DESIGNING DREAMS: The creative process takes time, effort and a little ingenuity as seen in the design approaches showcased at the Kuala Lumpur Design Forum (KLDF) by speakers from diverse backgrounds
Design comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and structures. In order to arrive at the desired end results, the process of creation derived out of a complex mixture of originality and ideas combined with a celebration of concepts, materials, medium and means are all necessary elements towards achieving great designs. Taking visible cues from this process of creation, the Kuala Lumpur Design Forum (KLDF) held last Thursday at the Kuala Lumpur Convention
Centre concentrated on the theme “About Making” with a series of presentations by different speakers coming from a diverse range of backgrounds.
Organised by the Malaysian Institute of Architects or Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM), the creative design process was evidently approached in a unique manner by the speakers. KLDF that falls under the umbrella of the Kuala Lumpur Architecture Festival (KLAF) is an initiative launched by PAM and co-organiser C.I.S Network Sdn Bhd which also held its 13th International Architecture, Interior Design and Building Exhibition, Malaysia in ARCHIDEX 2012.
“Put three architects in a room, and you’ll get five opinions,” says Tony Liew Voon Fun, moderator for KLDF, who is also the dean of the school of architecture, building and design at Taylor’s University at the opening of the conference, drawing from a famous quote. Happily though, during the question-and-answer session at the end of the presentations, the unanimous agreement that design is a creative journey cemented the notion that although the process is varied, design is all “About Making”.
Designing with paper: Ryuji Nakamura of Ryuji Nakamura & Associates, Japan held the crowd captive, delighted and amused with his presentation that centered on the use of creative cuts and folds of paper in adding volumes of allure to the design of the space. His experimental and unconventional approach is based on a concept all its own.
“Generally, the architect will see (the design through) from function (being)turned into a shape. But basically for me, I turn (it) from shape to function,” enthuses this architect who was born in the Nagano Prefecture in Japan. After working at Jun Aoki & Associates, Nakamura established Ryuji Nakamura & Associates in 2004.
Nakamura, 40, who graduated with a Master of Architecture at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music is known for his range of diverse, out-of-the-box projects. These include main works such as the “Hechima” chair in 2005 and “Atmosphere” that represented a staged artwork for Opera Le Grand Macabre at the New National Theatre, Tokyo, Japan in 2009.
Other works emerging from the firm since 2010 include “Cornfield” representing seven installations by Japanese architects at The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo in Japan following the rhetoric “Where is Architecture?” The “Blank Room” space design for Designtide Tokyo 2010, the “Pond” project and “Bang”, a space design project undertaken for Costume National: 25 Years in 2011 were other unconventional projects.
This year, the firm completed the “Beam” project for space design, “Feel and Think: A New Era of Tokyo Fashion” display and “Spring” representing a screen design for Canon Neoreal.
Having won numerous accolades spanning across a diverse range of fields, the firm has garnered the Good Design Award in 2006; the JDC Design Award Grand Prize and The Great Indoors Award in the Netherlands, both won in the year 2007, besides emerging the second prize winner in the Kumamoto Station West Gate Square Design Competition Award by the Kumamoto Art Police in 2008.
When asked if it were possible to make “a wall that could bend” and what he could configure it out of, he spontaneously answered that it is certainly possible to make a wall out of hard paper that can bend.
“There are lots of pictures and postcards in my office that after a long time, attract moisture or ‘bend’. These pictures provide inspiration for me, as folding papers during my job also gives me some inspiration.
“If you fold paper four times (over), you can see a different point (of perspective).” Marrying architecture and design: British- born, Singapore-based architect Marc Webb runs the Takenouchi Webb firm established in 2006 with his wife, Japanese interior designer Naoko Takenouchi.
The practice works on developing architectural and interior environments with a special emphasis on designing restaurants, retail outlets, hotels and bar projects.
“For us, the design process always consists of a number of elements that need to be brought together (that include) context, brief and aesthetics. All these items work together to create a coherent, elegant solution where everything
is carefully balanced together. We always approach each project from a new perspective and try to make the design unique to the specific brief and situation,” shares Webb. Elaborating on the firm’s design approach that incorporates an “eclectic mix of styles and materials individually tailored to each project”, exact detailing, explains Webb is a top priority.
