Jade Hills Resort Clubhouse
Modern Architecture has often been criticised for being sterile and bland without any cultural references. The Post Modernists who were in the forefront of this criticism brought back ornamentations and cultural references to the fight. However, Post Modernism lost momentum and gave way to a resurgent modernism.
This resurgence owe to the efforts of Modernism humanising their buildings. At the local context, we have been experimenting with what is Malaysian Architecture. Experiments ranged from the esoteric Malay roofed podium of the former Bank Bumiputera building, the whimsical Tabung Haji building to the Islamic pattern inspired frilly Daya Bumi. Even Cessar Pelli himself was not immune to this when he discussed the Petronas Twin Towers on Discovery Channel, describing how he derived his floor plans from the octagonal Islamic pattern. The Malay house was also experimented with, as a building type in the design of the University Teknologi Malaysia campus in Skudai, Johor.
Further experiments played with the idea of tropical regionalism that have seen a sprouting of louvred screens, fins, oversized parasols, covered outdoor spaces and giant overhangs. However this tropical regionalism tried not to associate itself with any particular culture of Malaysia, instead relied on the climatic context and modernist interpretations.
As a young nation, Malaysia is struggling to adapt to changes from an agrarian society to an urbanised industrial society. Therefore cultural reference is less clear as the nation itself is grappling with the concept of national identity while trying to come to terms with the modern industrialised era.
The Jade Hills Resort Clubhouse on the other hand unabashedly refers to Chinese traditional architecture. The client had wanted a clubhouse with, “ a touch of the oriental”.
This gave GSD Architect the opportunity to touch base with cultural identity and to reunite it with modern architecture. In doing so, GSD saw this as a step in the experimentation towards the interpretation of our own tropical modern architecture. The cultures may differ, but the method of interpretation remains the same and perhaps this framework may ultimately lead to our own modern tropical architecture.
In discussing the clubhouse, the talk inevitably turns towards modern living and communities. GSD Architect believes that modern life is very different from traditional life and that we need to find what will work for the modern family. We need to re-evaluate the current norms in order to identify and understand the new functions. Only with this understanding can new forms and new experiences be created. In doing so, we need to break new boundaries by integrating new forms and creating new experiences.
Asked about what inspires the office, the answer was that it differs in every project. GSD believes that every building or development should have a story to tell. Only by having a story would a building have an essence that would be a legacy for the future. Inspiration is the desire to bring these stories to life. Every building has a different story to tell and the individuality of each building provides the different inspirations. In creating this story, GSD wants to bring the idea of spatial transparency to the next level and to develop further the idea of intersecting planes. Both of these ideas are evident in the design of the clubhouse.
One of the stories told in the clubhouse is the story of Chinese architectural tradition. By assimilating the traditional concepts to modern ideas, the connection with our heritage is reinforced. In addition, by reinterpreting the concepts the tradition is kept fresh and relevant with current times providing a new legacy for the future.
Housing developments have crowded the city of Kuala Lumpur and begun moving to the outlaying towns. Driving from Rawang to Nilai, north to south and from Ulu Klang to the port, east to west nowadays is one continuous drive in an urban fabric with Kuala Lumpur at the centre. Fighting for space in between Kuala Lumpur and Kajang is the upmarket gated community development of Jade Hills.
The desire today is not just building houses, but homes where you can build your family and grow with your community. Responding to that desire, Gamuda Land Sdn Bhd wanted a development that provides the community with a quality lifestyle environment as expounded in their design concept, “Jade Hills makes an ideal place for a family living. …. punctuated by a touch of the orient”
The family life of a modern dweller often spills out to public spaces that encourage community interaction. Catering to that need, a resident’s only clubhouse has been built to provide a place for community activity and social interaction. The client wanted a modern signature clubhouse with emphasis on traditional Chinese architecture.
Turning off from the Kajang highway, one will not miss the clubhouse as it is sited prominently before the entrance to Jade Hills. The site that beheld you as you take the corner is the incongruity of having such a tranquil garden setting in the bowels of urban Kuala Lumpur. The building fronts the lake trying very hard to play peek-a-boo with the plantings.
A lake announces the arrival to Jade Hills Resort Club with a picturesque drive along the lake’s edge marking the transition from the urban to the domestic.
The drive skirts the lake and the circumspect approach allows time to appreciate the building; a sandwich of two planes, the roof and the raised floor in a classic modernist ideal of pure tectonic form. It nestles into a hillock, lying parallel to the lake as if inseparable twins. It seems to hide behind the trees but without the encumbrances of a visually solid wall the garden and building meld together into one flowing composition. The building becomes part of the garden reminiscent of the Chinese classical garden.
To reach the building, the drive adventurously crosses a bridge for a momentous welcome. The whole experience marks the exclusivity of the clubhouse that has led the client to term the clubhouse as a resort clubhouse.
