Monday, May 15, 2017

Building in Sarawak

Architecture students sometimes ask to interview me for their assignment about local architects and their design thinking and influences. This is a recent questionnaire (I have not corrected the student's grammar but I will ask to proofread and review his final assignment)

• How has the architecture character in East Malaysia / Kuching changed in the last 15 years?
One simply has to look to see that we are getting our share of buildings which can be found anywhere else in the region. They do not contribute significantly to the city's skyline, nor to the user's experience of it space.

Despite this, there are some smaller projects which stand out as good examples of local architecture - relating well to its context and culture, innovative use of local material and skills, with appropriate response to the tropics.And like most good things, they take a bit more work to find, but they are there.

• To your personally, what is the most meaningful and memorial place in Kuching city, and what emotions does it arouse in you?
I have a strong bond with many of the buildings of my childhood. Many are located in Kuching's Chinatown; the old Courthouse, St. Joseph's Cathedral and open air market, the central padang and the waterfront.

• Please name 3 buildings that you fond the most, does each of them reflects your idealogy?

Many of the buildings I design reflects my ideology; which is to be climatically responsive, to be affordable with a simple pallete of materials,  and to be relate to its site. My ideology is influenced over the years by buildings which I have been to, such as Geoffrey Bawa's houses and my education in Australia.

• If you have the power to design and built a building/place that could create something good for the society, what would it be, and why?
Any building that the public comes into contact with is worth doing, and doing well.

• Which building in Kuching do you think is worth preserving? Why do you say that?
For any building to be preserved, and deserve the investment to do that - it must have a present day function,  it must contribute to its upkeep.

• What is the difference of architectural evolution/progress in between West and East Malaysia?
It's the same, just at a slower pace. We are making the mistake of trying to be like "them" and firing who we really are.

• How do you want to see Kuching city develop?
There needs to be an overall masterplan for Sarawak; one that includes the development of public transport, infra structure, the environment and public amenities such as schools, libraries and hospitals.

• In architectural context, what is Kuching City greatest need now?
More public spaces where people can meet and spend time with their family. Roads with bicycle lanes, a better bus system. It's not architecture that will solve a city's problems, it's planning and education that would help the most.

• In your opinion, what do you think of current Malaysia architecture status?

We are trying too hard to be like everyone else, that we have forgotten who we are.

• What is your word of advice to all the young architects in Malaysia?
To continue learning; through travel, books, work experience and by making mistakes. To be brave and take risks; you'll never know your limits otherwise. To listen; that's the best design tool.

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