Working in unison on The Light

When IJM Land Bhd embarked on its quest to develop a waterfront resort in Penang that could rival landmarks such as the Canary Wharf in London, Docklands in Melbourne and Queens Quay in Toronto, the developer realised it needed a distinctive design that could be recognised as a work of art.

To attain this goal, it appointed six Malaysian architectural firms to design the residential components for the first phase of The Light Waterfront Penang, a RM5 billion project that is destined to be IJM’s crown jewel among its property developments.

The firms appointed are East Design Architects Sdn Bhd, Akitek Permata, Veritas Architects Sdn Bhd, Garis Architects Sdn Bhd, BEP Akitek Sdn Bhd and K2LD Architects. According to these companies, which were given a free hand in their designs for the respective parcels, the project is “something beyond our dreams”.



Sustainable architecture

The Light represents IJM Land’s initiative to showcase the best in integrated waterfront living with residential, recreational, entertainment, business, hospitality, education and commercial components all housed in one dynamic hub.

The waterfront project, to be developed over the next 12 to 15 years, is being undertaken by Jelutong Development Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of IJM Properties Sdn Bhd. IJM Properties is a unit of Main Board-listed IJM Land.

Toh Chin Leong, IJM Land general manager, says the planning for the 152-acre project, located just off the Penang Bridge on the island’s eastern coastline, started five years ago.

He says IJM aims to turn The Light into an internationally recognised world-class development project, besides representing something “special and iconic” for Penang. “We want to maximise the waterfront advantage that we have as there is nothing in Penang which comes close to what we have planned for The Light,” he adds.

Phase One of the three-phased project will consist of six parcels of high-end waterfront residential development over 42 acres. The first phase will have 1,177 units, namely The Light Linear, The Light Point and The Light Collection I, II, III and IV.

Phase Two, spread over 103 acres, will be an integrated commercial city with a five-star boutique hotel and another four-star hotel catering for business travellers and exhibition centre visitors.

The last phase has been allocated for a seafront park, which will include a marina and a yacht club. Toh says the The Light will be divided into three islands, namely north, middle and south.

Almost 2.7 acres of coral reef will be the main feature of The Light. “Instead of having courtyards, there will be waterways with thriving marine life. We have engaged an Australian expert to ensure that the water, which will flow from the sea, is balanced and clean.”

“We want to have a green residential precinct, where you will not see cars being parked along the roadsides. Instead, they will be hidden in multi-storey carparks and underground parking areas.

“Besides the waterways, there will be jogging and bicycle tracks for the residents to enjoy. We will also install wind turbines to generate power for common areas, including street lights, while every parcel of land will carry out rain harvesting, with the water being piped into garden taps,” says Toh. Other features include green building, smart home systems and intelligent security.

“Because of the complexity of the project, we need experienced architects to work as a team. By working in unison, we can push the concept and design to a higher level,” says Ko Shiou Hee, principal architect of K2LD Architects.

Architect Tang Hsiao Seak of Garis Architects says the architects were able to share their ideas, while looking at the “big picture”.

Says Datuk Richard Jong East Full, East Design Architect director: “We were given a free hand by IJM to express our ideas; this big team of architects gave diversity to the project, with each team contributing complementary ideas.

“Our common goal was to achieve sustainable architecture and this will be the most remarkable scheme ever in Penang.”

For Kam Pak Cheong, BEP Akitek director, working on The Light project has been challenging, refreshing and enriching as numerous issues had to be sorted out among the six firms, especially on matters involving coordination.

“The collaborative effort encourages greater creativity as each architect develops his own ideas,” says Kam.
Datin Teng Chiu Chew Ying, principal architect of Arkitek Permata, finds the collaboration challenging yet rewarding as each architect brought his own creative design solution to produce a “brilliant” result.
“Each individual had his own ideas but we all came together with a common theme,” says Teng.

The Light Point

Teng’s firm, Arkitek Permata, is developing The Light Point parcel, consisting of a 28-storey luxury condominium block of 88 units, with only four to a floor. “We were inspired by elements of the sea, with water being a dominant theme. The design for the balcony was inspired by the effects of rippling water and shifting waves of the sea,” says Teng.

“The double-height water walls at the entrance reinforces this concept. We also endeavoured to make sure that each unit can have views of the Penang Bridge, in addition to scenes of the marina, city and even the sunrise,” she adds.

The Light Collection 1

Eric Tham Kong Meng, principal architect of Veritas Architects which is undertaking the The Light Collection 1, consisting of twenty-four 3-storey water villas and four blocks of 8-storey condominiums, says he was “inspired by the unique waterfront site and the challenge of environmental sustainability”.

“IJM has given us something beyond our dreams as we have been able to create a man-made water body, with buildings sitting on water. This simulation will also have cultured corals, with each precinct having its own water body.

“The architects had to find a harmonious and balanced solution for the entire development. For a project of this magnitude, it is an engineering challenge to achieve what we have designed, but we have the expertise to carry this out successfully,” adds Tham.

