Case Study of Architect Looi Mun Kit

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Project : Theorizing Architecture

  1. Introduction

1.1 Project Description

The aim of this project is to convey and understanding of architect’s architectural theory through a direct observation and analysis of his projects. Each of the architectural elements in the chosen building will be broken down and matched with the relevant architectural theories. Besides that, analysis of the relationship between architecture and its social, cultural and intellectual context will be elaborated through various diagrams and description.

1.2 Background of the Architect

Architect: Looi Mun Kit

LAM I.D: A/L 344

Ar. Looi Mun Kit is one of the directors in LNL SDN BHD. He spent most of his childhood in a market as it gives a distinct life experience. Therefore, it shapes his characteristic and his motto in this field. His education life brought him up as a leader, a commander. Good chances were provided to train his discipline and be precise on what he wants. During his Diploma years, he does not understand the theories of architecture at all due to the hectic amount of assignments. After he graduated from his Diploma, he went to work before continues on his further studies at overseas. He gained the most valuable lesson about architecture field from his mentor. He fully understands how this field works after two years of training. He passed through his masters rather easily. After his graduation, he continued work under his previous firm to pay off his debt. After five years of working experience, he passed his professional paper by first trial.

Ar. Looi has his own theory on architecture is a part in our lives. Every single line formed the architecture in mean time it creates a lifestyle to the user. He also focuses on phenomenology or the sense of place. Human activities or experiences of the spaces are focused and planned precisely. Every space was engaged with unique characteristic to enhance the overall spatial experience. The circulation flow was designed in systematically to allow users to appreciate every single corner of the building, having no wastage of space.

1.3 Background of the Firm

Ar Looi together with his course mate, Mr Adrian Liew decided to open their own firm. LNL SDN BHD was established in the year 2009. LNL is a design company associated with MK LOOI Architect. The origin of LNL is from the both director Looi and Liew. Besides that, it stands a further meaning of their company motto which is “Lines into a Lifestyle”. LNL has a studio like office atmosphere. LNL consist of a group of architects that believes in the integration of the client’s needs with their design philosophy that each “lines” could be made into a “lifestyle”.

The firm is currently focuses mostly on bungalow projects. LNL believed that the society needs to improve their lifestyle, and a good lifestyle is inculcated first and foremost in dwellings. By designing better dwellings, the quality of the occupants’ lives will be improved. Not only that, LNL also believe on good work deserves a good pay. Hence, their rates were never lowered to ensure the ideal quality and their reputation. In future, LNL is slowly taking in developer’s project to further extend their business in construction field.

  1. Project Analysis

2.1 Background of the Iron Leaf, Bentong

The site is located at Bentong, Pahang which is 45 kilometres north from Kuala Lumpur. The function of this building is a retreat house for the client. It is an idle space for weekends escaped. The client wants to enjoy the quiet and peaceful state of atmosphere with nature sound surroundings. She also wished to have a building design to allow her to feel closer to the nature.

The concept of this project is to create an establishment that emulates the shape and the characteristic of a leaf. This contemporary design building stands out in a rainforest setting due to its materiality and the site context. Steel was used as the main structure for this building. It creates the lightweight and elevated feeling, it also portraits the whole idea of a leaf hanging on a tree.

2.2 Architectural Theories

2.2.1 Modernism

The theory of modernism can be observed through a several elements in the building. Modernism is seeking the order and simplicity of the building style. The building had shown its simplicity through exterior design and spatial layout. Louis Sullivan’s theory on ‘form follow function’ is applied in well in this building. Spatial arrangement of the building is equally arranged in a linear form. Public and private spaces are classified clearly. Besides that, to enhance the overall spatial experience, the public spaces are located at the corner of the building where the sound or noise would not affect the user in private spaces.

The next characteristic of a modernism theory applied on the building design is the open planning. The function of the opening plans is to blur the lines or boundary between exterior and interior. Glass panels were used as separation line between exterior and interior. The usage of glass panel will not obstructed the perfect views of the surrounding nature and it was brought into the interior (Figure2.2.1). Besides blurring the boundaries, open floor plans were interpreted as an open living, kitchen and dining area as public space or as a node.

Next, emphasis of rectangular forms and horizontal lines were one of the most signifying modernism architecture. Diagram 2.2.1 has shown that Iron leaf is design with strong emphasis on horizontal lines. As compared to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling water, both of these houses have the similar characteristic.

Lastly, honesty on material represented one of the characteristic in modernism architecture. Building materials were remained to its most original form and texture. Material texture is exposed and without any finishes (Figure2.2.2). Concrete wall was used to contrast with the wooden floor.

2.2.2 Deconstructivism

Deconstructivism focused on creating chaos and disjunction. The roof is the highlighted point in this project, where it also representing the element of deconstructivism. The roof is not an ordinary pitch roof but it was arranged portraying as a leaf hanging on a tree. The arrangement of beams gives visual impacts towards the user when they first enter the space. The uniqueness of the roof gave a sense of suspended in a quiet stillness and a contemporary interpretation of surrounding nature, like a floating leaf from a tree. It also gives a visual appearance of stimulating unpredictability and a controlled chaos.

