing family to better use the spaces. The horse shoe shaped courtyard was made to act as a central buffer zone of tranquility where the space itself is an intimate connection to nature, whilst providing heighten privacy for the adjoining spaces such as bedroom, living, kitchen, study and gym. Looking at the plan the courtyard features the only curved gesture in contrast to the surround grid spaces, which invites daily activities to revolve around this focal points, making it impossible to pass between any two spaces or floors without being affiliated somehow with the courtyard. This will help to create a centralized zone where all the major activities are held around it. The courtyard is conceal from the public by re-orientating the building major activities backwards. The courtyard as a prominent feature of this building is further heighten with different use of materials. Steel columns are used to support the courtyard instead of reinforced concrete.



Vermani House expresses an architecture derivative from the relation between tectonic, inhabitation and utility. The form and space is generated from a tectonic of a courtyard as a unifying element that inform the purpose of the house as a family oriented house. By combining the courtyard concept with exposed structure which form the backdrop of everyday life, the house displays its raw construction and tectonic quality. Thus, effectively giving it a poetic spatial quality. Vermani House stays true to Ar. Eleena Jamil design philosophy of creating building with tactile spatial solutions and strong reference to context and culture. Architecture of Necessity is being adapted to the design of a Malaysian building which reflects the Malaysian way of life while remain not looking out of place due to its Modernism influences. 6: Courtyard view of Vermani House




living quarters above the ground floor space approach by the architect for the modern contemporary dwelling of 38 Mews, which houses 4 cats and a couple. The name derives from the built form that engages to the surrounding yard and orientated to face the dramatic view of the mountainous greenery. Responding to the local tropical climate, the house portrays itself as a large “veranda”, common to vernacular architecture. The house was designed by a renowned architect in Malaysia, Ar. Chan Mun Inn. It was design with the partnership of the company DCA (Design Collective Architects), an establishment that practices modern minimalist design responding to the site context.

1. Veranda with Shadow foreplay by the wire mesh

38 Mews has the form derived from the large vernacular veranda space of an industrial like envelope. A continuous of the roofing material was linearly linked to the wall due to rare workmanship of creating flat wall manually. It is achievable by the rigid form of the house with the assist of the space and volume of the huge veranda. A picturesque view of forest and hilly greens screen was captured in the orientation of the rectilinear form where enjoyment of natural daylight from the early sunshine beaming across the veranda. The large overhang provides natural shading to the east facing opening in the afternoon. A continuous time lapse of shadow cast creates a metaphor of a clock for the client when shadow slowly withdraws away from the interior. At noon, the house is completely shaded under the large overhang and from the interaction of insulating technology lied below the roof, which kept the interior cool at a normal room temperature. Due to the large extension of veranda, steel meshed gated were placed on the east façade as a provision of security and the safety measure for both the owner and the cats. The mesh façade creates an intrigue atmosphere through the angle where the light cast onto the mesh steel thus contributing to restraining the glare from transiting into the interior. Thin refined line shadow protrude to the veranda exposing the poetic ambience of light and shadow.

2. Sketch of shadow casting from 8am to 12pm


The overall design derives from the inspiration of Villa Savoye by the modern master Le Corbusier and the five points of architecture, one of the elements exposed in 38 Mews were the usage of pilotis to uplift the structure above the ground thus seemingly to manipulate the building to float amidst ground and sky. Similar to the Malay vernacular architecture in bringing sustainable passive design strategies into 38 Mews as how passive cooling can be driven through the openings of the envelope along with overhanging eaves for shading. In addition, the uplift of the building indirectly induce passive cooling on the floor slab. The form portray a modernist element into the trapezium design feature veranda in contextualizing to the existing layout of the land.

3: Pilotis and Uplift Structure

The large veranda of 38 Mews follows the modernist principle of form follow function as the overall rectilinear shape is based on the intended function of how the large overhang is used for shading and amplifies the air circulation inside out thus providing a translucent ambience for the space and in the event of obtaining interaction with the open landscape. Alternatively, reducing its bulky faรงade into a more exquisite appearance, allowing 38 Mews to stand out as an iconic house among the neighbourhood. Design in a minimalist style for the large veranda, the ratio scale of the volume and the furniture are exclusively contrasting and generating a buffer zone of a semi-open space that stands between the interior and the yard were the features of the large veranda. A vernacular space that discern the zone making it a significant characteristic of 38 Mews. Instead of creating a veranda that is seen elsewhere, the architect raised the communal space for the daily programme to first floor level which fully emphasizing the mews ideology. This phenomenon would be a stunning huge floating veranda that could be recognize easily from the first sight which is striking in architectural field where the combination of modern floating mass while exploring the sustainable value in architecture. The reflection idea of the elevated height double volume living area were to meet the tropical environment of the local climate where flat roof is not suitable.

