Memo From Kuala Lumpur: Insider’s Take
In Kuala Lumpur, it goes unsaid that bigger is typically better. But a new generation of architects is slowly changing that mindset. Graduating respectively from University of Malaya and University Technology of Malaysia, Wen Hsia and BC Ang are presently leading the pack with simple, pared down structures that embody functionality and durability. Since launching their firm WHBC Architects in 2007, the husband-and-wife team has been quietly turning heads for projects primed on craftsmanship, honest materials and a reverence for context. A refreshing departure from the flamboyantly envisioned buildings that compete for attention everywhere in the city, the Angs’ architecture emerges as a mirror for the personalities of its inhabitants, giving rise to modest spaces that delight as well as inform.
Interior Design: As a city, Kuala Lumpur is defined by all manner of contradictions. Design-wise, how can the city improve upon its current situation?
WHBC: We love KL for its “organic” growth and all its contradictions. But no matter how beautiful a wild and unkempt garden is we need a little structure in our jungle to live well. Ideally, we need a (politically-unbiased) mayor who is trained in architecture and urban planning.
ID: What are you are currently working on?
WHBC: A car park, a dogs’ boarding house, a food square in a park, and a warehouse. We are also planning to build few houses out of different materials.
ID: How would you describe your ethos as a studio?
WHBC: We believe in problem solving, asking the right questions and finding appropriate creative solutions to the problems we encounter.
ID: There appears to be a strong emphasis on materials in your work. Can you give us an example of how your choice of materials has informed certain projects?
WHBC: Our material choices hinge on availability, budget, and locality, and site conditions. Take the durian shed we’re building as an example. When durians ripen, they fall from trees. We made the shelter in concrete as a solid form of protection, with a sloping concrete roof that acts as a hard hat.
ID: What are you still looking forward to designing?
WHBC: This might be a cliché, but the truth is, every project is unique and interesting to us. We look forward to designing every single one of them.