2.2.3 Critical Regionalism and Phenomenology

Critical regionalism movement is a combination of Modernism and Regionalism. Critical regionalism focused on the identity of a culture while at the same time having an international style of design. Architecture of critical regionalism makes references to the site; it also can be interpreted as genius loci. Iron leaf is design according to its site context. Concrete stilts to support the building besides the slope. The building is situated at the high ground hiding behind the lush of greeneries. Hence, the house should be provided with maximum open spaces to take full advantage on the cool air flow for ventilation as well as the satisfying visual appearance to the user. Theory of phenomenology is further added in to the design to enhance the overall experience for the user. The usage of raw material and openings enhance the whole journey through the house where creates the sense of place. When the user enters the building, they could feel the sense of belonging towards the nature where it blends together with the building.

2.3.1 Climatic

As the site is located on top of the hill, the extreme vertical position of the land according to the contour caused the design to be a linear stretch building. The overall form of the building is dynamic because of its shape. Long and rectangular building was place on the site. Important spaces are planned at the both sides. A long stretch of corridor is connected directly to the main public area.

The building orientation is design based on the climatic factors. Design based on climatic factors will helps to create a sustainable design building (Diagram 2.3.1). Besides that, it also will help to save the cost of the building by reducing unnecessary openings. The northern and south direction of the building is the front and rear elevations. Both of these elevations have a longer façade. This is to avoid the direct sunlight enters to the building during the day time. Large openings on the front elevation are to catch the view of the hilltop and also allow daylight to penetrate into the building. In contrast with the left and right elevation, both of it has a shorter façade. Additionally, louvers or shading devices are used to avoid direct sunlight or heat enters the building (Diagram 2.3.2).

The additional usage of the large openings at front elevation is to allow the prevailing wind enters the building. Taking in account of the ventilation, building is design in a rectangular form. The longer side of the façade leads the wind enters the building. Hence, the ventilation does not breaks and directly out from another side of the façade (Diagram 2.3.3). It helps to create the cross ventilation taking place inside the building. Mechanical ventilation does not require in this building because of the well design of openings.

In nutshell, the building is design in its best orientation whereby daylight and ventilation are maximized to enter the building. It also a sustainable design building because of the consideration of building orientation helps to reduce most of the mechanical or artificial light and ventilation. Artificial lightings were not required to switch on during day time. Lastly, the house is always ventilated, therefore mechanical ventilation are unnecessary.

2.3.2 Material and Technology

Most of the materials are precast. Materials are selected or choose carefully to sustain and requires minimal maintenance with consideration of the natural environment. Therefore, steel is the main highlight of the material. Roof structure is made from steel and covers with a layer metal sheet to reflect the building to its surrounding. Steel also used as frames to gives a lightweight effect as mention before with the concept. Besides that, steel structure is fast and easy to build in construction industry.

Furthermore, concrete was chosen as built material. Walls were built using concrete. Unpolished concrete or cement rendered surfaces are used to fulfil the concept of modernism whereby honesty on material. Concrete also used to strike the huge contrast between wooden decks and floorings. It will give the sense of incorporating with natural and built.

Moreover, glass panels are used to provide the maximum views to the user while they can enjoy the views even inside of the building. Additionally, maximize daylighting and ventilation can be brought into the building. Artificial lighting were not required during the day. The building is always ventilated because of the large openings at the prevailing wind direction. Lastly, trees that cut on the site are recycled and used as a material for furniture to enhance the overall materiality inside the building.

Another element to highlight on is the roof structure. The column that supports the roof is designed as a tree-like-structure. It was a break off point from a traditional round or square column, the architect chose this advance technology method to support the roof. The tree-like-structure functioned as a space framing and the construction method was derived from umbrella structure. The whole idea of this tree-like-structure is to give an illusion to the user as a tree branch supporting a giant metallic leaf. The whole roof structure is basically exposed. Inner structure (beams) was exposed to the interior. It allowed the user experience as a giant leaf covers the whole interior. The arrangement of beams is not in a common straight lines as it followed the concept of deconstructivism, where created a controlled chaos form. The structure is pre-fabricated before setting at the site. Lastly, the structure is made from several steel columns and welded together to create the shape of the tree branch.

3.0 Conclusion

‘Lines into a lifestyle’ is the motto of LNL, a simple line can create an incalculable potential and shapes the quality of spaces that support a lifestyle. The motto also matches Ar. Looi’s theories in architecture. Each and every space engaged with unique characteristic to enhance the overall spatial experience. Circulation of the inner building is design in systematically and not a single space is being left out.

Ar Looi emerged successfully on the theories of Modernism, Deconstructivism and Critical Regionalism into this building design. All the characteristic of different theories blends in harmoniously as one whole design. Furthermore, to enhance the overall experience in the building he uses the theory of phenomenology. Human’s senses are added on to experience the building as a place rather than a space. He also produced the design that respects the tropical environment and accommodating with the client’s lifestyle.

The theories or past experience he learnt during his life have successfully made him a good architect. Ar Looi and his theories have successfully creates a new architectural identity of the Malaysian while bringing the living quality to a whole new level for the society.