Case Study of Architect Chong Voon Wee

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Introduction

Ar. Chong Voon Wee ventured down the path of architecture subconsciously influenced by his father’s job which is a contractor. Thus Ar Chong is not a stranger to seeing buildings getting erected even at a young age, which later on influence him to actually want to design a building of his own. The building that I chose to analyze Ar Chong’s theory towards architecture is the Wisma Hamzah Kwong Hing located in No. 1 Lebuh Ampang 50100, which is an old office building which is later assigned to Ar Chong for renovation in 2008. This paper aims to analyze architecture and urban forms in relation to relevant architectural theories, and also the relation between site context and architecture.

Analysis

Climatic Analysis: As an architect, Ar. Chong has to be a professional when it comes to site context, Lebuh Ampang is located next to traditional street Jalan Tun H.S Lee, which indicates there is a lot more to take into consideration when it comes to designing a modern building in a traditional urban context.

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In terms of climate, the natural flow of ventilation through the site is much affected by the urban context itself as the built buildings is an obstruction and having tall buildings can also block of the ventilation of lower buildings next to it. But in the case of the Wisma Hamzah, the interior of the building is mechanical ventilated as an office building, the use of natural ventilation is not so practical given the terms of achieving a comfortable atmosphere for the workers that are working in the building. As a professional, taking into account the main purpose of the building and the activities going on inside the Wisma Hamzah, Ar Chong insulated the external sound caused by the busy streets around the building compound. Also given the hot climate in Malaysia and even more so when it comes to a congested street with high vehicular activities and very little vegetation, Ar. Chong finished the building façade with reflective tinted windows to reflect the solar heat away from the building and also introducing long strip window shade across the glass building façade to shade from the high noon sun.

Architectural Analysis

In terms of architecture, Ar. Chong being a professional in his field of work, tries to coordinate the principle of architecture in order to fulfill his client’s needs and demands but not losing the architectural language of the old Wisma Hamzah when introducing a new context for the building renovation, in this case is Mr Kwong Hing the owner of the Wisma Hamzah.

Mr Kwong Hing is a traditional chinese who believes heavily in Fengshui, and the balance of Ying and Yang in order to bring peace, prosperity and wealth to his business. In response to Mr Kwong Hing’s religion, beliefs and needs, Ar. Chong found a balance among all the elements he’s taking into consideration. The interior floor area was preserved as it was but the floor finishes was replaced by black marble stone to better enhance the gold element of the building, the office floors are kept as open possible, as the chinese believe that an open floor plan will enhance the ventilation of air in the particular space, and hence increasing cash flow in the workplace. Following up with the traditional Fengshui beliefs, the façade windows are finished with gold tinted curtain wall, which is very much different from the usual tinted windows we see on the skyscrapers on site. The gold tint is demande by Mr Kwong Hing himself, the gold is said to bring in more luck or prosperity for the tenants of the building as gold is known as the imperial color throughout all the dynasties in China. Although the gold tinted Wisma Hamzah is an outstanding building in the context of a traditional street scape but it does not overpower the overall site. Wisma Hamzah isn’t the only skyscraper on site but it is the one with the closest color tone with the traditional shop house façade which are mostly milky in color.

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Façade in relation to site context

The Wisma Hamzah Kwong Hing was a 22 storey high concrete building with window openings on the façade before the renovation took place in 2008. During the process of the renovation, a steel structure was introduced onto the existing building structure. Ar. Chong proposed a new structure on the old one using the existing columns to support the steel frames of the long strips of curtain walls and the sun shades.

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The new façade is a total contrast of the old façade, from the rigid form with rigid looking window openings to the new gold tinted building façade and a smoother shape at the edge to grant continuity for the tinted window strips. The new façade of the Wisma Hamzah has a little more dynamics if compares to the building façade in the overall site, but then if the dynamic shapes were to be taken to a higher level the Wisma Hamzah will then be unfitting for the surround site context, hence the decision of this façade in the urban landscape, without overpowering the traditional street scape but be able to give an old building a modern façade.

Discussion

Based on my understanding, Ar. Chong’s theory in architecture was determined by his working experience starting as an intern during summer break when he is studying abroad in Australia, from there he was trained to sharpen his skills as a future architect without the technology of today, so every drawing has to be hand drawn but precise at the same time. After his return to Malaysia in 1991, the working experience then defines his theory today, to be a professional in the working field, requires the skill to complete a job or project assigned, the ability to come up with a solution for the problem faced during the process and being able to judge the which decision is the best way to complete the job, and last but not least always respond in according to the clients need.

