Glimpses from selected projects
Various architectural projects across the Muslim world have been recognised by the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for providing innovative sustainable design solutions to environmental problems. These projects vary in size, location, and impact on the environment. They also vary in the approaches adopted in the design, construction, and operation process. This section presents thirteen projects: four awardees and nine shortlisted projects for the award.
Menara Mesiniaga/IBM Headquarters, Malaysia (awarded 1993–1995)
Responding to the tropical climate of Malaysia, Yeang’s design of the IBM tall building was motivated by the natural sciences to offer a congenial design that fills the architecture-technology gap (Dean, 2009) (Figure 4.1). Laying
Figure 4.1 Menara Mesiniaga/IBM Headquarters, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, by T.R.
Hamzah and Yeang Sdn Bhd Source: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture/K.L. Ng (photographer) out what he calls “design principles” in a series of cartoon-like diagrams in his book Bioclimatic Skyscrapers (1994), Yeang provides an outline of the role technology can play in architecture and environment. Occupying a highly visible corner, the building is located immediately around the Menara Mesiniaga, an unplanned mix of residential quarters, town houses, office buildings, and a mosque. Around the building is also a mix of beautifully lush places and a lake that is seen from every level of the building (Davidson and Serageldin, 1995).
Local architectural styles in Kuala Lumpur are mixed: British colonial, Chinese influences, and various European and Malaysian styles (Safamanesh, 1995). The most recent and significant style is high-tech buildings, and the most consistent style of buildings around the Mesiniaga is the ‘shop house.’ Instead of a typically authoritarian and introverted statement of a multi-national corporation, the IBM tower is a robust, informal, and open expression of an emerging technology (Safamanesh, 1995). The architect calls this building provided with sensible energy-saving climatic controls the bioclimatic tall building.
The circular form limits dark corners. The building’s service core is placed on its east side to block direct rays of the morning sun (Safamanesh, 1995). This position, besides placing workstations on the perimeter, allows natural light and ventilation (Pearson, 1993:26) to penetrate all the spaces, lobbies, and stairs (Pearson, 1993). Two types of sun screens are used; a glass and steel curtain wall, which along with the sloping base and metal crown make the essentially high-tech image much more organic. The most notable feature of this building is the two spirals of green ‘sky gardens’ that twist up the building providing shade, natural ventilation, and visual contrast with the steel and aluminium surfaces (Davidson and Serageldin, 1995). These sky-courts winding around the perimeter of the tower offer shaded outdoor retreats for office workers and absorb the sun’s heat. Moreover, a sunroof is made of trussed steel and aluminium, providing shade and filtered light to the swimming pools and gymnasium (Pearson, 1993).
The client commissioned Yeang to build a high-tech corporate headquarters which showcases not only the quality of IBM products, but also provides a symbol for their corporate offices and contributes to their marketing efforts (Safamanesh, 1995). The significance of this project is the pioneering bioclimatic approach to tall buildings, leading to a different attitude to the design of tall buildings as low-energy high-quality buildings (Yeang, 1995). The integration of green space within the design allowed the architect to achieve several environmental and humanistic objectives: adjustable temperatures and ventilation, greater feeling of spaciousness, better amenities and recreational facilities, less noise and distraction, and awareness of place (Safamanesh, 1995).
Datai Hotel, Malaysia (awarded 1999–2001)
Langkawi is a popular and captivating tourist resort island in northern Malaysia with numerous hotels. The Datai Hotel was built with support from the Malaysian Tourism Ministry, which was keen to develop an upper end hotel resort (Mehrotra, 2001). From the outset, the Australian architect, Kerry Hill, was involved in the site selection, which contains the beach and the sea, the rainforest, and a sophisticated ecological landscape with swamps, streams, and wildlife. Besides satisfying the requirements of a luxury hotel, the single most critical issue that the project confronted was how to make a responsible design intervention within untouched tropical rainforest (Figure 4.2).
Comprising 750 hectares of intact tropical rainforest, the architect was committed to safeguarding the site’s natural features: the sea and coral reef, the beach, the rainforest with its sensitive ecosystem of swamps, streams, and wildlife (Mehrotra, 2001), and the ridge, which drops sharply to the waterfront. Guiding the visitor to walk through the rainforest and enjoy the site’s divinity and seclusion, the hotel was placed away from the beach to minimise its impact on the waterfront; the complex was instead placed on the ridge, to provide spectacular views and leave the forest undisturbed. The hotel is thus in the heart of the forest yet within easy access to the waterfront (Baker, 2001).
Datai Hotel is fragmented into freestanding buildings, with pavilions and isolated villas. This fragmentation helped to reduce the mass of the complex and its impact on the site and allowed flexibility in siting the buildings to
Figure 4.2 Datai Hotel, Langkawi, Malaysia, by Kerry Hill Architects, Akitek Juru- rancang Sdn Bhd
Source: © Aga Khan Trust for Culture/Albert K. S. Lim (photographer) minimise the felling of trees (Baker, 2001). The hotel contains eighty-four rooms and forty villas. The rooms are broken up into four blocks of accommodation, arranged around a swimming pool and linked by open walkways. The freestanding villas are located on the lower slopes of the site, between the ridge and the beach. The public areas of the complex - such as restaurants, spa, and beach house - are distributed around the site in pavilions, with vernacular forms, featuring a flexible demarcation of interior and exterior spaces and allowing air circulation and adaptability (Baker, 2001). The design in general follows traditional building techniques, such as the use of stilts or heavy stone bases for protection from ground damp and substantial overhangs to keep off the rain. Benefiting from the affordable array of good woods, the resort makes extensive use of timber. Local woods have also been extensively used in the interiors, creating seamless integration between the interiors, architecture, and the surrounding forest.
As a site-specific intervention, the design was inspired by the kampong, which is a traditional clustered village form. It sensitively utilises local materials to limit the potential intrusion in the fragile ecosystem. The architect was concerned to preserve the jungle as much as possible in building the hotel (Davey, 2001:62). Thus, various sustainable design strategies that exhibit an adaptation of local tradition, passive climate control, and sensitivity for the natural surroundings were employed.