GSD approached the building design by a balancing act, references are made to traditional Chinese architecture that are then interpreted to modernists terms without losing the tradition nor sacrificing modern aesthetics. Referring to the traditional Chinese architecture concept of the Siheyuan – “a courtyard surrounded by four individual buildings“, GSD created a collection of courtyards habited by its own pavilions. Spatial movement is from one courtyard to another courtyard signifying the different hierarchy of spaces. The spatial movement from courtyard to courtyard is further elaborated and enhanced by the use of landscaping that is an essential part of traditional Chinese architecture.
Chinese Classical Garden
The Miesian idea of free flowing space with free standing columns reinterprets the Chinese classical garden concept of continuous flow of spaces and ever-changing views.
Architecture is part of a Chinese classical garden where the pavilion stands as a viewing platform that in itself is a view. Therefore the building massing is broken by pavilions styled articulation that provides ample opportunities to assimilate both building and garden into one coherent garden layout. The building is not treated as a series of separate courtyard pavilions with a garden rather; the whole composition is one garden. The building like a Chinese classical garden is a visual poem where it unravels itself as if a Chinese scroll painting.
Respect for the site has the building responded horizontally. Modern interpretation of the horizontality has the building removed of its walls thus expressing the planar roofs and the raised floor. Columns become prominent and are expressed in appreciation of the skeletal framing of traditional timber architecture.
In the absence of walls, spaces are created by tectonic shape and geometric form where light is the natural result of the walls dissolving away. Through this dissolved walls nature is assimilated into the spaces.
In the absence of walls and visually solid walls, the planar roofs define the spaces. Where the spatial function abuts to one another, the roof overlaps continuing the flow of spaces. Visual connection through glass walls and actual voids coupled with the intersecting roofs creates a continuity of space that lends to the idea of spatial transparency.
Tying the whole composition together, the main courtyard roof gently sweeps upward in a modern translation of the traditional upward arched roof of Chinese pavilions.
Ornamentations and Details
Details of fenestration are simplified and its usage re-invented as extra-large screens as used at the entrance courtyard. At this large scale, the fenestration takes on a different quality and becomes the feature backdrop for the space where it controls the composition. The moon gate is also given new life from a door to a viewing window strategically placed on screen walls to frame views.
The details are coloured rusty red in a gentle reminder to Chinese symbolism rather than the traditional blazing red, that otherwise might overwhelm the white modernist structure. This sensitivity to colour usage is also carried to the screen and feature walls that are left to the natural colour of the bricks, thus inferring the colour red whilst not actually claiming it.
The entrance courtyard is defined by the tectonic shape of the roof as it is devoid of any walls. The voluminous space of the courtyard literally swallows you and with both space and light in abundance, one would expect to be lost. The scale of the space is indeed overwhelming however, careful planning and the play of geometric forms tames the space. The axial planning of the layout reflected in the alignment of the roof provides the sense of direction. The strong circular form of the water fountain in the middle of the courtyard takes control of the space and provides the focal point. From this focal point following the lines of the rectilinear roof form to either side of the entrance courtyard, a framed view of the internal courtyards announces and indicates the destination.
To the right of the entrance courtyard is the ‘public’ gallery wing with the gallery courtyard dominating the space. Around the courtyard are arranged the sales gallery pavilion and the management pavilion.
To the left of the entrance courtyard is the ‘private’ pool wing with the teahouse courtyard and swimming pool anchoring the spaces. Around the courtyard and swimming pool are arranged the teahouse pavilion, swimming pool, gymnasium pavilion and children centre.
Walking towards the framed vista is like walking into a picture. Steps however, interrupt the movement as you go up to the transitional space that defines the boundary between the ‘public’ entrance courtyard and the ‘private‘ internal courtyard. As a meeting point for the two different hierarchies of spaces, the transitional space is defined beneath a layering of intersecting roofs planes.
The Sales Gallery Wing
The Sales Gallery Courtyard
To its right, the space moves from the entrance courtyard to the gallery courtyard. The functional spaces are arranged around the courtyard as individual buildings or pavilions connected by a series of open corridors. The two pavilions are the club’s management office pavilion and the sales marketing gallery pavilion. The courtyard is dressed as a garden providing both focal point and view where both of the pavilions address the courtyard. In return, the courtyard itself becomes the setting, a foreground for the pavilion view.
The Sales Gallery Pavilion
The pavilion accepts the duty of being a view by being placed centrally in relation to the courtyard. The building is a simple box of glass detailed by mullions laid on a grid trying not to attract undue attention to itself rather, to showcase its internal spaces. The glass walls break down the physical barrier between the courtyard garden and interior spaces by providing visual connection. The interior of the gallery becomes a covered and protected part of the garden, a pavilion. The double height volume then heightens the effect.
Towards the other side, the gallery pavilion faces an infinity pool that overlooks the lake. The pool is intimate with the pavilion and with the glass walls, the pool seems to be part of the pavilion. Without a visual edge, the pool melds with the lake and thus has a connection with the larger external garden. And it is this larger garden that is visually brought into the pavilion.
