Friday, December 12, 2014

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion

La Maison Bleu
Built by Cheong Fatt Tze “one of China’s last Mandarins and first Capitalists” this flamboyant masterpiece of 38 rooms, 5 courtyards and 7 staircases was acquired in 1990 with the aim of restoring it from its dilapidated state into an authentic original form. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has an eclectic style typical of 19th Century Straits Settlement architecture: a Chinese floor plan combines with Gothic louvred windows, Chinese qian-nian porcelain works with Stoke-on-Trent floor tiles, and Scottish cast iron works with Art Nouveau stained glass windows. It is said that the aura and “Chi” of the man pervades the whole building.

Ar. Lawrence Loh talks about the excellent 'chi' in the central courtyard

For architects and lovers of our building heritage, it is re-assuring to see that the restored building has found a new use and earns its upkeep as a heritage hotel and events venue. It has recently expanded its repertoire to include fine dining in the upstairs front rooms - done thoughtfully and sensitively, this form of adaptive reuse will guarantee the preservation of our heritage buildings for generations to come.

Old man Cheong would have approved of this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sharing Heritage

Last week, Urban Sketchers Kuching shared their sketches of heritage buildings with the Sarawak Heritage Society in an exhibition at the old courthouse.

The exhibition took place at the old Courthouse

They did a nice profile for our Urban Sketchers group

This lady bought my sketch as a pre Christmas present

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Forgive me, Father for it has been one month since my last blog entry...

I have been so busy with all my duties and obligations in the past month, that I had to make a list of my 'to-do' lists. Jokes aside - I have done just that, listing things that are not related to work or duties, but are important because they nourish me. This list remind me to set aside some minutes to sketch and paint, tend to the garden, to read and to continue my carpenter projects. So, here is some of last month's duties in a pictorial format.

1. Painting
 I found an old sketch of this spiral stairs - I drew it one Sunday afternoon years ago and decided to revive it with watercolors between dinner time and bed-time at the end of a particularly busy day at work.

Padungan Road back lane

2. Drawing
I am working on the design of a house which is the extension of an existing house that we designed several years ago. The link between the new and existing house is through a gallery space or a 'ruai' after the 'street' or corridor space in an Iban longhouse.

the 'ruai' is shown in orange

using the notion of served and servant spaces - Louis would have approved

the different entities of the house is unified by a roof that turns into a wall

Initial sketch of the 'ruai'

Sketch up version - the space alludes to the old streets in Chinatown

3. Writing
This is my last term as editor, next March someone else takes over. I enjoy the writing and compilation of varying tropics into a theme for each issue. But when the date lines clash - it is pressure that I do not need. I think it is a good idea to step aside and let someone else try their hand at this. It is important to have change - both for the newsletter and for me.
You can get a copy of the newsletter on-line at

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Drawing the Minutes of Meeting.

Nasi Kandar - nourishing parts of the body that your morning muesli cannot reach
I have learnt to make the most out of any situation; so when the morning meeting is cancelled, it is simply a sign to walk to the Nasi Kandar stall for a leisurely breakfast. This only works if you are in Penang, which I was for a site meeting the day before. We had spent the afternoon reviewing the ceiling construction and services - a bit tedious but necessary. I have learnt long ago that no one reads the minutes so I have resorted to simple lists of things to do accompanied by simple sketches explaining the details. I have also learnt to make the most of my free time when I get it; so the morning was spent drawing out the minutes of yesterday's meeting interspersed with food and drinks stops.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Happy Feet

Michelle rang while I was stretching my legs after a run, 
she wanted to know how I was, so I showed her. 
 'Even your feet have wrinkles...,' she said
'Those are not wrinkles,' I replied,
'they are laugh-lines.'
 'Because I have happy feet.'

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The 10 o'clock Talk

People often think that to be a good architect, one needs to draw well. True but it is equally important to think clearly, speak well and listen carefully. A skill we are constantly practicing amongst our interns and colleagues. So when 30 students from Kolej Laila Taib visited our office, we arranged to share some of our work and ideas in a series of 5-minutes talks. During Q and A, someone asked Claudia, 'how did you convince your client to walk such a long way from his car to the house?' She replied, 'Give him a nice garden to walk through.'

Groundbreaking for the newbies, good practice for the experienced.

Young architect, Michael talking about Cat's Playhouse

Sara talking about her installation for World Architecture Day

While the others shared ideas..

...some of us baby-sat the tutor's young daughter.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Faces at the Mercato (2012)

After looking at the photos, I was inspired to draw a map recording our journey to the market

One bright morning in September while Sam and the kids shopped for lunch in the Mercato, the mammal in me needed to catch some sunshine and the voyeur in me wanted to watch the local people in action. (and catch them with my camera.)

Selling endives

Italians are very expressive with their hands
Their expressions are so similar, these two are definitely married.
My favourite is this man, a barista with a counter full of little brioches filled with cured meats at 1 Euro each.

Most of his customers eat a quick breakfast while standing at the counter, but being Asian - we prefer to sit down to eat. So we joined 2 tables and ate many different types of sandwiches and drank many cups of coffee.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Visiting Louise

View from the winding driveway

Last Sunday, I finally had the chance to visit the Segu Bungalow when Louise invited USK members for sketching and morning tea.
I have passed this building many times as I was growing up – it is at the midpoint of my journey from my grandmother’s house and the basketball court at SUPP. Perched on a hill, the house itself is not very visible from the road (then called Pig Lane – recently sterilized to Park Lane) but its most arresting feature can be seen from the road, the ceiling covered with dozens of colourful native art murals.
Its most arresting feature is the ceiling covered with dozens of colourful native art murals.

Members of USK showing their completed sketches, our host Louise is seated far left
This historical building was originally located near the Segu River in the Padawan area; built as a holiday house for Rajah Vyner Brooke by Tan Sri William Tan, a former speaker of the Sarawak Assembly. In 1936, it was dismantled and relocated to its present location.

Since then, the bungalow has been the residence of Tom Harrison the former curator of the Sarawak Museum and many other expatriates including our friend, Louise who heads the non-profit, Friends of the Sarawak Museum.

I found two articles relating to the ceiling murals - one claims that they were painted by Tusau Padan, a Kenyah from Ulu Baram and Harrison cohort while the other by a member of the Sarawak Heritage Society informs that the murals were originally painted on paper and glued to the ceiling. Since the second article makes no mention of Tom Harrison as an inhabitant of the Segu Bungalow, I am going to discount it. 

The front verandah opens out onto a secret garden not visible from the road

The main house is linked to a servants' quarters

View from the top of the drive

The floor plan reveals that half the house is a covered verandah