“We have a small office near to home overlooking vistas of lush greenery and that’s how we like to work. My wife and I like to keep it small as we like to control everything,” he laughs. For Webb, the creative design process sees “very little separation from home life and work life.”
“We’re also very inspired. We do a lot of travelling and like to pick up materials and objects from our travels and we like to use them (in our designs),” adds the director of Takenouchi Webb who has a degree from Manchester Polytechnic and a Diploma from the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.
So much in synergy are they that they live by their holistic approach to design that sees them developing the architecture as well as interior and furniture pieces.
“We are often asked who designed which part of the projects and we honestly can never remember. When we design, it is always through a series of ideas and developments that bounce between us. The advantage of being a couple is that we can always be completely honest with each other,” shares Webb, further adding that his wife had previously worked as a designer of restaurants
in Tokyo, Japan.
According to Webb, the firm’s projects have been “built-up very much by word of mouth”. “We believe that by producing good work, other projects will follow.” Elaborating on the theme “About Making”, he shares that when they start working on a restaurant design for instance, the “client may only have a vague idea of what type of restaurant they want to open”.
“For us, the development of the interior is very much tied-in with the development of the name and the overall concept. We are always involved very early on in this process as both the interior design and overall concept help to inform each other, and when successful, are seamlessly connected.
Singling out the Tanjong Beach Club as the design project they are proudest of undertaking , he elaborates that the freedom given to “design the architecture, interior and furniture for the project” enabled them to “bring out the design concept throughout the whole scheme”. In a similar light, Webb maintains that their favourite projects are always the ones which they are “currently working on as they have not yet been realised”.
Each project for the couple provides a “sense of exploration and wonder”, ushering the beginning of yet another “adventure of discovery with its own unique specific challenges”. Looking back, Webb’s decision to gain some architectural experience in South-East Asia after spending a year travelling abroad marked a continuous design journey into the process that is centred on the idea of “About Making”.
“There were some architects in Singapore doing interesting work in the region and I ended up with Kerry Hill Architects for a few years. I was working as a project architect on the Chedi Chiang Mai hotel in Thailand and Naoko was working as the restaurant designer for Design Studio Spin based in Tokyo.
“Naoko ended up moving to Singapore where we then set up our office together. Concentrating our office work on restaurants, bars and hotels seemed a natural progression from our previous experience and we very much enjoy the design challenges that come from this type of projects,” he says upon reflection.
Handmade-to-handmade Lim In Chong or more fondly known as Inch of Inchscape is no stranger to the world of plants. It was certainly no mean feat when he took home the Gold Medal, the Best Design Award and the Best Interpretation of the Theme “World Peace” given by the city of Nagasaki for The Gardening World Cup Flower Show 2011, following his creation of the 60ft by 15ft “Washinboutei“ Japanese garden.
Its submerged trail in which visitors had to walk through was a symbolic response to the aftermath of the tsunami whereby the people of Japan had to look to the future and take the “walk on water, through eyes of faith”. “The message was that even in the darkest moments, the human heart conceives hope,” affirms Inch, known for his intuitive ability to select plants and their different components
to blend in with the surroundings.
“Plants are a part of the job. I collect them and I learn about them. When I had the opportunity to go to Japan, I was delighted because I got to design my landscapes using the plants there,” he says, about the passion he has for different types of plants, local and abroad.
“Plants make their way around the world and some Chinese plants have made their way to England. Plants have actually moved around in a particular climatic wave,” shares Inch.
Beyond plants, Inch‘s handiwork is seen in the “Handmade-to-handmade” house in Jalan Sin Chew Kee in KL.
“The fact that this whole house was handmade in 1928 as all the houses were handmade then, relates back to the theme
“About Making”. The logs were hand hewed and the bricks were handmade,” he says of this abode with its 9 inch walls and similarly sized bricks that provide “very thick insulation for the roof”. Since Inch thought it interesting, he also had a rainwater harvesting tank put in.
