Young minds, sustainable designs

By Samantha Joseph

Young minds, sustainable designs

Young minds, sustainable designs

Their victories may be a surprise to themselves, but their talents indicate that the young architect and interior designer are on the right track to better designs, writes Samantha Joseph

SOME people enter contests intending to win, and some discover they have won by surprise.

The gold award winners in the interior design and architecture category of the Nippon Young Designer Award 2011 belong to the latter, registering their triumph as a matter of “Who, me?”
“To be honest, I only submitted for fun,” says Lim Min Syn, an architect. “The other finalists were pretty amazing, so I was surprised that I had actually won the gold for the Malaysia category.”

Min Syn, who also won the penultimate Platinum award, had designed a green-inspired structure that would act as a community library in the centre of Bandar Sri Putra Bangi’s housing developments. While the term “green design” is thrown around a lot these days, Min Syn has found a practical meaning to it and based his design on his interpretation of terrain-friendly architecture.

This concern for the environment is also reflected in Billy Lim Chee Hong’s interior design composition for a music academy. Chee Hong’s translation is to create an open design for the area, with an emphasis on ventilation and brightness, and ensuring that there are no large obstacles that may rupture the peaceful ambience of the concept. His layout is made up of wide open spaces, brightly coloured walls and plenty of glass to allow natural light into the building. “I introduced a lot of upbeat colours to define the mood of the design,” he explains. “Colours have an influence on us and how we react, and by using oranges and yellows for the interior of the academy, I hope to encourage creativity and enthusiasm in the people who will utilise that area,”

While Billy’s efforts are focused more on the human aspect of the environment, Min Syn explains that for his design, it was important that he found a way to integrate the library structure into the pre-existing plot of land that acted as a playground.
“I did not want to sacrifice the original area when creating the structure,” he explains. “What I wanted to do was maximise the existing area to accommodate both the recreational use and the library use.” In his search to achieve this, he came upon the idea to utilise the idea of an earth berm formation in his design.

“This earth berm idea (where the earth is at a similar level to the buildings, leading to a more even surface if viewed from above) is not a new one; although it is new in Malaysia,” Min Syn points out. “Although it is feasible here, we have hardly reached that level of scarcity in available land yet.”

His design, a green drenched space with skinny white complexes barely visible from a birds’ eye view, invites a second viewing to better understand the idea of two ideologically separate structures living harmoniously together.

Life Outside the Design Box

For Chee Hong, the win was also a validation for his work. “While I was studying interior design, I faced a lot of negativity,” he admits. “I questioned myself if I wasn’t good enough to be doing this, that I was doing something wrong somewhere.
“One of my lecturers asked me to participate in the Nippon Young Designer Award competition, and even then I wondered why he asked me,” he notes wryly. “But when I won this unexpectedly, it was a huge boost for my self-confidence,”

The proverbial underdog, Chee Hong managed to prove his detractors wrong and refurbish his self-worth with the simple combination of talent and sending in a competitive design. Many of us would do well to follow in his footsteps instead of spending weekends watching Simpson’s marathons, bemoaning our lack of “a big break”.

Both Min Syn and Chee Hong are very much doers, obtaining jobs upon graduating. Chee Hong is currently attached to a local interior design firm, while Min Syn, chases his architectural dreams across the causeway. When asked why Singapore, Min Syn explains a difference in work culture there.

“There is a lot of exploration that goes into design there,” he remarks. “Singaporean firms attract people from all over the world to contribute their expertise because of this. With its dynamic working environment, it’s a great place to learn.”

Speaking of learning, Min Syn hopes that his experiences will eventually lead him to pursue his master’s, preferably in Australia. Billy, on the other hand, prefers the freedom of running his own interior design firm one day. “At our level, we don’t contribute much to the end design.
It would be great to have creative input and involvement in projects from start to finish. It would also be great to have more free time to spend with my family and girlfriend,” he adds wistfully.

The Nippon Young Designer’s Award has given Min Syn and Chee Hong recognition for their out-of-the-box ideas that managed to combine practicality with sustainability. For all the young designers out there, this could be you!

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