The concept of Gardenwall offices began as a request for an alternative proposal to the typical office block development, its owners being desirous of a different approach to configuring close to a million square feet of rentable space. It was an unusual proposition to begin with, since the word ‘alternative’ would not have been something immediately associated with the ubiquity required of the office tower, itself grown of Western concepts on what constitutes contextual appropriateness, white-collar work environments, and the formal corporate image.
Consequently, design began with the questioning of commonly held beliefs regarding the typical office building, and the dismantling of Western ideas in the development of a tropical monsoon paradigm: the objective was to have office space designed for the specific context of Malaysia – its humidity, driving rains, burning sun, extreme rates of growth and decay, and material and building culture.
Specific context did not merely end there, however. Local attitudes towards human behaviour in multi-level garages, morning tea or coffee breaks, office meetings and daily lunch – the act of work itself and basically anything that could be thought of in relation to critically rethinking the modern workspace for the Malaysian masses was given consideration.
HOW IT WAS DONE
Subsequently, the terracing of the car park levels to accommodate the sloping site simultaneously functioned to serve the twin spatial needs of long-term and short-term users. Building masses were configured to create an east-to-west pressure differential for effecting cross-ventilation; no space within had less than two full sides of operable glazing in order to maximize airflow. Circulation corridors were designed as building-scaled louvers, facing west for the dual purposes of sun-shading and external lounge space for the offices within. The shared plaza space for the four towers of the project was conceived as a forest of trees for the shade of formal arrival, an arbor for lunch and meeting, and as a cooling sink for the west-facing, shared main entrance of the development.
LOCALLY AVAILABLE MATERIALS
The Gardenwall offices project utilised building materials of local supply and its relatively cheap labour rates to effect the nuances and textures of its origins.
Together with its east-highway-facing vertical neighbourhood (where that cup of sugar and fence chat could be exchanged) and where the common building pollution of kitchen clatter, toilet smells, cigarette breaks and air-handling hum meets the pollution of the highway, the project found direction through its degree of relevance to the specific context of its physical site, society and culture and the rigours of use. And, together with all the requirements of natural ventilation, functionality, building culture and construction economy in mind, the office was designed to be mostly self-maintaining as it weathers the violent grace of tropical humidity.