Creating a double volume and yet giving the space that ideal poetic translation through the inclined ceiling which providing it an exaggerated form. The element of open plan terrace creates a wide ventilation for the interior spaces, allowing the house to cool by the openness of the east facing with the aid in capturing the wind. Two addition square shaped windows were placed at both north and south facing faรงade in introducing the wind breeze into the room and spaces. Design to flush the heat wave from the interior from the double volume of the front faรงade by creating a wind passage for air flow were emphasize by the architect in this design. Furthermore in assisting the passive cooling to the house by introductory of stack effect, which allows to draw the heat off away from the interior providing circulation of cool air into the building.

4: Double Volume Living Area 5: Section drawing showing the Stack Effect


The powder room ventilation air are being exhausted out through the small opening located at the double volume area. Natural ventilation which drives the cool air inward causing the building to cool without the usage of air conditioning within the open space of the living room. Breeze flow through the large balcony where it acts as a wind tunnel, directing the wind into the glass opening window, cooling the interior passively in addition of manipulating the movement of air through the use of ceiling fan.

The triple storey building divides the level through hierarchy of space, from a semi-public to a private space where the second floor encloses with the master bedroom and the workstation for the couple. The building was design as a unified office and home style building. Each space designed to respond to the programme were customize to suit the function for the couple and the cats. The shady living room and the extended veranda (balcony) are both positioned on the first floor where the areas were used for the cats to roam about and take nappy naps. The master bedroom is located on the highest level together with the workstation area as a form of the most important space in the level of hierarchy. A spare bedroom is prepared in the event of having their relatives to stay over while another room is placed at the lower floor which used to be a working room as now currently converted into a store room. “It’s currently used as a gym space for my workout session” stated Ar. Chan Mun Inn in conveying the usability of the current white elephant space. The circulation enables a journey in transitioning from public space to a private space which is the master bedroom is proposed to be highest state of the hierarchy. The uplifted floating mass forces the circulation to move upward, entering into a semi private space of the living room, the foyer act as a transitioning space in following movement towards the upper level. The uplifted structure is to allow higher security surveillance to the owner.

The veranda idea portray a sense of belonging to the site, bringing close to nature consideration of the climatic studies with deeply researched and engraving to the house design. The house is design in a way to reduce global warming thus applying the function of passive design into the floating structure. The screening of the veranda at the east elevation indirectly convey poetic sense to the user as the shadow cast to the ground. Openness captures the breeze flow allowing user to achieve thermal comfort. These elements concludes the aim of the house in portraying a large veranda that contributes to the climatic consideration yet function as well to allow the dwelling of the cats in the house. To conclude with a final saying, to fill the house with joy is to fill the house with “purring”.

6: Passive Cooling Strategies 7: Small Space for Cat Circulation


Materiality as a Contextual Reflection BELUM RAINFOREST RESORT // C-arch Architecture



The Malaysian identity often depicts and based on, an alternating dialogue of landscapes and neutrality of materials against a backdrop which forms the secondary shell of the architecture. The mythology of an outback backdrop and its wide stretches of a lake signifies the dialogue between the architecture and the place itself. Belum Rainforest Resort is an conscious effort of the architect trying to communicate the presence of the Malaysian traditional vernacular architecture against a distinctive landscape, whereby modernist and contemporary architecture played a part. Located in one of the oldest rainforest of the northern region of the country, the resort consists of several scattered blocks of guestrooms and guesthouses that were constructed with a 2-phase construction process. Phase 1 includes the main amenities such as lobby, dining area, conference rooms and guest rooms while phase 2 includes a swimming pool and additional guesthouse and suites. Sensitivity to the site plays a vital role towards influencing the materials used throughout the resort. The result is a plot of land that desires to fulfill cultural aspirations and reducing the environmental burden towards the existing landscape.

