Case Study of Architect Winston Chu Kum Weng

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THEORIES OF ARCHITECTURE AND URBANISM

1.0Introduction

Architect Winston Chu Kum Weng has a total of 12 years of working experience in the architecture field. His first working experience was as an intern in an established architecture company – DP Architects. Later, he worked there as a project architect for 3 years after his graduation. Then, he decided to challenge and further explore his career path, which led him to being the director of SN Low & Associates. This determination of his has led him to thrive in the field of architecture. Despite of his young age, he has manage to accomplish many great achievements through his works, which were mainly residential and commercial buildings, both locally and overseas such as Singapore, Vietnam and Abu Dhabi.

The Amway (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. Headquarters office was one of Ar. Winston Chu’s earlier accomplishments which was completed in the year 2009. Located in between the Petaling Jaya residential and business district with a total built-up area of 18,812 meter square, it consists of a warehouse block and an office block. The building sits on a flat land next to the Naza World Auto Mall and it consists of sustainable features which reflects Amway’s desire for a greener and eco-friendly surroundings. Many of his theories were successfully incorporated into this particular building.

This project attempts to convey an understanding of the architect’s architectural theory through a direct observation and analysis of his buildings. Using architecture as primary text, this project claims that the world of form is not arbitrary but displays an internal logic that has the capacity to convey meaning. Analytical illustrations are used to reveal the conceptual and experiential order of the architecture. In order to understand architecture, one must be aware of the conditions within which they are employed.

2.0Analyzing Architecture 2.1Climate

The local climate has always been the most influential aspect in terms of architecture. It is therefore understandable that building typologies found around the world are always very diverse from one another. Climate allows the architect to evaluate the resources of the site even without the actual measurements of the site. In other words, the climate is a large contributing factor in moulding the architectural form of the building. The sun section allows architects to evaluate the availability of the sun through the Sun Path Diagram. It helps the architect estimate the times of the day and year in which the sun will be available on a particular site so that proper consideration of shading devices and design options can be thoroughly explored. With careful consideration of the sun’s path, there would be advantages such as passive heating and natural daylighting. However, it may work against you by producing glare or overheating if not considered properly. (Brown, 2011)

By placing the sun path diagram onto the site plan of the Amway (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. Headquarters Office, it is shown that the particular plot of land is in such that the front and rear façade of the building would eventually receive the highest amount of exposure to sunlight because it would be facing west and east respectively whereas the north and south façade would receive lower amount of sunlight as compared to it. In most circumstances, architects would prefer to orientate the building in a way where the east and west façade would have a smaller surface area so that it would reduce the amount of solar radiation received, lowering the overall thermal transfer value. Thus, reducing the energy required for air-conditioning. However, that is mostly not the case because the façade of the building has to be in line with its neighbouring context, facing the existing main road which is also the only accessible way to the building itself. Therefore, the Amway (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. Headquarters Office is orientated in such that the east and west façade has a bigger surface area.

Furthermore,all four elevations of the building consists of many floor to ceiling windows especially the west elevation despite the high amount of solar radiation as it is the front façade of the Amway (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. Headquarters Office. This was because of the desire of having windows to allow for natural daylighting and visual connectivity as these sustainable features reflects Amway’s desire for a more eco-friendly building. Hence, many openings are uniformly located on every side of the building to ensure that there would be sufficient natural lighting penetrating through the building, promoting a passive design while reducing the use of artificial lighting.

Despite the poor decision in the building orientation and placement of openings due to the site limitations, careful considerations were made to overcome the high amount of solar radiation received. Aluminium louvers were used as a façade treatment, providing weather protection and visual screening, contributing to the visual outcome of the façade as well while keeping the simplicity design approach of the building in mind. Large amount of trees and shrubs were also planted to shade of the sunlight from directly penetrating through the window openings and soften the character of the building. It reflects the architect’s love for nature that was developed when he was still a child.

Moreover, there is the wind section which allows architects to evaluate the direction, speed and frequency of wind in a particular location by month or year through the Wind Rose Diagram. It helps the architect locate the position of the openings so that it benefits from the prevailing winds. By placing the wind rose diagram on the site plan of the Amway (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. Headquarters Office, it can be seen that the characteristics of the prevailing winds are quite similar from all directions. Hence, large amounts of openings were located on all four sides of the building to obtain the best outcome. Most of the openings are operable windows that could be controlled by the user so the prevailing wind can be captured and brought into the building to promote natural ventilation, hence reducing the use of unnecessary air-conditioning.

