Case Study of Architect Winston Chu

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Architect Winston Chu’s design approach is based on simplicity and practicality. Looking at his architecture works, they were designed with simple geometrical lines and forms. He does not create fancy architecture, but his designs are able to deliver a message and give identity to the buildings. Other than the design forms, Architect Winston Chu also strongly believe that a building design should be based on the site history and context ie: it should speak for the building. He also ensures that a building has a soft aspect to achieve a balance between nature and architecture.

The reason I pick Johor Premium Outlet as my research building is because the building design approach fulfill the above mentioned criteria.

Developed in direct response to the tremendous growth in Johor State, (1st Premium Outlet in Malaysia) Johor Premium Outlet is a 45 acre tract at a key highway intersection only thirty minutes from Senai airport. The location was selected for its proximity to downtown destinations. With the project’s retail lying close to the major highway namely North South Highway, Senai Desaru Highway and second link highway to Singapore; easy and convenient access with adequate parking were important factor to ensure the JPO are well patronized. What was once an oil palm estate with undulating terrain has been transformed into an established and successful premium outlet cater to shoppers in particular tourist, both local and international. The outlet has a viewing platform worthy of its hilly setting.

Climatic Condition

The characteristic features of the tropical climate of Malaysia are uniform temperature, high humidity and heavy rainfall. During severe drought, which may last one to two months, the temperature may reach up to 35 degree Celsius.

The Johor Premium outlet fit in approximately 130 tenant spaces distributed along an interior-oriented pedestrian promenade. The curvilinear layout and strategic positioning of individual blocks to ensure the premium outlet is exposed to the shopper stroll down to the promenade. Cost effective means were found to cover substantial areas of interior promenade, in view of local weather conditions, yet admit as much as natural light as possible.

The Johor Premium Outlet is a simple but elegant structure, taking cues from agriculture buildings. Site planning and architectural design were pursued simultaneously to create coherent fabric. The space was made more attractive by bands of landscaping and the interactive fountain. Street and sidewalk are designed to leave ample space for planting of trees. Fountains and landscape surrounding the retail blocks serve as shading element and sound buffers against nearby traffic. During hot weather, the fountain also acts as a cooling mechanism and a reflective pool which helps to reflect the heat away from the building; while also inviting cooling breezes.

Considering the amount of sunlight to be received by the building, greater emphasis is given to building orientation to avoid rising and setting sun in the east west orientation. Large facing windows are located on the north south façade to provide bright natural light for the retail spaces. The outlets are laid out around with streetscapes such as interactive fountain and street furniture. The individual building blocks are connected by large canopy walkway. And strategic placement of skylight allowed sunlight to penetrate into the large canopy. The retail store is recessed to ensure the comfort of the shoppers.

In the site within, stone and glass reinforce the image of lightness and openness. Natural stone floors and wood paneling brings complementary warmth to the interior.

Considering the tropical climate factor in Malaysia, architect Winston Chu has chosen pitched roof for the Johor Premium Outlet building blocks to combat the high rate of rainfall. Pitch rood allows rain water to flow off at quicker speed, preventing the rainwater to accumulate and lead to possible leakages problem and damages.

With emphasis of natural ventilation and heat control, proper selection of roof tile material with natural ability to insulate and reflect heat generated by direct sunlight becomes important. Clay tile which meet the above criteria was therefore adopted. Clay roof tile is able to keep the building from receiving excessive heat thereby keeping the indoor temperature cool and comfortable.

Therefore by selecting the right material, strategic orientation of the building and landscape planting and street furniture addressed the climatic criteria of the Premium Outlet design.

Architectural Theory

Regionalism architecture is a way of approaching building design through an awareness and appreciation of its regional context and is derived from its local setting. Regionalism means something that is native to a place and harmonized beautifully with the climate, topography, landscaping, indigenous building materials, local surrounding, local culture and local values.

The Johor Premium Outlet building plan is based on a grid of walkable blocks (site context contour), flexible in terms of uses, laid out so that project frame public open spaces. A parking strategy supports the density required (Zoning). Plan layout, planting and lighting are designed to maintain sight lines to the performance terrace.

