Case Study of Architect Wong Chee Keong

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Ar. Wong Chee Keong, who is the director of Chee Keong Architect, was born in 1963 and grew up in Kulim, a city in the state of Kedah. He finished his degree in the University of Melbourne and worked in different countries before returning to Malaysia. He has learned a lot studying and working abroad, most importantly he able to make full use of his experiences to his advantage in his chosen career of architecture. That’s why he has acquired a good acumen in the business of architecture. His has done quite a number of hotels and high rise buildings. Most of them are of Neo-contemporary style architecture with cast of classicism which can be best revealed through his masterpieces - Shangrila Hotel Jakarta and One World Hotel, Petaling Jaya. In this project, I attempt to convey an understanding of Ar. Wong Chee Keong’s architectural theory through a direct, indirect observation and also analysis of his local masterpiece – One World Hotel, Petaling Jaya. I will analyse and critique the relationship between the building in relation to three relevant factors namely: architectural theory, climatic condition and also user experience.

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I regard that One World Hotel is designed based on Neo-modernism theory as there are many fundamental characteristics of Neo-modernism that can be seen on it. As we know, Neo-modernism is a reaction to Post-modernism’s intricacies and complexity as well as the adoption of Pre-modern design elements. Like other Neo-modern buildings, this hotel shares numerous characteristics of modernism, for example aiming for greater simplicity which results in rejection of decorations and classical ornamentations. Very obviously, the building façade is plain without any decorative elements. One World Hotel’s simplicity and uniformity best reveal through the building façade that is designed following grid line. Besides, the usage of repetitive squarish element in the façade design better enhanced the uniformity and simplicity of the building. Neomodernist buildings, similar to Modernist buildings, are intended to be mostly monolithic and functional. Likewise, One world Hotel's monolithic and harmony on the facade of the building is related to the materials and color being used. Only beige brick wall and tinted window are used in the design to showcase the essence of monolithic in Neo-modernism. One World hotel is one of the favorite locations for leisure, business and meeting in Petaling Jaya. It is designed regarding to the use of human terms which is in-line with what Neo-modernism building is trying to do. One World Hotel is planned in a very urban residential comfort way with different spaces serving different functions. Guestrooms, restaurants, bars, meeting room, spa, sauna, fitness center, tennis court, swimming pool, golf course and a lot more functional spaces in the hotel are all designed to fulfill the customers’ needs and desires. He always sees from various point of view and never restrain his mind. That’s why the hotel he designed is very user friendly and serves people from all walks of life. In addition, One World Hotel addressing short comings that Post-modernism pointed out - contextualism and regional context. It is located in a very strategic location in where the heart of Petaling Jaya is, plus surrounded by the thriving business district of Petaling Jaya. Morover, it is adjoined to One Utama Shopping Centre, one of the best shopping centre in Malaysia. This perfect location enable easy access from various directions and brings visitors to different areas of the city, such as recreational parks and iconic landmarks. Ar. Wong Chee Keong understood the importance of having a strategic location in building planning since his young age when was brought up in that kind of environment. He has further developed his urban planning skills and this is proven in the case of One World Hotel which has a tactical location plan.

Malaysia has a tropical hot and humid climate, with really warm days and relatively cool nights. Climatic conditions and responds such as sun path, sun height, building orientation, wind direction, prevailing wind, windows and openings location and dimensions, cross ventilation, stack ventilation, natural lighting, natural ventilation, building color and a lot more were taken into account when Ar. Wong Chee Keong was designing the One World Hotel. The orientation of the hotel shows less respond to the sun path. The longer axis of the hotel is oriented in North – South direction while the shorter axis of the building is oriented in East – West direction. It means, the longer axis of One World Hotel is facing East and West, exposed to direct sunlight. This can caused the heat gain and normally architects avoid designing building facing sun direction to have easier control over the indoor thermal comfort level. There is no correct or wrong in design. The hotel oriented in such way might not have good thermal condition, or it might have (if there is a solution to solve the problem), but no matter what, we should not judge the design by our own opinions, we should not say that this is designed wrongly or this is a bad design. There must be a reason for it to be done in that way. Perhaps there is a deep thought behind or there is any other consideration he put in the design. On the other hand, windows in the same size are arranged in all directions (North, South, East, West, North – East, North – West, South – East, South - West) in order to allow wind from different directions to enter to the hotel. One World Hotel design ingeniously minimized the amount of windows facing to East and West to avoid direct sunlight. Natural lighting and natural ventilation are introduced to the hotel to cut down the energy consumption. Also, cross ventilation is obtained in the corridors connecting hotel rooms from two opposite directions. This passive cooling helps to provide a fresh and comfortable indoor temperature for the users. Instead of having same size windward and leeward windows at the same level, it is better to have low located large windward windows and high located small leeward windows to increase the cross ventilation. Furthermore, the exterior wall of One World Hotel is painted beige for few reasons. One of the most major reasons is light color scheme helps to keep the building cooler. Also, light color scheme reflect more light and absorb less heat compared to dark color scheme. This is a very important factor to be concerned with especially for building like One World Hotel that is located in the Equator and also with the users and functions of the building that requires high level of thermal comfort.