2.2Architecture Theory – Modernism Modernism in its broadest definition is modern taught, character of practice. It emerged in the early 20th century but was not popular until after the Second World War. Modernism was a response to the need for the new and the different. Modern means being up to date. What was modern yesterday, is classic for today and will be old, then ancient for all the tomorrows to come. Fascinated by the upcoming technologies of the production of steel, glass and concrete, people began to abstain from the use of ornaments, rejecting what they saw and deem it as the senseless strokes. The works of modernism were more spare and lyrical. (Weston, 1996) Many aspects of the modernist design still persist in architecture today. As Mies van der Rohe would say, less is more. Through observation and analysis that was carried out, it can be determined that the Amway (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. Headquarters Office fits in with the architecture theory of modernism. This is due to the many similarities of the building’s characteristics with the general characteristics of modern architecture. This architecture theory is believe to be incorporated by Ar. Winston Chu due to his love of simplicity, practicality and elegance, which focuses on more geometric and how the experience of space is created by natural lighting, ventilation and the choice of materials. Firstly, only the usage of simple and basic geometry can be seen throughout the entire Amway (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd. Headquarters Office, whether it is in terms of its elevation or floor plan. Only square and rectangle shapes can be perceived. Jam Tschichold once said that the final and most pure form of a necessary item is always constructed of geometric shapes. Thus, it visually emphasizing on the linear 90 degrees vertical and horizontal lines. The windows, columns, beams, roof line are all part of the structural elements that were used by the architect to assist in creating the linear inspired space. Secondly, the constant repetition of a simple geometric is repeated to obtain a unique form. The Amway Headquarters is a unique element itself which is developed by the transformation of repetitive units through changes in size, configuration, orientation, colour and articulation of a basic geometry - the square. Thirdly, it focuses on the clarity of forms. The building is stripped of all the unnecessary ornamental elements in order to showcase the architectural design. Only the required features are implemented into the design so that the focus would be on the space planning itself instead of ornaments which have no relevance with the overall architecture. Fourthly, the plans of the Amway Headquarters Office are open plans. The idea of an open plan is created through the flowing of spaces, achieving through the separation of columns where the idea of having a room as a way of organizing the spaces is not considered. Fifth, the building follows the notion where form follows function. The architect expresses this ideas by having the site and function of the building dictate most of the design decisions. It is said that modernist architecture takes inspiration from the building itself, and aims to design for each unique situation to be inspired by its purpose. Next, industrially produced materials such as steel, concrete and glass is broadly used throughout the building. Lastly, the architect makes use of the windows extensively to bring in natural daylight, especially the floor to ceiling windows. Thus, incorporating the windows as part of the building’s design.

2.3User / Client Site Layout The building layout of Amway Headquarters is in such that the office block and warehouse block is separated, only linked by a bridge on the first floor to provide permeability. This is the client’s intention of providing a clean and calm environment for the users and visitors, away from the production noise at the warehouse block. It too gives a sense of spatial organization, zoning the private and public spaces with reference to the level of noise produced. The loading bay is placed behind on the first floor of the warehouse block, accessible through a ramp. The client’s intention was to place the loading area away from where users could have visual connection, as the view isn’t very pleasing. The storage, delivery and packing area are all placed on the same floor so the working efficiency would be good. Spatial Layout Public facilities were all placed on the ground floor of the office block. Office and IT departments are placed on the floors above. The client’s intention was to provide a convenient service for all the users. There is a gallery to showcase Amway’s product and a mini market right next to it that sells their product. Detail of Entrance The entrance of the Amway Headquarters is a double storey high structure which uses only basic geometry - the square. The main entrance is a larger structure while the back entrance is a duplicate of it in a slightly smaller scale. The client’s intention was to provide an entrance which gives the users a sense of familiarity, stripped off all the fanciness to be projected as welcoming, inviting users to approach without hesitation. Landscape as Buffer Zone Plenty of greeneries are planted around the building to provide noise abatement and effective visual barrier between the office block and warehouse block. This is the client’s intention to preserve the visual and environment character of the office block which would attract and encourage users of their product. It also reflects Amway’s desire for Eco-Friendly surroundings. This was because of the client’s desire of having large amounts of trees around the site and windows to allow for natural daylighting and visual connectivity as these sustainable features reflects Amway’s desire for a greener and more eco-friendly surroundings. Hence, many openings are uniformly located on every side of the building to ensure that there would be sufficient natural lighting penetrating through the building, promoting a passive design while reducing the use of artificial lighting.

3.0Conclusion - Need to discuss the architect's theory based on your understanding of 'SELF' and 'the 3 FACTORS'. Your explanation have to capture the first part of the project and the analysis - take note that this is your own "theory" of the architect's architecture. Please do not refer to the architect's statement or declaration of his/her theory. - Conclude by putting in the DIAGRAM (from project brief) to summarize your theory on the architect.

4.0References Brown, G. Z. (2011). Sun Wind & Light: Architectural Design Strategies (2nd ed.).

New Jersey : Wiley. Chu, W. (2014, April 4). Personal Interview. Chu, W. (2014, April 5). Email Interview. Weston, R. (1996). Modernism. New York : Phaidon.

5.0Appendix

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