1: Side Elevation of the Resort 2: Site plan of the resort 3: Restaurant Facade of the Resort 4: Huru Hara bricks contrasting the wooden sapplings

MATERIALITY IN CONTEXT OF ENVIRONMENT AND CULTURE As Belum Rainforest Resort is located in the middle of a reserved rainforest, the basis of the resort revolves around the idea of preserving its surrounding context and landscape. The use of materials for the resort are chosen to complement the resort's tectonics as well as for its contextual relation to the surrounding environment and culture. In terms of environmental aspects, careful use of material are a prominent strategy in order to make the resort achieve harmony with the surrounding landscape. The reasoning is simply because the resort shouldn't overpower the main attraction which is the reserved rainforest. Another reason for the careful use of material is to achieve thermal comfort for users. Due to the climate of intense sun radiation and dense humid level pertaining to the surrounding site, materials are key to the infiltration and exfiltration of warm air into spaces. Cultural response plays a big role in terms of cultural image. The use of timber structures for walls and roofs, bamboo and tree saplings for facade and shading devices can be seen as a tribute to the nearby Orang Asli's village while the use of local rammed earth walls and feature wall made from refurbished red bricks pays homage to the culture of conservation. These materials when brought into context and merged, gives birth to an architecture style descendant from vernacular architecture and modern architecture.


CRAFTING AND CONSTRUCTION Crafting experiences is evident in the characteristic tactility of the designers work and the skill in using different materials throughout the resort. The resort first phase which comprises of stories of rooms draws from a palette of timber and brickwork used in various manners, which is augmented by other materials in the second phase. Everywhere the intensity of standard resort planning is broken down and softened by the profusion of materiality. Refinement of old cultural techniques and new ones such as careful fusion of timber rod and steel support as balustrade has certainly nourished sensitivity and sustainability towards the backdrop Timber is used in various techniques throughout the resort such as timber rod balustrade and shading devices as well as timber panel walls and roofs. Timber rod cladding is a simple facade application yet it helps creates unexpected visuals throughout the facade. Drawing inspirations from local crafting techniques and reinterpreting it, the timber rods are sourced locally and is mounted on steel sections which has holes running through so the timber rods can slide easily into place.

5:The rammed earth and concrete walls 6: The fusion of timber rod with modern steel supports 7:The timber rod facade

Unlike the use of timber to blend the phase 1 facade with the surrounding trees, rammed earth creates a stark contrast within the shear concrete walls surrounding the phase 2 of the resort. The choice of using rammed earth as a wall element material was for the sole reason of reusing the dug up soil that would otherwise become construction waste. Freshly dug soil on the soil is mixed with aggregates and tamped into a formwork before being rammed by brute force until a compacted form is achieved. To further reflect the context of preserving the forest, lightweight steel structure is evidently employed throughout the second phase of the resort. To achieve the sense of lightness, hollow steel members coupled with wire mesh were implemented as the structure for walkways and secondary spaces. Connections and mounting are seamless achieved by welding and bolt and nuts.

POETICS OF MATERIAL Rather than to blindly utilise the surrounding materials as part of the resort's physical attribute, innovative progression of materials extracted from local culture and contemporary influence unites various scenes and established a resort with a prominent character, accommodating multiple journeys and explorations where tectonic works influences usage of sustainable materials. This can be seen by the use of bamboo furnished in lacquer paint and detailed into partition walls, thus separating private and public areas in the reception of the resort. The material plays a sensitive role due to its reusability and the fact that it is taken from the site clearing when the project began. It is also used as a cladding and furnishings of the resort through the facade and ceilings. This not only enhance the experience of the user but help the resort reduce its footprint as well as reflect the context of forest reserve

Apart from the usual environmental point of view, materials are also known to have significant poetic value in the sense that it can create value, experience, and personal judgment of the experiential space. Certain architectural atmosphere are formed from material play such as texture, colour, temperatures as well as tone and Belum Rainforest Resort manages to convey a tropical and serene atmosphere as well as breezy and relaxing. Aside from the obvious intention to blend to its surrounding, wood are employed for its sound dampening characteristic which can create desired tone and eliminate unnecessary echo within a space. Bamboo are used mainly for facade and sun shading device due to its aesthetically pleasing value created when light passes through the gaps, creating shadow play, which gives the sense of Zen to users. The use of translucent glass at the lobby creates an ambiguous space that conveys a relationship between private experience and public display. Glass coupled with bamboo also allows users to feel the interior space of the lobby without abandoning the surrounding view of nature.

