City&Country: Green is the new black

Convinced that green building practices and advanced technological developments are the way forward,  the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM),  organisers of the annual architecture and design event DATUM: KL 2010, have chosen the theme “Second Nature” to try to shift people’s perception towards nature and the way it interacts within an urban setting.

PAM president Boon Che Wee tells City & Country this year’s theme “aims to look at our evolving relationship with nature and how design is re-establishing its critical role as the mediator between the technological world and our natural environment”.

The framework, he says, is being laid for a unique new ecology which sees human rituals being drastically restructured by man-made interventions and cultural products.

Boon expects Malaysian architects to continue “to make a great deal” of green and sustainable developments as they constantly strive to keep up with the times with respect to both design trends and technical issues.

The three-day DATUM conference this year from July 1 at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre will  feature thought-provoking lectures by international architects and designers.

On the sideline of DATUM  will be the Kuala Lumpur Design Forum (KLDF) comprising a series on talks highlighting design trends and innovations. There will also be a Green Building Forum that will discuss critical green technologies for building design.

“It is important to acknowledge that green practices, architecture and design are taking on major positions in the New World Order. Therefore, these domains need to be championed at every opportunity,” Boon says.

Last year, DATUM attracted some 2,250 participants.

Among the lineup of speakers this year are: Ko Shiou Hee from Singapore,  Charles Renfro from the USA,  Alejandro Zaera-Polo from the UK and Daan Roosegaarde from The Netherlands. Read on for an insight into the four.

Ko Shiou Hee
K2LD Architects, Singapore

altKo Shiou Hee began his career with Morphosis, then moved on to Kohn Pederson & Fox, followed by IM Pei in the US, before returning to Asia. He then spent two years in Tokyo as a design consultant. In 1993, he decided to return to Singapore and set up K2LD Architects in 2000.  Ko, who likes design that expresses spatial clarity and inspires a spiritual response, says architecture has always interested him as an art form that requires science to construct and transform into reality. He describes his creations as a quiet response to his clients’ aspirations and a quest to provide spatial clarity within which the human spirit can operate.

alt“Nothing encapsulates this better than the quote by Issey Miyake, the most influential Japanese fashion designer, who said ‘My creation is never complete until the wearer wears it’. In my case, my creation is never complete until the occupier lives in it and makes it his own,” he says.

He says his curiosity about everything, from quantum theory, genetics, pottery, and sculpture to fuzzy logic, is what inspires his designs.

“This curiosity is the driving force behind what I do and how I inspire myself to design and to see things differently each time,” he says.

The current trend in architectural design, he says, emphasises on being environment-friendly and sustainable.

“One of the most challenging works I’ve done was building a small addition for a study in the large, lush garden of a house, where I was asked not to cut down any trees,” he says. “Another challenge was that the building was not supposed to be seen from the main house.

“It was the first ‘non-architecture’ building I built. My ego disappeared with the building ... It was exciting and very satisfactory.”

Among the projects Ko is currently working on are a 24-storey green hotel in Penang as an extension to the G Hotel, a 38-storey office tower in Kuala Lumpur and a small church building in Singapore. His previous projects include Wind Catcher House and Hillside Residence, both in Singapore.

Charles Renfro
Diller Scofidio+ Renfro USA

altCharles Renfro has been on the architectural scene since 1989. A former associate at Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects and Ralph Appelbaum Associates, he has moved on to become the founding partner of  Department of Design before finally joining Diller + Scofidio in 1997.