The styling of critical regionalism seeks to provide architecture that rooted in the modern tradition, but tied to geographical and cultural context. Blending historical and contemporary architecture, the building brings urban imagery to a hitherto suburban community. To minimized disturbance of natural topography and soil percolation resulting from excessive rainfall surface runoff, brick-paved roads and footpaths, and gravel swales for on-street parking are used.

The building block structures is arrange in a way to form a pedestrian-scale civic space.

The use of deep overhangs, stone veneer finishes and exposed steel column structure construction characterized regionalism architecture approach. Regionalism architecture does not see as building that deliver national identity but merely to build a passive design shelter in response to local climate.

The architectural expression of the outlet is the combination of contemporary and local identity, with articulated building volumes painted in natural earth colors, double floors creating a low street and high street shopping area, and large metal canopy connecting the individual building blocks. In the grand-scaled public spaces, the historical and cultural significance of the building have been reinforced. Above the activity of the street, high street offers more distant views, overlooking the hilly mountain surrounding the site.

For this site, the architect has designed a rugged, contemporary, two-story building featuring a curvilinear façade, expansive glass, corridors, and distinctive stone details. Street front of the Johor Premium Outlet face common greens, with sidewalks encouraging pedestrian activity. Landscape added into the building act as continuity to the site context which is surrounded by hills and greeneries. This also helps to soften the building mood and gives a soothing effect. The fountain stands as a landmark and sets the tone for the flowing character of the space. Trail is being built, and its wraparound promenade will encourage open-air shopping and community activity overlooking the streetscape.

Focal points are created by creative tile arrangement and pattern. Strategic layout gives the feel of spaciousness and that also leads to shopping in comfort and not over crowded. Proper pedestrian and vehicular traffic circulation within and around JPO avoids over-crowding and congestion of traffic. Traffic flow is enhanced by a well plan ingress and egress road system.


Materials play an important role not only as something which would weather well but it connects man to his ancient origins as part of Nature’s children. Frank Lloyd Wright can be said to be the father of an organic approach which saw the potential lessons of the past traditional architecture.

Premium Outlet requires a global and international architecture design, but still maintaining its local identity and characteristic. It is a progressive approach to design that seeks to mediate between the global and the local languages of architecture.

In Johor Premium Outlet design, natural materials such as stone veneer, clay and bricks; these material used suggest the fantasy of a tropical nature paradise.

A desired feel of contemporary and natural in accented areas was created with independent single sided structures finished with glass, barrel clay tile, copper and local stone veneers – materials that balance the natural and contemporary looks characteristic of the region.

Elevations consciously define the public realm, while giving the retail tenants a semi-private envelope.

Material such as brick, clay and stone reflects the traditional architecture of the community, while responding to the modern design of the embracing building.

Contemporary materials such as copper, metal and glass are also used to give a harmonization and balance to the building outlook.

Considering the main function of the Johor Premium Outlet – glass window is highly used due to the importance to exhibit the clothing and products in order to attract consumers.

Similar color tone was selected for the building to give continuity and create the same mood. Colors derived from the local flora, fauna, sky, and earth reinforce the regional feeling. Exterior paving is of brick using exposed hard-seeded, water-washed glass aggregate in a variety of colors, with slate tile areas. Native plantings reinforce the regional character.

Mission clay tiles, also called Barrel tiles and S-curved tiles, have a highly rounded curve which gives the traditional look to Spanish style buildings.To achieve higher reflectivity and emissivity indices; the traditional red-orange barrel clay tile was chosen to achieve cool roof values.

Stone is from local quarries, and terrace and walkways are paved with red bricks.


Early exposure to landscape design simple and practical design during his internship has contributed to his presence day architecture approach and design philosophy.

Architect Winston Chu used the environmental conditions to his advantage by adopting the natural space conditioning effect of the Sun, wind and water to keep the space comfortable. Selection of orientation, form, colour and materials for the building, windows, shape, style and location of external, shading was done meticulously for maximum benefit. Such an approach to building that takes advantage of natural conditions for keeping the living space comfortable is called solar passive architecture.


  1. Dixon, J. Urban Spaces No.5: Featuring Green Design Strategies (pg 40, 51)
  2. Mabe, V. eHOW: Why Use Clay Roof Tiles. Retrieve on 21st June from: