Designworks: Creating responsible and meaningful designs

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Architects 61 Sdn Bhd believes in creating responsible and meaningful architecture. Its founders Tay Lee Soon and Yang Soo Suan named the company after the year they graduated from the University of Melbourne, 1961. They founded the company in Singapore in 1974 before launching the Malaysian chapter in 1995. They have since retired.

Principal Jeffrey Ling, responsible for establishing Architects 61 in Malaysia, is currently the driving force behind the practice. He says:

“Architectes 61 is a collective work and teamwork is very important. We emphasize that everyone in the office is very important… We support each other, do checks and balances and find solutions together when there are problems. We share our knowledge and take care of each other. No one will do the work alone because we work as a team.

The firm currently has 16 architects in Kuala Lumpur and five in Penang. Nine of them are licensed architects, and Ling notes that’s a high proportion in an architectural firm. In total, the company has 33 employees in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

The company’s projects include The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, 2 Hampshire and 8 Kia Peng in downtown KL, Wisma Shell in Cyberjaya, Springtide Residences in Penang as well as Mercu Mustapha Kamal in Petaling Jaya.

Ling: Architects are solution providers in an architectural form (Photo by Architects 61)

A responsible and meaningful architecture

Ling says the company strives for creativity and excellence in its journey to create responsible and meaningful architecture. This is in line with the company’s philosophy of being design driven. “We constantly aim to be creative and economical in our design approach, and are always refining to deliver the best built product and high quality service.”

“Architects are solution providers in an architectural form, where we have to balance many issues and create an architectural solution that is beautiful and people can appreciate. We are responsible for everything we do and design. When we take ownership of our design, we are able to respond to different requirements, be they customer, regulatory, economic, environmental…we are able to balance them,” he explains.

“All of this then translates into a 3D constructed form, which needs to be meaningful to all users, to delight and enjoy. It’s a journey from one space to another where we reinterpret what customers want. And we want to do more than customers and buyers expect.

Project manager Ken Loo and senior partner Joan Chia agree, noting that going beyond the client’s brief will also add value to development. Initiatives include providing more common spaces in high-density projects.

Ling believes that meaningful architecture is also about the end-user experience when they enter a building, and therefore it is important to consider the context of the site and its potential. He cites Springtide Residences in Penang. “We drive people to the beach [and enjoy the view] before entering the building because we want to create an experience for people and that they will enjoy living there. In many projects, we are also able to maximize sites by installing a 50m long swimming pool,” he explains. He feels the pool is a good selling point and adds value to the developments.

“We must be accountable to our stakeholders, including customers, contractors, buyers and end users, so every job must have meaning. If you want to do a job, do it well. As I always say, when you do a job, it has to be publishable. We are passionate about what we do.

Chia: Meaningful space is also about giving people a sense of space (Photo by Architects 61)

Continuous and 8 Kia Peng

The company also designed Sarawak-based Ibraco Bhd’s first project in Kuala Lumpur, Continew. Located in Pudu, the mixed-use development with retail, office and serviced apartment components has recently been completed.

The 1.4-acre project offers two apartment towers – with 510 units in total – that sit above three levels of retail stores and five levels of offices. According to Ling, the different heights of the buildings – one at 47 floors and the other at 51 – create a cascading shape. There is also a hanging garden that connects the towers on all four floors, and some units on the 22nd and 32nd floors have been replaced with celestial gardens. “In total, we have nine Hanging Gardens and four Hanging Gardens. They are created to maximize opportunities for interaction between residents.

The architects also added lattice and glass lanterns, sloping and undulating hoods, and alternate balconies to articulate the building facades and serve as shade from the sun and rain.

Another recently completed development by Architects 61 is I-Bhd’s 8 Kia Peng at Jalan Changkat Kia Peng. Ling notes that this development is located on one of the highest points in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Situated on 1.05 acres, the 50-story building offers more than 442 small home offices and serviced apartments, most of which have downtown views.

“This is a high-end project in the KLCC area, so we focused on the view. We want to enhance the experience of driving up to the building. We also designed the umbrellas to be more than simple functional objects – we opted for bronze aluminum composite panels and when the sunlight reflects on them, the tower glows a bronze hue The building looks different at different times of the day due to the reflection of the sun,” adds Ling.

61 Architects also worked on Mercu Mustapha Kamal in Damansara Perdana. It is the last parcel of a mixed-use development and measures 1.4 acres. Completed in 2016, there are two MSC compliant Grade A office towers atop a podium which consists of parking, retail space, coaming, meeting room banquet and reception hall.

According to Chia, the design responded to the client’s brief to make it an entry statement for Damansara Perdana, as can be seen prominently from Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP) and Penchala Link.

Meaningful space is also about giving people a sense of space, adds Chia. So people can see the LDP when they reach the lobby. The design allows them to identify where they are by giving them certain landmarks.

Another feature is the sky gardens on the alternate floors of the office towers. In addition to contributing to the design of the facade, they also serve as a place for growing plants and relaxing for office workers. These moves help create a comfortable office environment, she says.

Chia adds that the client wanted to invest in green features. Green developments also mean higher costs, but this can be offset by lower operating costs.

Mercu Mustapha Kamal’s green features include photovoltaic solar panels; double-glazed glass, low-e glass and reflective coating; harvesting rainwater for the irrigation system; gray water recycling for toilet flushing; and energy-saving motion detectors in common areas.

Additionally, the company has conducted several tests and trials on the use of lightboxes to bring sunlight into development. Chia explains that light boxes installed on the east and west solar paths bring in the sunlight that passes through the glazing of the facade. Subsequently, sunlight is distributed into the office space through highly reflective surfaces and acrylic diffusers.

The building also has water-saving fixtures and an insulated roof.

Loo thinks going beyond the client brief will also add value to the development (Photo by Architects 61)

Sustainable technology and practice

Architects 61 also emphasizes technology and sustainability. For sustainability, Ling notes that this is something the company focused on even before the rating system was established, and he believes there needs to be some social responsibility when it comes to sustainability.

For technology, the company is also a pioneer in Building Information Modeling (BIM), which it adopted ten years ago. He explains that BIM makes it possible to obtain more precise information on the buildings, in particular on the quantity, the prices as well as to detect most construction problems.

“More than that, towards the end, it can also become facility management. For example, when your air conditioner breaks down, the system can detect where and which room broke down. Clever. We are moving in this direction and we have invested in this software,” says Ling.

“The second technology is Project Information Management (PIM), which is an information system that we use to store all the databases. It can track and manage all the information in terms of construction management. The next step in the architecture industry is artificial intelligence, and we are working with software engineers to automate certain processes. »

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