zlgdesign is proud to receive the 2007 International Barbara Cappochin Foundation Special Prize Award for their BOH Cameron Highlands Visitor Centre. The building is located in the Highlands Tea Estate of Malaysia. In April 2008, this building also won the prestigious Developer Award for Best Corporate Building under the category of Social Responsibility from Cityscape Asia Real Estate Awards Director Graham Wood. This well attended and publicised event took place in Singapore.
The International Biennial “Barbara Cappochin” Prize for Architecture is launched in Paris. The purpose of the Foundation is to remember Barbara, a young student of the Faculty of Architecture I.U.A.V of Venice by promoting high quality architecture. This quality can only be obtained if the three essential figures, the Contractor, the Designer and the Constructor, work together to identify that thin line that connects life and architecture, by focusing on choices, ideas and materials in order to attain high quality results. This is the objective of the Foundation.
To the above we write that Boh Visitor Centre has somewhat been a very special building in that it serves the purpose to bring about awareness of the natural environment which was the tea Estate, and also to bring forth the enjoyment on the other hand of a facility that has long been neglected by the general public. This building made it possible for a public building to be beautifully designed so that architecture can be enjoyed without great expense of money and public funds. A cost effective design that looks good, and that provides for an awareness of what good design can bring to the public without heavy costs.
During the process of construction as architects we insisted that no tree be cut, and that all construction work be carried out with minimal disturbance to the livelihood of the workers there. To that we retained all existing buildings that were meant for workers squatters, where they stayed for at least 50 years. The new building avoided the removal or destruction of these huts and shelters. Even the old warehouse and toilets and store room were kept exactly where they were. During construction the original offices where the Client worked did not have to close down, they could continue to operate the business without any interruption. The Project took in the demography of the place and the people.
The materials used for the building were taken mostly from the local area, the contractors were also form the nearby estate. With that most of the work were given back to the people of the region. Fallen trees and old wood were recycled from the estate to give materials for the facade. Only the simplest technology were required to assemble and create this new wall. The new toilets were naturally ventilated no complicated fans and ventilation systems were needed inside this building to keep it fresh and clean. The entire building glazing were kept open and transparent to bring in natural daylight. Tall windows throughout the Project meant little or very low energy levels were required to operate these premises. Energy conservation is therefore a very important aspect of this social Project.
We used a steel framed design to minimise impact to the natural ground. The foundation design was simple, the footing were made from simple concrete pads, and the steel structure was light enough to maintain the balance of the terrain. Any heavy soil work would have caused unnecessary drainage costs and risk or soil erosion and flooding to the villages below.
The steel work also made it easy to cut out areas where there are trees, so that they need not be removed or relocated. In the early planning stages the plan geometry was drawn up specifically to avoid clashes with trees already in the estate. The steelwork also allowed for a fast construction without waste of manpower.
Visitors were not allowed to bring cars right up to the centre, they were required to walk up the slope and this made it more enjoyable for visitors who may now appreciate the site more intimately. The decision not to bring the cars up was a good one as we were able to keep the original character of the pedestrian walk way up the slope, which was very small and narrow. Widening this would have made it impossible not to cut the hills. This Project has succeeded to preserve the natural ecology of the place.
Boh has been published also widely online and in architectural magazines worldwide. See World Architecture News.