8: The lightweight steel structure used 9: Interplay of shadows in between spaces 10: Bamboo used as partition walls 11: Texture of the bamboo used


CONCLUSION Materials play an important role in shaping the architecture tectonics of the resort from simple intentions of responding to the sensitivity of the tropical site to evoking powerful poetic feelings of peaceful bliss. Depending on context, the use of materials shouldn't be bounded by the limitation of the physical such as the current contemporary style of crafting and constructions, but it should be explored, refined, and innovated further so to gain new understandings of the tectonics as seen in Belum Rainforest Resort.




Being a tropical country, green and sustainability in Malaysia focuses on the design being in response to Malaysia’s tropical condition, at the same time provide a comfortable and healthy spaces for the users. PJ Trade Centre is a unique reinterpretation of green high-rise architecture that response to Malaysia’s tropical condition to provide a comfortable and healthy workspace for the users. PJTC is a corporate office development located in Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya consisting of four tower blocks with a landscaped plaza. Designed by Kevin Mark Low, passive approaches are applied to PJTC to respond to Malaysia's tropical condition. What makes it interesting is these passive approaches actually creates a new way of conceiving high-rise architecture. Breaking free from the norm, green and sustainability plays the crucial part for this change to happen. Hence, this article aims to study the passive approaches of PJTC in response to Malaysia’s tropical condition and how it change the way high-rise architecture being conceived.

The first thing that always comes to the mind for a green high-rise architecture is a futuristic looking high rise building completed with advanced active green technology. However, in the design of PJ Trade Centre (PJTC),Kevin Mark Low decided to use simple construction techniques, locally available construction materials and ventilation systems that are passive instead. In order for PJTC to response well to Malaysia’s tropical condition with minimum usage of active technology, Low came out with his own interpretation of green high-rise architecture. This resulted in a sustainable building that is unique and nothing like any typical high-rise architecture in Malaysia. This is in line with the developer’s request for a bold and different office development. Low made a different move on PJTC design by breaking away from the typical steel-and-glass box. PJTC is built entirely with simple local materials, concrete and over burnt bricks. The usage of local materials constructed using local construction methods creates an architecture that is able to connect strongly with the surrounding site context. Standing just next to a green mountain and surrounded by greeneries, Low address the site by leaving the concrete and over burnt bricks unfinished. Although the appearance of the architecture as a whole may look distinct and unique, yet the usage of honest raw unfinished materials is able to allow PJTC blends in together with the surrounding making the building looks as if part of mother nature itself. With environmentally friendly and energy efficiency being part of the factors of using these local materials, it actually able to achieve the aim of reducing the usage of air-conditioning by having the concrete structure as thermal mass storage. At the same time, the simple unfinished materials are able to express the simplicity and honesty in design as well as having a strong connection to the nature.

FACADES The façade of PJ Trade Centre is one of the most important elements that make it stands out from typical high-rise building. The idea of Kevin Mark Low is to keep it simple and to tread the earth gently. To Low, the glass façade of typical high-rise architecture will not work well in Malaysia because it will gain a lot of sun glare. Facing east and west, the facades PJ Trade Centre serves as the screening to shade the interior spaces from the morning and afternoon sun. Focuses on passive designs, the facade is made up by precast bare concrete with vent blocks that are not plastered or painted, inspired by the traditional basic sarong cloth, screening the building up to 20 storey. The façade was solid when viewed from far distance, porous and beautifully detailed when viewed in close range. The façade wall is pictured to be covered by creepers and moss which gives a sense of life breathing as the building ages.

From afar, it looks like four giant blocks of concrete and red bricks screened by the concrete vent block which is covered in vegetation looming over the high-way. It gives the sense of heaviness and mystery which easily trigger one’s curiosity to find out what is behind the façade or inside the block which are not found in a typical high-rise building due to the highly visible glass and light steel facade. The concrete vent block of PJTC is able to block out the direct sun glare yet allow natural lighting to penetrate through the hollow blocks. The 150mm thickness of concrete egg crate structure is able to reduce and filter the heat gain when it passes through the façade, thus the air-conditioner loads can also be reduced. Besides that, the concrete vent blocks façade at two sides of the building also allow cross ventilation, the large operable sliding windows and their own air-condition can be controlled in each office by the tenants. It is a very sustainable and eco-friendly approach to passive solar design that breaks the norm of glass façade of typical high-rise building. The concrete block was also designed in a way to naturally reduce the collection of dirt and dust in Malaysia hence reducing maintenance and cleaning to minimal. The choice of using local materials and the way of handling the materials shows Low’s high sensitivity towards Malaysia’s tropical condition.