As a professional, architects have the ethical and professional demands placed on themselves for the health, safety and welfare of the public. Every design choices the architect make will sooner or later impact on individuals, communities and the environment. In the case of the Wisma Hamzah, adaptive reuse of the existing building structure by Ar. Chong shows his professionalism in the field. Being conservative of what he do with the existing building assigned to him to redesign, preserving the elements that can be reused to form a new design, not only that this is adapting to the on-site situation but also taking environmental issues into consideration, to reduce new material usage, and staying within the client’s budget at the same time achieving the goal that Mr. Kwong Hing first hired him to do.

Given the fact that he was assigned a street with a long history and with traditions and cultures implemented in it, it is only fitting for a professional to gain sufficient knowledge of the diverse needs, values and behaviors of the local community. In this case Ar. Chong has to take in to account the overall site context of H.S Lee introducing a modern look into the traditional street without diminishing the ethical value of the historical street scape.

Architects is a profession with significant responsibilities and power within society, a good design will bring pleasure to the eye, comfort to the body of users, practical in the way it is design to be, but a bad design can cause unnecessary problems in a community, take the China Bird Nest Olympic Stadium for instance, it was pleasing and iconic during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but then after the event, the maintenance fee for it is way off the charts, and the rates in order to rent it to the general public is too high hence the Olympic effect, and not only in China, but all over the world facilities and monumental building were built for that one grand event and usually being deserted after that.

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In my opinion, for a professional these factors must also be taken into account during the design stage of a building. Given the issue that something like the Olympic effect can easily effect the community around it, in a bigger scale the nations’ ecomonics will also be pulled under. As a professional these issues are not to be overlooked, must concern and responsibility must be placed into the designing process and plans are to be thought through for the next 20 or 30 years or more.

Being a professional in the field means having profession ethnics, and this is what the theory of Ar. Chong is all about, taking into consideration even the smallest issue that although the window panels are all tinted but still implementing a short window shade that matches the façade design of the gold tinted windows and at the same time being practical to shade the window panes from the afternoon high sun which is the largest source of heat in a tropical country like Malaysia. It is clear that the shades are significantly short to be shading the whole strip of curtain wall but, the shades are only designed for the purpose mentioned above, this is practicality in completing an assignment, no extra cost wasted on something that is not necessary. The open floor plans are not only for the beliefs of Mr. Kwong Hing but also considering the main activities carried out in this office building, some of the office floors are rented out to other companies thus the open plans will allow them to partition according to the needs of the tenants, even if they moved the partition walls can be easily replaced by the new tenant.

In my personal opinion, in the field of architecture today, we need more architects that practices professionalism in the community, even with a beautifully designed building without being practical that architecture is still considered as a failure. Although the first impression of the building is good to the outside community, but the impact on the surrounding society is still more important.

Conclusion

As a conclusion, being a professional in the field of architecture requires the knowing societal and professional responsibilities and integrating community service into the practice of architecture. Not only taking into account the site condition given, but also the surrounding of the site itself, which is more significant if the site is an urban street scape like Jalan Tun H.S Lee. The society and community within the site context is also an important aspect, from macroclimate the natural state of the site including the climate and landscape to microclimate which includes human behavior, human and vehicular circulation and the community and user groups that are involved and possible group that will be affected by the project.

Understanding architecture did not end when you graduate a degree or even a master program, architectural education is life-long and will always encompass an individual’s understanding of relationships, perspective on diversity, knowledge of theory and design. Knowing the differences and attributes of all the materials and how to combine them, and understanding how nature functions. We architects literally have to learn everything about this world and its inhabitants. What matters, ultimately is how much you understand and how willing you are to couple experience with structured education in order to grow, develop and finally broaden your perspective to understand the power of architecture.

Reference List

Professionalism, Retrieved June 22 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/professionalism

10 Characteristics of Professionalism, C. Joseph, Demand Media Retrieved June 22 2014, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/10-characteristics-professionalism-708.html

Professionalism and Ethics in Architecture Education (2009), D.L. Steidl, Design Intelligence, Retrieved June 22 2014, from http://www.di.net/articles/professionalism-and-ethics-in-architectural-education/

Professional Ethics in Architecture and Responsibilities of Architects towards Humanity (2012) H. Sadri, Gazi University, Retrieved 22 June 2014, from http://www.academia.edu/2607379/Professional_Ethics_in_Architecture_and_Responsibilities_of_Architects_towards_Humanity