The Light Linear

Living up to its name, The Light Linear sits on a linear piece of land and will act as a backdrop for the whole of The Light development. Designed by East Design Architect, it will consist of two blocks of 17-storey condominium with 328 units.

East Design Architect’s Jong says The Light Linear will be high enough to act as a backdrop but not overly dominant, with two blocks of four separate towers. “The Light is a resort-style residential precinct with a modern outlook, using water as its main theme. So the buildings are built around pools of water…” he says.

The buildings nearer to the seafront are lower whereas the height of the other buildings will rise gradually from the sealine to give maximum view to as many residential units as possible. “The best part of The Light Linear is that each unit will have its own individual view,” says Jong.

The Light Collection II

The historical, natural and physical characteristics of Penang played a key part in driving the concept for The Light Collection II, which consists of five blocks of condominiums with 297 units.

Garis Architects’ Tang explains that to visualise the design for The Light, studies were conducted on similar developments in countries such as Holland, Australia and Singapore.

“We were all inspired by Penang’s historical waterfront environment, namely the Weld Quay, kongsis on stilts, the old Tanjung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi coastal strips and our colonial buildings,” he says.

“The harbour, bridge and undulating hills are things uniquely Penang and we felt the design should pay them homage and respect.

“We wanted to imitate the landscape of undulating hills by massing the buildings along the spine of the entire waterfront site to enhance the feeling of being on an island…

“The quay and the houses on stilts were inspirational and the idea of living on a series of islands became the driving force in the conceptualisation of the overall master plan,” adds Tang.

The aim was to introduce different identities for each parcel to reflect the varied needs and desires of the residents.

“We use technology to achieve an intelligent solution of balance with the hydrology of the site… It is about how water, rain and sea are handled…” he says.

The Light Collection III

At The Light Collection III, there will be 190 quayside clusters and Laguna residences offering various layout selections ranging from condos to townhouses and duplexes.

Designed by BEP Akitek, the two key features will be the self-sustainable coral reef fronting the townhouses, giving them a floating effect, and private pontoons for the duplexes.

BEP Akitek’s Kam says the villas and apartments facing the sea will have an unobstructed seaview. “The sea villas have been designed on a ‘coming home to the sea’ concept, with unobstructed seaview and open planning for the living and dining spaces. There will also be a rooftop swimming pool. Besides, the lower units will have direct access to the sea, with decks stretching out to the water.”

The apartments will have sky gardens that are staggered vertically at the entrance and each unit will have a glimpse of the sea. “The townhouses are designed to be as close to the water as possible,” says Kam.

The Light Collection IV

For Ko of K2LD Architects, which designed The Light Collection IV comprising 98 quayside apartments and seafront bungalows, the layout was based on the metaphor of the “sea”.

“This striking waterfront residential development consists of three residential blocks and 25 private villas hugging a meandering shoreline. Conceptually, the metaphor is represented using three architectural elements, with each having a relationship to the sea — the waves, the peaks (or dots) and the line,” he says.

“The waves filter through the water villas and wash up to the shore (podiums), stopping at the doorsteps of the apartment blocks. The combination of these elements creates a layered effect that has been used in the overall scheme to reinforce the idea of being part of the sea and sealife,” he adds.

Prior to this project, one of K2LD’s principal architects, David Lee, also worked on a similar waterfront development at the Dockland Precinct Waterfront City in Melbourne, which is one of the largest urban renewal projects to be undertaken in the state of Victoria.

Ko says one of the key challenges was to capture the best seaside views while minimising the heat and the glare.

“We decided to use predominantly glass facades to create elevations that vary in appearance and sparkle according to the prevailing light conditions and changing viewpoints.”

“Being so close to the water, another challenge was to tackle the various levels of water as the villas were built in six-metre deep water. Careful planning was involved to deal with the tidal levels of the sea,” he adds.

Everything had to be precise when dealing with water and there was little room to manoeuvre. To address this, a podium deck was designed as a continuous surface, acting as a connector for both the apartment blocks and the villas.

Geared for takeoff

According to IJM Land’s Toh, construction was initially supposed to start end-2008 but will now only take off this year. “We hope to complete Phase One (GDV of RM1 billion) in five to six years’ time.”

Approval to start work on The Light Linear has been obtained and the project will be launched soon. “We are still in the midst of obtaining approval for The Light Point, which will also be launched this year. The Light Collection I and II are in the final stage of approval while for The Light Collection III and IV, we are submitting amendments to the building plans.”

Despite the current economic slowdown, Toh is confident that The Light will take off albeit at a slower pace. IJM is targeting foreigners, including expatriates working or retiring in Penang, to take up these units.
“Since the soft-launch last September, we have received 2,000 registrations and we are confident that the units will be snapped up as these are waterfront properties and designer collections.”

Toh believes that being a waterfront project, properties within The Light will appreciate in value. “When the entire development is completed, we will have an international address similar to other iconic waterfront projects in the world and a new Hong Kong harbour in the making,” adds Toh.


This article appeared in City & Country, the property pullout of The Edge Malaysia, Issue 748, March 30-April 5, 2009.

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