SPATIAL ARRANGEMENT PJ Trade Centre is one of the first high-rise architecture in the area which rest on the topography thathas different levels of contours and surrounded by mountains and hills. The placement of building masses is designed to create a pressure difference between two long sides of the building which are the east and west sides.The huge land is broken down into four smaller blocks, with some green transition spaces in between each blocks to allow even more permeability for cross ventilation. In this case, the natural context is utilized as part of the passive design factor to enhance the cross ventilation of the building as mentioned earlier where air enters on the west side of the building and leaves on the east side to the highway. The front portion of the building is covered by a large 2.5 acre forest plaza with plenty of large trees planted which makes it looks like an extension of the forest nearby the site. The four main entrances on the ground floor is covered up by natural ventilated glass box to camouflaged and gives a sense of transparency, creating a feeling of concrete towers floating on the local forest.In between every block of office towers, there are hanging sky terraces with some greeneries growing over the terraces.

The idea of having these sky terraces created an unconventional transition space from tower to tower that gives a different kind of office experience. It actually became an informal gathering space for the workers to chill out during their break time. The floors of the hanging sky terraces are made by steel mesh. It continues the porous feeling of the concrete faรงade, giving the overall building a sense of permeability. Different from the typical high-rise building in Malaysia, PJTC allows the elements from the nature like sun, wind and rainto easily enter by passing through the building to a certain extend where these natural elements actually enhanced the spatial quality of the building instead of blocking them by covering up with solid concrete and glass windows.Another unique and green feature of PJTC that made it stood out from the rest of typical high-rise architecture can be seen in the main lobbies.

All in all, the PJTC is a unique, green and sustainable high rise workspace that focuses on using ecofriendly local materials and passive designs to respond to Malaysia’s tropical condition.It creates an entire different spatial experience for the users aiming to improve the staff morale and eventually increased the productivity and the quality of works. This successful reinterpretation of high rise building in PJTC could be a start of a new trend in Malaysia or even internationally, to encourage the architects to take a daring step forward to design, to create and to build high-rise architecture that are totally unique in appearance yet completely belongs to the place by responding to the local condition.


Fashion Wholesale Goodness Kenanga Wholesale City // ZLG Design



Tectonics in architecture is defined as “The science or art of construction”, both in relation to use and artistic design. It refers not just to the “activity of making the materially exquisite construction that answers certain needs, but rather to the activity that raises this construction to an art form.” It is concerned with the modelling of material to bring the material into presence: from the physical into the meta-physical world. One unique building that resembles tectonic architecture in Malaysia is the Kenanga Wholesale Shopping Centre. The Kenanga Wholesale City (KWC) is designed by ZLG Design Architect ans is located along Jalan Gelugor, which is surrounded by double storey shop houses in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s textile district. The design of Kenanga Wholesale City presents an unusual scale whereby it raises nineteen levels above ground and houses intensive wholesale trade of fabric and textile products, jewelries and other small accessories as per to the client’s brief. The shopping centre also has a 20,000 sq ft purpose-built concert hall and event space located at the fifteenth floor of the mall. The aim of this article is to discuss how the tectonics of KWC façade contextualises the building into its neighbourhood.

A CONTINUATION OF THE ESSENCE OF THE PLACE THROUGH DETAILS OVER THE FAÇADE The idea of the architect upon designing the façade of KWC is to blend in and relate the design with the context surrounding the building. When visual contrast of KWC and existing buildings around the site are observed as a whole, on one hand realises the evolution of new and old of different period while on the other hand a continuation of the essence of the place through the details over the façade. The project is located deep at the centre of the microcosm that is Kuala Lumpur’s textile district. Among the hustle and bustle of the historic trading spaces integrating mostly double-storey shophouses and makeshift stalls, the design is related into presenting an unsual scale, rising nineteen levels above the current average shophouses height. It evolves vertical and contextual development by relating the surrounding low-rise fashion wholesale, old shoplots that expanded in horizontal manner. The consecutive experience of the place from old shop lots to Kenangan Wholesale City changes significantly in terms of scale, different in scale and sizes yet equal still as a whole building and functionality. The design of the vent blocks in its geometrical shape still functions the same way and not only to blend in the context despite the bigness but to also take the literature of the design and making it work.