The architecture firm was later renamed Diller Scofidio + Renfro after the architect was made a partner in 2004. His talent lies both in designing new structures and redesigning existing ones.

altThe 46-year-old Texas-born architect is known for spotting architectural potential in almost anything. This ability, and his concept of public space, is demonstrated in his acclaimed High Line in New York City. He turned an abandoned elevated railway line that runs 30 feet above Manhattan into a renowned public park.
High Line introduced a radically new language for New York’s streetscape — curves and dips that create mystery and drama rather than the prettiness and nostalgia of an old railway. As Renfro puts it, the project created a new appreciation of public space.

altRenfro has served as the project leader of the Brasserie, Eyebeam, the BAM master plan, Blur, and the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art. He was also the design principal for the redesign and expansion of The Juilliard School, Alice Tully Hall, public spaces at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Museum of Image and Sound in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro has been awarded the AIA President’s Award, the AIA Medal of Honor, and the National Design Award in Architecture from the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.
The company’s portfolio includes master plans, museums and civic buildings, houses and high-rise residential mixed-use developments, permanent site-specific art installations, temporary exhibits for museums, as well as theatre and performance pieces.

Renfro is a graduate of Rice University and holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. He now lectures frequently both in the US and abroad. Since 2009, he has served as visiting professor at Parsons New School for Design in the School of Constructed Environments.

Alejandro Zaera-Polo
FOA, United Kingdom

altAlejandro Zaera-Polo is the founding partner of Foreign Office Architects (FOA), a London-based firm. Under his stewardship, FOA has completed numerous projects around the world, including a John Lewis department store and Cineplex at the Shires West Development, Leicester, in the UK.

altHis projects completed in Asia include the Spanish Pavilion at the 2005 Aichi International Expo in Japan and Yokohama International Port Terminal in Kanagawa, Japan. FOA is currently building two 180-metre high housing towers at the World Business Centre in Busan, South Korea, and Residential Towers in KL Sentral’s Plot D in Kuala Lumpur.

Zaera-Polo served as the dean of the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, for four years and was the unit master at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, Columbia University in New York, Princeton University, the School of Architecture in Madrid, Spain, and the Yokohama School of Architecture in Japan where he currently holds an advisory role. 

He trained at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and ETS Architecture in Madrid prior to establishing FOA.

He has also been an adviser to several committees, including the Quality Commission for Architecture in Barcelona City and the Advisory Committee for Urban Development of the City of Madrid. 

He is a member of the Urban Age think tank of the London School of Economics and has published extensively as a critic in professional magazines worldwide. El Croquis, Quaderns, A+U, Arch+ and Harvard Design Magazine feature his work regularly.

Daan Roosegaarde
Studio Roosegaarde, The Netherlands

altDaan Roosegaarde and his Studio Roosegaarde in Rotterdam, known as a techno artistic laboratory, are known for interactive art installations that react to sound and motion.  He created the internationally acclaimed interactive works 4D-Pixel, Dune 4.2 and Flow 5.0.  Roosegaarde’s work explores the dynamic relationship between architecture, people and e-culture.

His designs, he says, are created by “answering the questions of how technology can be used to create social interactions, what would happen if technology gets out of the computer screen is embedded in our walls, bodies and urban landscapes, and how designs can be used to create situations of mediation and interaction”.

“My interactive works are about the dynamic relationship between space, people and technology. The works create a situation of ‘tactile high-tech’ by interacting with the sounds and motion of the people, becoming an extension of their skin,” he says.

He considers Dune 4.2, a 60-metre long interactive landscape project in Rotte
altrdam, one of the projects that gave him the most satisfaction. It was “one of the largest interactive artworks that changed the way people experienced their daily reality”.

After completing his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts (AKI) in Enschede and receiving his Master’s degree at the Berlage Institute, a postgraduate laboratory of architecture in Rotterdam, the founder and creative director of Studio Roosegaarde has gone on to win several awards, including the Dutch Design Award 2009 and the W3 Webby Silver Award, 2008, USA.

The 31-year-old artist gets most excited by designs that allow for and create social interactions. He says he is tired of cities “filled with architecture functioning as icons” and believes that designs should create an environment that engages people and creates relational networks.

“A city and its architecture should not be a sum of walls, doors and windows but about social interactions,” he stresses.

This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 812, June 28-July 4, 2010

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