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One world hotel is a RM 350 million, 20-storey exuding luxury and grandeur hotel, tend to give a five star experience to the visitors. The user experience starts from the approach to the hotel. There is a welcoming paved ramp connecting to the main entrance. This gives the users a sense of entry, they can actually feel the transition between outdoor and indoor spaces. There are few entrances to get into the hotel. The main entrance with the revovlving glass doors gives extension of the outdoor into the indoor, and expansion of the indoor into the outdoor. Once the users enter to the hotel, they will reach a very spacious lobby area which gives a welcoming atmosphere. Eye-catching spectacular chandeliers hanging over the head adding grandeur to the lobby area never fail to draw users attention and create the classy feeling. There is a rotunda void near the lobby area to create some visual connectivity between users from two different floor levels. It suggests the linkage between users from different spaces and draw them into a whole. Another way to create visual impact for the users in the hotel is to have visual permeability. GlFull length glass wall along lobby lounge and restaurant brings outside in and further enhance the indoor–outdoor connectivity. The users can feel the warmth of natural daylight sunlight during the day and enjoy a glitter of starlight during the night. Double volume of the sphere lobby lounge provide cosy atmosphere to the users. Outdoor swimming pool and poolbar are surrounded by tropical greeneries to give a refreshing feeling to the users. Greeneries and landscape are able to soften down the mood of the users and thus create a tranquil, relaxing and casual atmosphere. In term of materiality,marble with white and greyish grained marble border finishing shows a warm welcome to the users.

Ar. Wong Chee Keong has been brought up in a very historical place (Kulim, Kedah). From there he learnt about the relationship between historical context and social-cultural context which are the important consideration point to look at while involving in place making. He then applied what he has learned into the projects he did, including the One World Hotel. Era keeps changing, historical context is getting harder and harder to nicely fit into the urban town planning of Petaling Jaya. Ar. Wong Chee Keong has his own way to tie everything together. Architecture is not about abandon the past or blindly copy the past. It is about how we extract the essence of the past and adapt it to the present situation and condition. He understood the importance of having a strategic destination in town planning and applied it when designing the One World Hotel. One World hotel increased the value of that district and that district rewards it with more business. This is the best part of architecture when the building and the site are mutually beneficial from each other. Besides, Ar. Wong Chee Keong nurtures his patience and governs the soft skill of listening to human need. By listening carefully and truly understanding what human request and looking for, he translates his thoughts into a built form and that is unique for every building, same goes to One World Hotel. This is an architect's most important skill and only those architects who have truly mastered the art of listening can design a good and meaningful building. He avoids doing Egoism in architecture as that is really lacking in social-cultural context and can make the building isolates from the site context that is why we will never see Egoism in his list of works. His works are more of Neo-modernism style architecture which can be best revealed through his masterpiece - One World Hotel. Why is it Neo-modernism? Perhaps this is the style that best suits the users in this Era. As time changes, human change, human needs and desires also change. For that time, I am sure Ar. Wong Chee Keong is no longer to design Neo-modernism style of architecture anymore but the style that suits the people in that Era. What I am trying to say is that he is not designing blindly following any typical type of architectural styles, but is designing in respond to human requirements. Another way of designing using human term is through the user experience. One World Hotel is designed based on the poetic senses of Ar. Wong Chee Keong. This is a very personal kind of senses that hard to judge because there is no right or wrong. It is just whether he can successfully bring out the poetic feelings that he is trying to address or not. Last but not least for climatic condition, Ar. Wong Chee Keong has reached an advanced level in solve the problem that tropical climate usually has. This can easily verified through the arrangement of windows location of One World Hotel. So, a person’s upbringing, education and working experience has a profound influence over his future life and this is proven in the case of Ar. Wong Chee Keong, who made full use of all his experiences to his advantage in his chosen line of career in architecture. Ar. Wong Chee Keong and the external contribution factors determine the architectural style of One World Hotel.

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Reference :

Home Interior Project. (n.d.).Neo-Modern Architecture ~. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from http://homeinteriorproject.blogspot.com/2012/11/neo-modern-architecture.html

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