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(File pix) Fairuz Abdul Aziz’s project, The Waiting Space, proposes a waiting space for patients to be healed emotionally.
(File pix) Fairuz Abdul Aziz’s project, The Waiting Space, proposes a waiting space for patients to be healed emotionally.

MILLENNIALS (those born between 1981 and 1996) have arguably been the most studied generation to date, and for a good reason — it’s been said they will shape our future in a way that no other generation has in the past.

They are the first generation of digital natives, and their affinity for technology helps shape how they live. They are dedicated to wellness, devoting time and money to exercising and eating right, and their active lifestyle influences trends.

With all these attributes, this generation will be agents of change where design and architecture are concerned, the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) believes.

PAM council member Ang Chee Cheong said architecture now is in a moment of reflection, towards its relevance and the role it plays in society.

“Now is the time to find authenticity in our practice and processes. We see in young and young-at-heart architects, more focus and attention in issues, such as climate change, housing, as well as deeper social and contextual engagements. Those from this generation will be agents of change.”

The signs of this trend can be seen through submissions to the annual PAM Student Awards competition, which seeks to recognise and reward outstanding Malaysian architectural talents.

Now in its five-year cycle (2018-2022), the PAM Student Awards is made possible, thanks to the financial grant and support from principal benefactor Tan Sri Esa Mohamed. It continues from the PAM-Tan Sri Chan Sau Lai Architecture Awards 2012-2016.

There are two entry categories — part one graduates who have completed three years of architectural education either in a Bachelor of Science of Architecture course, a Bachelor of Arts of Architecture, or any other equivalent architecture course in Malaysia or overseas, or as determined by the convenor; and part two — graduates who have undergone five years of architectural education, successfully completed a Masters of Architecture course or Bachelor of Architecture course or other equivalent architecture course in Malaysia or overseas.

Ang, who is the convenor of the PAM Student Awards 2018-2019, said the submissions for the PAM Student Awards featured schemes that ranged from the allegorical and the poetic, to projects that aimed at engaging new ideas of the social, from the technically-lyrical to constructing new prototypes for architecture.

“From concept designs and the quality of research undertaken, the design development, innovation and sustainability aspects of the projects and technical rigour and buildability resolutions, the successful schemes always possess all these elements, and have that added architectural imagination and beauty.”

An example is PAM Student Awards 2018 Silver Medal 2018 winner P’ng Ren Yu’s project, The Inverted Street: A City Museum and Archive of Casting Memories, which strive to answer the question, “how can streets be interpreted and transformed into an architecture form to express collective memory and identity?”.

“This project aimed to investigate streets as a physical record of city memories. The proposal used inverted street patterns as a representation of casting memories in Madrid to create a city museum and archive that gathered information, artefacts and objects of the city, as well as served as a space where people can experience and contribute to the evolution of the city,” said the 27 year-old who graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a Master of Architecture degree.

P’ng, who is with ADM Architect in Penang, believes that environmental issues are crucial.

“Saving the planet through architecture is something I would like to explore. Our culture and lifestyle play an important role in this area. I hope architecture in Malaysia can incorporate these factors, as well as adapt to the current stage of developments to ensure a healthy country. We could start by using resources and material in a more innovative way.”

Pamela Tan Poh Sin, the 2016 winner of the the PAM Tan Sri Chan Sau Lai Architecture Awards, clinched the title through her project, The Soil City.

“Soil City is an imagined future city where the once abundant natural resource of top soil — the upper, outer layer of soil, which has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms—is running out.

“Soil City takes a critical stance on dissolution of natural resources and the impending high value associated with its demise. While Soil City celebrates all things of soil, it is mired in a certain doom — an end to the natural growth of things,” said the 28-year-old architect who graduated from the University of Greenwich, London.

“The project imagines society structured around the high value associated with the top soil, where the wealthy store miniature gardens in the vaults of the central soil bank, and where workers dredge through domestic organic waste dumping grounds on the periphery of Greenwich peninsula to speed up the process of soil production.”

The Waiting Space, a project by 2014 winner Fairuz Abdul Aziz, 33, proposed an area carved out of St Thomas Hospital’s garden across the famous London Big Ben to work harmoniously in creating a waiting space for patients to be healed emotionally before entering the hospital.

“The project combined the public realm, while maintaining the privacy of incoming patients with different levels of gardens and courtyards. Patrons will visit the theatre created, host comedy stand-ups and shows, and in turn, generate income for the hospital,” said the associate at Aqidea Architects Sdn Bhd, who did his part two architecture training at the University of East London.

Chua Yheu-Shen, 30, won the PAM Student award in 2013 for his project KL Rain Roof. The chartered architect from the United Kingdom’s Architectural Association School of Architecture said at that time, he sought response to the issue of pollution and the monsoon season in Kuala Lumpur.

“It challenges the typology of a transport terminal for buses, which predominantly produces polluted carbon monoxide emissions. This evolves the question of environmental degradation that must be addressed in tandem with the experimentation of renewable building types where the project looked into the possibility of creating a cell that will excite a momentum, generating cycles of self-cleansing environment using rain water.”

Fairuz advised future architects to be passionate about their work and channel that passion into drawings and presentations.

“Spend time thinking about the project. For references, find the creme de la creme of architects, the Pritzker Prize winners for example. Read and learn about their projects and understand the ideas behind them. Think about what makes them special and outstanding.

“As for ideas, focus on quality and depth in the idea of the design. My simple approach to architecture has always been about people and emotions. As cliche as it sounds, I believe designing with people in mind has always resulted in great projects.”

Tan, meanwhile, said for her, the best part about architecture is that it has the most comprehensive field of knowledge.

“It engages the public and society. When I pursued my Master degree in the UK, I was exposed to the transdisciplinary nature of architecture. In a sense, it celebrates diversity. It was during that period I began to understand the joy and ways of integrating philosophy, social science, narrative and art into a project framework.”

Winners of the PAM Student Awards 2019 will be announced in June.

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