Ideas can come out of any situation and in the case of Thinkscape Team3, the architectural arm of Thinkscape Group, it came from a lotus bud. This fragrant plant inspired a design that won Malaysian company Thinkscape Group the top prize at a recent international architectural competition held in Vietnam. The best-of-show Special Award was for the conceptual design of a 65-storey tower in Hanoi, aptly named The Lotus.
The winning team, Thinkscape Team3, was made up of Chew Kok Fai, John Jong and PAM Gold winner 2008 Datuk Dr Baharuddin Kassim. Chew and Jong talk to City & Country about the competition and the concept which clinched the award.
The contest was organised by Doan Ket Village Co Ltd, a subsidiary of a local bank. The competition brief was “very brief”, says Chew. It merely gave the participants a free reign on the design concept. The main criterion is that the structure should be a luxury serviced apartment of at least 65 storeys. Participants came from over the world including from Australia, Hong Kong and France.
The outcome could have been different as the team nearly didn’t participate. “We declined in the beginning because we were only given four weeks to submit a concept,” says Chew. The duration of the competition was six weeks and this meant that the other participants had a good two-week head start. “We didn’t think we had the time to come up with something good in that time frame,” adds Jong. However, they soon changed their minds.
The idea for The Lotus came about when Chew visited the proposed site where the tower would be built. He noticed that it was surrounded by lotus farms. He did some research and found that the lotus has huge cultural significance for Vietnam.
“The lotus is able to survive in murky, dirty water. I told John [Jong] that this represented the Vietnamese people, who went through years of domination, colonisation and struggle and have come through it all and thrived,” says Chew. So significant is the plant that it is Vietnam’s national flower.
Once Chew started the ball rolling, ideas began to flow and in 1½ weeks, the team had its design concept ready for the competition. The members followed up with a documentary-style video presentation and also put their model of The Lotus in chrome to make it look like a winning trophy. These caught the eye of the judges and ultimately won them the award.
But the competition didn’t stop there. The Vietnamese government got wind of Thinkscape Team3’s design and decided that it wanted The Lotus to become a visible landmark for Hanoi. Hence, the Vietnamese government is seeking a new site for the building. Once the site is confirmed, expected to be before year-end, the team will move ahead with the planning and construction. In the meantime, as the architects wait for the final decision, they will use the free time to refine their original design.
In the presentation, the design depicts a lotus bud and two hands pressed together, with the stalk of the lotus plant held between the palms. This symmetrical design reflects the philosophy of balance and harmony derived from Buddha’s teaching on practising moderation.
The exterior skin of the building is covered by a fluid metal casing consisting of metal shutters hiding the individual units. The shutters will open and shut according to the needs of the residents during the course of the day. This is to represent the actions of the lotus flower that will open in the day and close at night.
Also, the living spaces start from 12 storeys onward as Chew and Jong believe that a sense of luxury comes from a higher level. The proposed landscape at the ground level has organic fixtures that represent lotus leaves in water.
When finally built, The Lotus will cover about 914,932 sq ft of prime real estate. It will contain 186 of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom units; 24 duplex units; five penthouses and parking bays for 410 vehicles.
Thinkscape Group is a consultancy firm that provides services in branding, communication and design. Despite the economic slowdown, it is forging ahead with plans to make it stand out from the rest of its rivals. Chew and Jong say the company will focus on producing quality work.
At present, it has done branding for projects such as Medini Central — a 624-acre mixed development project developed by Medini Central Sdn Bhd (previously Cultural Cluster Sdn Bhd) in Iskandar Malaysia in Johor.
Abroad, Thinkscape has branded real estate projects in the Middle East such as Qatar and Doha.
Winning the award in Vietnam is a positive development for the firm. And just like the lotus plant that survives in murky depths, Thinkscape Group and Team3 will continue to strive for excellence to survive these slack times.
This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 772, Sep 14-20, 2009.