“The mass production of building materials came so much later and even the doors and handrails were made. So when I renovated the house, I made sure that the windows, beds, cantilevered bench, handmade staircase and wash basins - everything was made by hand all over again using plantation teak. This is how I like my house to feel.”
Understanding how the east-west orientation of the sun moves, he designed the place such as to allow maximum lighting to flow through the house. Since the sun’s presence brings along with it heat, Inch created gardens at strategic locations to benefit from the sun’s rays. Likewise, the wind’s movement based on high and low pressure was considered in the layout of the space.
“I created something very cool here so you have the high pressure centre pushing air through and also drawing air from the top. The hot air would rise from the windows, drawing air through and during the afternoon, high pressure created at the back pushes air through from the front. This allows the air to flow through from the open front to the back, from morning to night so there is always movement in the air,” shares Inch. To achieve optimal flow of ventilation, with air always moving throughout the house, he also created “small, judicious windows” from the front to back. Meanwhile, the big windows above the doors litigate the light and channel its flow.
“We channelled air from the back lanes to pivot at any angle, to catch the air coming through this way and when the air is flowing the other way, to channel air throughout the house.”
A key highlight of the house is the courtyard area where Inch built a water garden to cool down the house. The vertical door that opens up to this picturesque garden with its lovely water feature that mimics a tiny river and looks like a stream is also a thriving garden with little potted plants of every variety co-existing alongside the other plants.
“In this very small garden, beauty and utility as well as design work unfold. Every morning when I wake up, I’m confronted by flowers. In the 20 ft by 20 ft area, I’ve grown pepper and I have this dream that I can harvest pepper and sell it to the nearby restaurants. I also have vanilla, a creeping orchid that produces a nice scent at night, a very rare palm growing here and a place in my garden for growing bayam. In such a small space, you can create so much,” enthuses Inch.
“The problem with us in Malaysia is that we tend to not appreciate the space we have and we just concrete all of it,” laments Inch, who grew a fangipani tree on the third uppermost floor. “I feel there is tremendous landscape (opportunities) for KL. I dream of the time that the surrounding landscape can be linked to all of the other landscapes in KL,” adds Inch, with his instinctive, in-depth understanding of tropical plants and space relations.
Those who have had the privilege of journeying through this landscape designer‘s gardens and landscapes have experienced the views, scents, colour and sounds emitting from the detailed architectural plant selections whereby every plant serves a purpose. Exercising responsibility for the environment and ecology, Inch selects only sustainable materials and enjoys native selections that “reintroduce fauna to once lost habitats.” Not surprisingly, his reputation
and stature has gradually grown for his horticultural knowledge as well as his understanding of cultural art forms.
Urging more participation for next year’s event, Inch says that even his daughter who is studying architecture found the forum highly beneficial.
“This year’s KLDF and DATUM: KL 2012 were wonderful experiences for Malaysians especially those who are involved in design to attend, for where else can you get a group of eminent and very talented architects and designers in one place to impart their vision and their worldview to you. It’s a very, very important forum not to be missed,” he says.
Photographing through the lens Wrapping up KLAF with her presentation of photographs was New York-based photographer Erieta Attali who shared images of landscapes blended with the workings of architecture gathered
from around the world.
“The idea is to capture the essence of the space be it natural landscape or cityscape. The landscape still fascinates me even at the age of 45 as I continue to photograph different landscapes travelling around the world. To me, buildings are secondary to nature. By stripping buildings from nature, architecture can derive form,” says the long distance runner who since 16, used to train daily, running 17km through the pine forests of Chalki on Princes islands. It was during those solitary long runs “passing the isolated Byzantine churches and the Marmara Sea” that she was inspired to record the images she experienced.
“It was then that I decided to become a photographer of monuments and landscapes,” she shares, reflecting on her photographing efforts in the desert areas of Central Turkey, “in the arid landscapes of southernmost parts of Greece and later on in Atacama Desert, in the Arctic region and in Asia.”
Pics courtesy of PAM, Ryuji Nakamura & Associates,Takenouchi Webb & Inchscape.