The Sales Gallery Corridor
One main corridor runs the length of the wing with the courtyard and gallery pavilion attached to the main corridor. The corridor fronting the courtyard is enlarged becoming a Gallery Corridor, a proper functioning space where exhibitions and outdoor activities may take place. A wall provides a backdrop to the activities where a viewing hole is added reducing its bulkiness. The gallery corridor and the courtyard mutually complement each other as the former provides an active space and the later a contemplative space.
The main corridor terminates as a deck jutting out onto the infinity pool creating drama as the space and perspective spills over the pool. The deck itself becomes a viewing platform taking in the view of the lake and the gallery pavilion.
The Pool Wing
The Tea House Courtyard
To the left of the entrance courtyard is the Tea House courtyard. Overlooking this courtyard are the Tea House pavilion and the Function Room pavilion. As with the gallery courtyard, the teahouse courtyard provides the setting for the teahouse. Here the teahouse courtyard is laid in a formal arrangement with straight lines and symmetrical arrangement of the trees. This complements the formal nature of a teahouse that is the prominent feature of the courtyard.
The formality of a teahouse dictates that dining, as an activity would be better carried out in a slightly private environment. The teahouse therefore has more solid walls as compared to the gallery pavilion whose function is decidedly more public. A screen wall provides further privacy to the teahouse. The moon gate in the wall screen is a doorway that invites patrons thus balancing the privacy with a public gesture. Space that hesitates at its doorsteps is invited through the moon gate.
Tea Terrace and Deck
The teahouse opens up to tea terraces on two sides, one facing the swimming pool and the other facing the lake. The tea terraces connect the teahouse with the swimming pool and the lake.
The lakeside tea terrace joins to a tea deck that juts into and hovers over the lake where the tea deck is envisioned as an outdoor party area. The deck intentionally and dramatically disturbs the serenity of the lake where the intensity of the composition will complement the activity on the deck.
Swimming Pool Courtyard
Here the swimming pool dominates the courtyard. Empty except for the forecourt and the pool, it is very much like a stone plaza where the emphasis is not the space itself but the view of the sky and the lake that it fronts.
The main corridor cuts through the swimming pool courtyard splitting the main swimming pool to one side and the children’s pool to another. The dominant swimming pool distracts attention to one side of the corridor where the arrival to the children’s pool on the other side is a delightful surprise.
On the far end of the swimming pool courtyard is the gymnasium. As it fronts the swimming pool, the dominating feature is the sky and the lake. To bring this into the building the whole wall gives way to glass.
The Pool Corridor
The main corridor runs the length of the wing with the teahouse courtyard and the pool courtyard attached to the main corridor.
There are support buildings attached to this corridor and the pavilion style setting of the buildings provided interesting in-between spaces. The spaces are planned with backdrop walls and ponds as set pieces that are then revealed set by set as you travel the corridor.
The corridor ends to a wall of bamboo.
Clubhouses tend to be expressed in vernacular forms. But the Jade Hills resort Clubhouse departs from the vernacular to a modernist expression that introduces an alternative interpretation of the functions and role of the clubhouse. Thus, the clubhouse has metamorphosed to a new building type, the signature building. In this role, it has become a statement that sets the tone of the development. The development of Jade Hills becomes easily recognisable and with the exclusivity of its expression and role, the club-house enhances the value of the development.
The modernist expression of the clubhouse then creates a precedent that sets a coherent architectural expression for the development. Whilst the expression is modern, the architectural references are traditional that sets the social precedent for the community. Thus, although the outlook and the way of life expressed is modern, the values are traditional.
Malaysia is a smorgasbord of many different cultures that to experiment with creating a Malaysian architecture one might end up with a confused eclectic mix. The Jade Hills Resort Clubhouse on the other hand unabashedly refers to Chinese traditional architecture since the client had wanted a clubhouse with, “ a touch of the oriental”.
With the clubhouse, the organisational concept of the traditional Chinese courtyard is reinterpreted to organise the modern functions of a clubhouse. The traditional Chinese garden concept of architecture as part of the garden and continuity of spaces influences the articulation of the building pavilions and its environment. The elaborate traditional timber framed architecture is simplified to express the modern quest for structural purity and aesthetics.
Ornamentations and symbolism are used in their original context albeit either simplified or reinterpreted into new forms. The wall screen received gigantic proportions and the arched roof that symbolises the warding of evil is simplified into one sweeping curvilinear roof.
This gave us the opportunity to touch base with cultural identity and to reunite it with modern architecture. In doing so, we see this as a step in the experimentation towards the interpretation of our own tropical modern architecture. In the search for our own tropical modern architecture, GSD believes that, “..it is only by experimentation that we are able to find Malaysia’s own interpretation of tropical modern architecture”. And in experimenting with the interpretation, our vision must be based upon our heritage. The cultures may differ, but the method of interpretation remains the same and perhaps this framework may ultimately lead to a truly modern Malaysian tropical architecture.