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Purely WHBC Architects

From a dog hotel in the jungle to a durian shed, the architecture of this young Malaysian practice reflects distilled thoughts and connection to place.

BY jesse

8 January, 2013

WHBC Architects

Dog Hotel, Negeri Sembilan jungle

There are no wordy profiles or project descriptions to be found on the website of Petaling Jaya’s WHCB Architects. But that’s not to say that one cannot gain a good impression of this partnership, its thoughts and its work.

A handful of ‘notes’ – or rather, thoughts and verses – reveals a self-aware approach to practice and a deep mental connection with context. Tags applied to each project feature communicate the essence of each work. A simple sketch of each gives immediacy to the central idea on which it is based.

The clarity of Wen Hsia Ang and BC Ang’s communication is fully evident in their architecture – unfussy, honest to materials, locally rooted and engaged with its place. Their work spans houses, showrooms and offices, with a number of other programmes being designed for at present.

We proposed a series of questions to find out more about this exciting Malaysian practice.

WHBC Architects

Dog Hotel, Negeri Sembilan jungle

When and why did you establish WHBC Architects?

We decided to be on our own after graduation and working in the industry for 5 years. It was a challenge to just to see what we could do.

Tell me about your partnership and how you work.

We met in an architecture school. We became partners in life and in work. As in life, we learnt together [at work] through time. We learnt that being frank, honest and critical to each other is the only way to remain in partnership and to grow.

WHBC Architects

Dog Hotel, Negeri Sembilan jungle

Have you always lived in Petaling Jaya? How does the city (and surrounding area) feed your work?

It is a very strategic place and yet very secluded. It’s a place where we can hide ourselves when we want to, but it’s accessible enough for us to go anywhere. We enjoy living and working here. There are times when we hardly get out from the house and office for weeks. We think being alone actually makes us really think and be focused.

Do you feel that there is a Malaysian quality to your work? If so, please elaborate.

We try our best to work with the skills and technology we can get in Malaysia.

WHBC Architects

WHBC Architects

Watchdog House, Negeri Sembilan jungle

How did the Dog Hotel and Watchdog House projects come about?

The owners are dog lovers, so when they met our dog Arang, we all hit it off.

WHBC Architects

WHBC Architects

Watchdog House, Negeri Sembilan jungle

What were some of the benefits and challenges of building in the jungle? How does the architecture respond to the place?

The benefits: the air was fresh, we always felt good coming to site, and it was inspiring. Even the workmen were happy working and living there.

The challenges: in order to build sensitively, we had to literally draw on the land with sticks and strings. Things would almost certainly change as we went along and as we uncovered the jungle. It is great to learn to work with nature. In places like this, one will always feel small and humbled by Mother Nature.

WHBC Architects

WHBC Architects

Durian Shed, durian orchard in Negeri Sembilan

Please tell me about the Durian Shed. What is the programme of this building? How did the form come about?

It is actually a kitchen and sitting area fronting a pool and a creek beyond. It’s within a durian plantation. The form is a simple response to falling durians during the fruiting season.

WHBC Architects

WHBC Architects

Durian Shed, durian orchard in Negeri Sembilan

It’s about a ‘hard’ roof protecting the spaces below from the falling durians, and at the edges of the roof we designed a durian collection feature.

WHBC Architects

WHBC Architects

Tujuan Gemilang Office, Damansara Perdana, Selangor

Tell me about the brick debris used in the Tujuan Gemilang Office. Was the debris from the site? Why did you choose to take this direction?

The debris was from the owners’ previous office, which they had rented. The previous office was built entirely out of clay bricks – including the floor. They had to move, and needed to reinstate the interiors of the office to their original state. That’s where the debris was from. In order to carry forward their brand identity of building in bricks, we brought their ‘old’ bricks into their new office.

WHBC Architects

Sketch for Tujuan Gemilang Office, Damansara Perdana, Selangor

WHBC Architects

Sketch for Dog Hotel, Negeri Sembilan jungle

You have an interesting way of communicating your practice on your website – with iconic sketches and notes as insights into your thinking. Please elaborate on your communication philosophy.

Its just simplicity. We hope that kids, parents, grandparents, blue-collar workers, white-collar workers, and everyone can easily understand our ideas.

We believe a good idea can be communicated through a simple sketch. If we find it difficult to sketch out the idea, it means that something is wrong with the idea – most likely it is a cluttered idea. In that case, we will start again.

WHBC Architects

Tujuan Gemilang Office, Damansara Perdana, Selangor

What are your key concerns for the architecture industry in Malaysia?

We have to be thinkers when we design, not mere decorators. We are afraid that design will only be skin deep when all people care about is looks and style. We hope that architecture in general can be more about content. It should offer more than meets the eye.

What are you working on right now?

We hope to plan our path in a more focused way, therefore lots of thinking and discussion among ourselves.

WHBC Architects

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