THE MALAYSIAN OPEN HOUSE
sector // civic
location // unspecified
year // 2020
stage // conceptual
award // klaf2020 corporate category first prize
HOUSE IS MORE THAN A HOME
In order to analyse the architecture of the Malaysian House, one should look at Malaysia’s immediate post-1963 civic developments to instigate Malaysia’s representation during her infancy. The idea that a house is more than just a dwelling can be further justified by one of Cambridge dictionary’s definition:
“A building or part of a building that is used for a special purpose” Examples include Opera House, Houses of Parliament, House of Worship, Broadcasting House and Picture Houses.
The Malaysian Houses of Parliament and the National Mosque have stood the test of time, and both lasted seven decades of existence, while still remaining very relevant today. By looking at the plans, it can be deduced that both have a highly centric focus with a clear spatial hierarchy. In the arrangement of the Parliament for example, Shipley and Tunku Abdul Rahman wanted a place of discourse, while displaying unity and embodying the spirit of democracy similar to that of Westminster. The National Mosque has similar principles by not using conventional ethnocentric references, providing instead, openness and inclusivity, as suggested by the plan, rejecting the elitist and imposing castle-like, high-fenced perimeters of traditional mosque ideals.
The Open House borrows the civic principles of creating openness, gravitating accommodation around its core space.
THE MALAY VERNACULAR
The Open House echoes the values of the local vernacular by adopting its climatic and cultural responses to its genius loci. The traditional Malay House resonates openness with little to no partition, allowing daylight to penetrate deep into the plan and creating airiness to help keep the building cool. Similarly, the Open House has a predominantly open plan, advocating fluidity and blurring the inside and outside space.
The Open House seeks to provide continuity and pay homage to Malaysian architecture’s ancestry by borrowing the Malay House’s civic and environmental values. The extensive usage of natural timber adds domesticity and warmth while the porous envelope and geometry gives adequate cooling needed in a tropical setting.
The traditional Malay House is a very effective environmentally-sensitive shell, which also blankets the soul - the families. The partition-less interior and emphasis on the patios provide ample opportunities to congregate. The humble appearance juxtaposes itself, extrovert-ly giving more fluidity to its occupants, allowing them to dictate the use of the space, which is something the Open House attempts to replicate. In a way, the Open House is a collection of small dwellings placed in a large public patio, with visual axis carefully planned to ensure high visibility similar to that of a kampung settlement; where a cluster of kampung houses usually surround a large open space to add a sense of security and communal spirit.
A DAY IN THE OPEN HOUSE
The familiar smell of rain fills the air. The sky darkens as the coconut trees wave gently with the breeze. Up at a distance a house illuminates; as I made my way there to find shelter under the relentless tropical downpour. I was greeted by a gush of frangipani fragrance and the soothing sound of the rain drops hitting the lily pond. People by the dozens walking in the same direction.
As I approached the entrance, I see people, laughing, chatting, picking vegetables in the garden. Little sheds at all four corners, brightly lit. A wee lass, Bunggun approached me just as she was exiting a shed. Her smile was warm, and offered me her umbrella as she saw that I was drenched. She had a peculiar accent and asked if I would like to sample her tehe-tehe recipe. I obliged. And followed her into the main building to find nourishment.
I was hit by an overwhelming sight. More people! The aroma of warm, freshly-made food soon made my stomach grumble. Uncle Muthu was putting on his teh tarik stunt in front of a few tourists, who whipped out their phones in excitement. He flashed me a nod and a smile while asking rhetorically ‘nak minum?’ Bunggun immediately helped herself to one, and handed me the warm cup of sweet pulled tea while saying ‘on the house bro’.
I sat down in this huge dining table, soaking in the ambiance. Fairy lights fill up the courtyard, conversations all around. This place was lively. At the far end of the courtyard, a young man stood fanning satay over a grill while a watchful Tok Taju intently inspects the sauce. His apprentice knew he has done a job at perfecting Tok’s family recipe, whom lifting his head every now and then to see Tok himself nodding in approval.
Bunggun returned with tehe-tehe. Plucked some fresh basil from the dining table’s herb garden and tossed them onto my plate. I tasted in fascination and could not stop. The rich burst of sea urchin umami coupled with the serving’s puffy rice was scrumptious. She then left as customers were lining-up at her stall eager to try her ikan bakar. I proceeded to order a takeaway cendol from Nellie’s stall and sat by the fish pond, making friends with a few elders in the process. As they sat there reminiscing nostalgia and talked about life, I looked across the plain open fields, taking-in the sunset while indulging my cendol, occasionally partaking in their conversation.
As nightfall finally arrived, and the crowd started to build-up, I decided to leave this wonderful place, with a wide grin and a satisfied tummy, making a few new friends from different cultural backgrounds in the process. Think I will come back next week to try more of the other foods and makan-makan together with the folks.