METAPHOR OF DESIGN Besides that, metaphor in design in architecture also allows people to have different perception and ideas towards the translation of an object to a building. As for Kenanga Wholesale City, the metaphor of design of the building is applied mainly on the facades of the building exhibiting on all the four elevations and the scale of the building itself as a whole. The metaphor of design for Kenanga Wholesale City is drawn by the inspiration from the site itself whereby Jalan Gelugor is surrounded by vernacular double-storey shop houses which were constructed in the 1960s with equally interesting pattern of vented blockworks. The façade’s design responds to the surrounding context whereby it utilizes ventilation blocks as the main feature of the façade and it is performed in a grid line system. The architect of Kenanga Wholesale City also has made the mall unique and is characterized by its contextual skin, facade that takes varied fenestration patterns of the old traditional shop lots such as the ventilation blocks, vent holes with different patterns in regenerating continuation of cultural, economical fabric of the place in visual sense.

Besides that, the architect also uses the skin to represent tectonic architecture by choosing the right materials such as ventilation blocks and perforated panels which are used to line the elevations of the mall. These materials have been indented, extruded and punched through in a pattern, which in many respects resembles an enormous piece of fabric. Not just that, the ventilation blocks also helps in penetrating sunlight through the facades and for ventilation purposes.

1:A sketch of the site plan of Kenanga Wholesale City showing the surrounding double storey shophouses 2:: A sketch of the neighbouring double storey shop houses façade. 3:A sketch of the perforated façade inspired by the vent blocks from the neighbouring context.


The Kenanga Wholesale City was designed in such a way that the height of the mall is one of the highest buildings that are there along the district which naturally creates a hierarchy system that enhances the focus point from the building itself. The entire composition of Kenanga Wholesale City Shopping Centre is supported with a diverse of scale, with equal context and content, but different kind of space-form and experiential axis.

PREFABRICATION The importance of Tectonics lies in the fact that the parts make up the whole structure. As the architect derived his design inspiration from the immediate context, which consists of vent blocks and the metaphor of fabric, prefabricated panels are chosen to achieve the desired skin or fabric for Kenanga Wholesale City. The main reason for using prefabrication panels is due to the constraint of the site location. It is located deep at the centre of the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur’s textile district. Prefabrication helps in reducing the duration of construction by providing quick and clean construction. Kenanga Wholesale City utilised low-key, simple and locally available materials. The prefabricated panels used are Glassfibre Reinforced Concrete (GRC) Panels. These are arranged in a façade that is left exposed apart from a coat of paint to give the façade a clean appearance. Each panel beats the unusual weight of 907kg (2000 pounds) with a size of 400x200mm. This is considered light relative to the weight of a normal precast concrete panel, which weighs about 6350kg (14000 pounds).

The dramatic weight difference between Glassfibre Reinforced Concrete(GFRC) and precast concrete is due to high flexural strength of GFRC. The panels are high in strength despite the fact that the average thickness is only ¾ inch. The GFRC offers uniqueness to the building in such a way that the detailed block-work façade can also be experienced from within the building. These fenestrations, which were made in the form of vent blocks, cast elaborate shadows and light into the building. The GFRC block-work is used to line the elevations as skin or fabric of this enormous building. The fact that the block-work has is perforated, it allows the building to be naturally ventilated and brightly lit during the day. Some of the benefits of GFRC include its ability to construct lightweight panels. GFRC panels can be much thinner than the traditional concrete panels, making them light-weight.

CONCLUSION The tectonics of the faรงade is an outcome of the context, the metaphor of textile and the constraint of the Wholesale City through the use of construction technology and details formed by the Glassfibre Reinforced Concrete Blocks with fenestrations. The purpose of using perforated panels is also to break down the scale of the building. ZLG Designs fulfilled the requirements of the client for accommodating 987 shop lots in a very limited amount of space. The solution was to build it vertically, resulting an unusual scale of 19 floors, a dramatic contrast from the immediate context, which mostly comprised of double-storey shop lots. Ultimately, Kenanga Wholesale City appears to be enormous at the site, in terms of scale and proportion of the building and the site context. In conclusion, tectonics in architecture acts as a means of achieving the poetics and sensation of the building intended by the architect through the use of materiality and construction technology.


The dialogue between client and architect is about as intimate as any conversation you can have, because when you're talking about building a house, you're talking about dreams.

Robert A. M. Stern


Theories of Malaysian Architecture  

Taylors Lakeside University Bachelor of Science (Hons) Architecture Semester 5 Theories of Malaysian Architecture March // July 2015 Dr.Ve...

Theories of Malaysian Architecture  

Taylors Lakeside University Bachelor of Science (Hons) Architecture Semester 5 Theories of Malaysian Architecture March // July 2015 Dr.Ve...