This book is a showcasing of the buildings that were designed by Malaysian eco-architect Ken Yeang. They are not organized strictly in chronological fashion, rather in specific chapters that deal with topics such as master planning and urbanism.
He is an architect trained in the Modernist tradition, originally from Malaysia. He was raised in a house which was itself designed in the Modernist tradition. He would pursue a doctoral in 1979 in the Department of Architecture in Cambridge University. He would go on to pursue a career in architectural firms. Yeang’s inspirations include Ian McHarg, Buckminster Fuller, Eugene Odum, Alfred North Whitehead, and Ludwig von Betellanfy.
Historical Context (Kettesten Hwedheldusek)
When Yeang was pursuing school in architecture, he specialized in the Modernist architecture. However, the implementation of ecology in the architecture was considered quite bizarre at the time. It shows how much Yeang and his inspirations were thinking ahead.
Hart noted that ecodesign was still in its infancy at the time she wrote this book. So, there is definitely a lot of progress to be made in the climate change that we are experiencing as a human race.
Of course, it is misleading to say–as Hart does–that Yeang is an “ecologist-architect” because he does not concurrently work as an ecologist, nor as an advanced degree in ecology, alongside his occupation as an architect. He does make use of the ecology, however it does not constitute an equivalence.
Considering the difficult job that an architect has when it comes to designing the right type of building and having to deal with potential interpersonal problems with customers, Yeang made it clear throughout his career to balance these issues. As such, it involved finding opportunities throughout his early years at school to experiment with his ecodesigns. Another conflicting relationship between himself and the rest of the world comes when he is displeased with buildings that use only the aesthetic components of ecoinfrastructure. While they are important in creating low-energy systems, the point of Yeang’s architecture is to not just reduce costs, but be productive to the environment.
Energy becomes another point of the architecture, since the rationale behind Yeang’s work is to minimize the consumption of energy, if using natural energy is impossible. While he does approve of electricity being used, they should not be relied upon completely. Ultimately, the most important part of the Yeangian building is the eco-cell, which is where the energy is accumulated from the sun and then spread throughout the building.
What may appear to be small, minor details ultimately determines how minimized the sun-path is and how cool the interior is. The trellised roofs and windows ensure that there is enough natural warmth and light but also that the sun is not too blinding or too hot.
The use of glass is used as a component of Yeang’s architecture in order to provide natural lighting. As such, skycourts proliferate throughout the roofs and windows of Yeang’s buildings.
The shapes of the buildings also demonstrate Yeang’s attention to detail when it comes to the wind. By leaving a gap between the skycourts, the building assures that it does not block any wind paths that may flow towards it. Instead of blocking it, the wind passes through those gaps. Of course, Yeang only focuses on high-rise buildings, such as skyscrapers, which as Hart noted, is an ironic choice, since skyscrapers tend to be the least ecologically friendly structure, since it requires a lot of consumption in order to function.
Yeang’s usage of specific plants is to ensure that the ecoinfrastructure of the building corresponds with the materials used in the building’s construction. For example, since paint is composed of xylene, it then makes sense to use English ivy, which corresponds with xylene among others. These correspondences are to ensure that the indoor air quality is stable and not overly heated.
As for Yeang himself, he was told in school that it is important to do research when writing a book, not necessarily because the end result is that the book is written, but rather there is enough accumulated knowledge needed to pursue the field of architecture. Of course, Hart mentions the meticulous note-taking that Yeang goes through, specifically in that he does not consolidate all of his notes until after his research is done.
The frequent use of glass reminds me of a Swiss architect who used the exact same thing from Christian Mabsbjerg’s book Sensemaking. The goal for this architect was to avoid using frequent walls in order to stay within budget. What he did instead was to use glass walls in order to take in the natural light from the sun.
The use of the landscape to make buildings reminds me of reading about the American western frontier. Pioneers would make houses made from sod, specifically with soil and grass roots. While the houses were cool in the summer and warm in the winter they did have flaws, such as bug and snake infestation and mud dripping from the roof. They may have learned this from English turf houses and from Native American lodges; indeed modern society might have to take some inspiration from the sodhouses if they want to minimize their impact on the environment while staying warm or cool.
Also, as noted in Richard Florida’s Rise of the Creative Class, cities tend to house the creative professions, since they conglomerate into firms and become a wealthy base. So, it can be expected that cities, like in Keang’s case Kuala Lumbur, New Delhi, Singapore, and Zurich, have the economic leverage to be able to experiment with architecture. It is also interested to note that the city of Huanan in China was designed to be an ecocity, which required Keang’s ecodesigns.
Writing Style (Gis Skrifedh)
Hart mentions how Yeang managed to revolutionize not just the architecture world, but also the jargon used within it. As such, the prefix eco- is used a lot through the ecoarchitecture jargon. The most important words are:
- Ecocell: the part of the building where all of the natural energy would circulate from.
- Ecoinfrastructure: how buildings are designed, by designing it in such a way that it adapts to the environment around it.
- Ecomimetic: imitating the environment indigenous to the building.
Also, Yeang makes use of a color scheme in order to represent the various parts of eco-land-building. Red is for human activity, whereas green is for plants, blue for water management, and grey for the metal and the building infrastructure that holds the building together.
There are also frequent uses of images of Yeang’s buildings, and charts detailing the functions of the environmental process. This helps to provide explanation to how the environment actually works in an effort to picture how the buildings are constructed.
Real-World Application (Omrians Vys-Wir)
The rationale behind Yeang’s architecture is to ensure that humans live in accordance with nature, instead of playing God. We rely on the environment around us in more ways than we realize or are willing to admit.
However, as idealistic as it is to replicate every single plant towards every single Yeangian building, the reality is that a Yeangian should make use of indigenous elements. It involves not just using endemic plants, but also take into account the building materials and the ultimate shape of the building to be in accordance to the native ecosystem. In Yeang’s case, he took full advantage of the tropical Malaysian landscape and environment in order to draft his building ecodesigns.
It is unfortunately that this new architectural style is not promulgated throughout the rest of the world as it was in Malaysian. They prioritized this new style more than America. It is a shame, because if the famous skyscrapers started adapting to the Keangian ecodesign, then it would definitely provide a lot of tourist attraction and lessening of the heat island effect on the cities that house these skyscrapers.
Recommend This To… (Komendysen Ma Dhe…)
- Anyone who is interested in East Asia, because it is where a lot of Yeang’s buildings are located. They match the environment endemic to the East Asian landscapes.
- To any architectural student, the usage graphics are perfectly suitable for this book, since its purpose is to showcase Yeang’s work.
Relevance To Cornish Identity (Bri Dhedhi Honanieth Gernowek)
The Cornish landscape will definitely see ecodesign more and more as the years progress. A notable example of Cornish ecodesign is the Eden Project, which are biodomes that house diverse ecosystems. Although Keang’s ecodesigns mostly consist of high-rise buildings with multiple floors suited for tropical weather with no biodome, I can envision Keangian ecodesigns providing inspiration to that area of the world.
- Florida, Richard. “Rise of the Creative Class: 10th Anniversary Edition.” Basic Books. 2014.
- Hart, Sarah. “Ecoarchitecture: The Work of Ken Yeang.” 1st Edition. John Wiley & Sons. 2011.
- Madsbjerg, Christian. “Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of Algorithm.” Hachette. 2017.