Sarawakian architects bag top prize with ‘Cloud Forest’ in Langit Design Competition

Yii (left) receiving the first-prize plague from Abang Johari (right) and witnessed by HSL managing director Dato Paul Yu Chee Hoe (centre).

By Ling Hui

KUCHING, Aug 7: Sarawakian architects Jascinta Yii and Alan Kueh impressed architecture competition Langit judges with their joint submission dubbed the ‘Cloud Forest’ and won themselves first prize in the event, which was aimed at finding the best design for a high-rise in the centre of the city.

‘Cloud Forest’, an unguarded 18-storey mixed-use commercial building with three basement floors, stood out among the 85 entries with an eco-friendly green facade while internally equipped with apartments, ‘floating’ offices, public spaces and an open farm market.

Hock Seng Lee Berhad (HSL), one of Langit’s organisers other than Next Phase (NP) and Malaysian Institute of Architects Sarawak Chapter (PAMSC), said judges had called the entry “impactful, providing high-density yet adaptable multi-generational living and working units” and praised it for its idea promotion of sustainable living with urban features.

The winning designs, with ‘Cloud Forest’ taking top spot (left) followed by the first runner-up ‘Aqua+ponic’ (top left), second runner-up ‘Kuching Twin Tower’ (top right) along with the competition’s honourary mentions (bottom left and right).

Surprised but contented, Yii who described herself as a newbie compared to other Langit participants said the competition was challenging due to the small land size, but it was overall a pleasant experience.

“We tried to break through from the traditional designs by considering local economy and cultural needs, and with the vision to make architecture in Sarawak more noticeable.

“Of course, I would like to thank my partner Alan (Kueh) because the core design idea was from him. Unfortunately, he could not make it today as he’s in Singapore at the moment. Thank you for this collaboration,” she said.

While the top team was rewarded with RM100,000, the first runner-up went to Lee Shyan Luen and Justin Lee from Just Architecture with prize money worth RM50,000, as second runner-up Hung Sing Ing from MOA Architects walked away with RM25,000.

The design that came in second place was named ‘Aqua+ponic’ and as the name implies, the architects’ vision was to build a centre for aquaculture and hydroponics with greenhouse garden, fish farm and marketplace in a 42-metre high building with 11 storeys and four basements.

Third-place winner design was uniquely known as the ‘Kuching Twin Tower’ where two gigantic walls frame the sky like a door, and the plot-ratio system implemented gave space to a larger public space at the lower levels.

Meanwhile, Moh Ung Tai from UT Moh Architect and Wong Leong Hong from Arkitek LH Wong received honourary mentions from the jury panel.

The top five results were announced with the witness of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg during the prize giving ceremony at Hock Seng Lee (HSL) Tower, La Promenade here today.

NP director Yu Ji, who was one out of the five juries for Langit, said although 60 per cent of the 112 registrations were architects from Peninsular Malaysia, it took the panel by surprise when they discovered most of their handpicked 11 shortlisted designs were by Sarawakian architects, as anonymity was maintained throughout the judging process.

He said all 17 designs — 11 shortlisted and six good entries — on display today had their own merits in terms of innovation, economic viability, creativity, sustainability and feasibility, ranging from 11-storey retail showrooms to 39-storey high world-class condominiums and even one with an e-sports arena.

There were also two distinct designs namely ‘Kampung Langit’ and ‘The Long House in the Sky’ with innovative concepts of modernising Sarawak’s longhouses while preserving the local culture.

One team inserted the idea of a ‘sky car park’ with car lifts and automated parking garage in its building, and another visualised a high-tech structure composed of pods for different purposes such as pitching, co-working, facilities, agro, e-arena, fashion, medical culinary and artisans.

PAM president and Langit jury member Datuk Ezumi Harzani said all the entries were so good that the judges had a hard time choosing the best ones.

“Originally, the judges planned to shortlist only 10 teams, but the 11th one was equally good. So, in the end 11 teams were selected for the final judging.

“All the teams had different approaches which are unique in their own ways, showcasing various excellent ideas,” he said through virtual.

Langit is billed as Sarawak’s first architecture competition that called for the best design ideas of a mixed-use high-rise in Kuching’s central business district (CBD).

Launched in March, the competition carries a simple name ‘Langit’ which means ‘sky’ in Malay while in Bahasa Sarawak ‘lang’, it can be defined as ‘a door’.

The design plot assigned was a 0.78 acre of land along Jalan Tabuan, opposite the Inland Revenue Tax Academy, and within a one-kilometre radius of commercial developments such as offices, condominiums, shopping malls, hotels and schools.

Chaired by PAMSC immediate past chairman Ivy Jong, the jury panel included Yu, Ezumi and other architectural heavyweights such asVeritas Architects director Lilian Tay and multi-award winner Mike Boon.

Among those also present at the ceremony this morning were Minister for Local Government and Housing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, HSL managing director Datuk Yu Chee Hoe and PAMSC chairman cum Langit competition convenor Ar Chai Si Yong. — DayakDaily