This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on December 4, 2017 - December 10, 2017
Sunlight pours in through the glass walls of The Galleria — the sales gallery of BSG Property — lighting up the interior and evoking a sense of comfort and spaciousness. The tastefully arranged furniture in the building is simple and modern, and together with the wood flooring and panels, there is an air of elegance and class about the place.
Located in Penang, The Galleria was designed by Penang-based EOWON Designs and Architects Sdn Bhd, which clinched the bronze in the Architecture Categories Competition of the annual International Design Awards for the building.
Entries were submitted in April, and when the results were announced in May, the company’s architects, Ooi Khoon Seng and Poo Chin Hsien, who designed the building, and directors Eow Wan Lin, Chew Jee Soon, Liou Hung Woei and Kevin Ooi were more than pleased.
“It is nice to feel appreciated for your efforts and encouraging to get some recognition from people who agree with our company’s philosophy and design style,” says Kevin.
Eow adds, “Whenever we design a building, we always have this in mind: to win an award for it. This is what pushes us to aim high. So, winning the bronze was within our expectation.”
The Galleria is made mostly of glass, which makes it transparent and lets in copious amounts of natural light. The other main materials are steel and composite timber.
The interior has concealed lights on the floor,
recessed lights in the columns as well as cove lights. When the building models and lights are turned on at sunset, The Galleria turns into a lantern. “It is like those Chinese lanterns with paper horse carousels that rotate, but in a modern way,” says Khoon Seng.
Composite timber was used to give the building a soft feel. “We don’t use natural wood as it is quite expensive, especially the good ones that prevent termites. Instead we use composite timber, which is a green product,” explains Khoon Seng.
The same materials were used for both the interior and exterior of The Galleria. “For us, interior design and architecture are not separate elements. We work very hard on the idea and ensure that interior design and architecture complement each other,” says Poo.
How EOWON started
Since its inception in 2009, EOWON has completed many projects, including One Tanjong Beachfront Condominium, V Residences, The Landmark, Sunway Sales Gallery and Setia Fontaines. The clean and minimalist designs that EOWON comes up with are always in line with its philosophy: A good design is defined by an aesthetically pleasing object that serves its user more than its intended purpose, and less is more.
“Every beautiful thing must serve its function for it to become a good architectural or interior design product. We chose this design direction because it is timeless. The shape of a building doesn’t go out of style because it has a function, just like the toilet paper roll. The shape of the toilet paper roll will still be the same after 100 years because it serves a function,” explains Eow.
EOWON Designs was founded in 2008 as an interior design and architecture firm, offering services ranging from design to construction.
In 2011, EOWON Architects was established to manage all projects pertaining to architecture while EOWON Designs continued to spearhead modern minimalism in interior design.
“Good design is extremely important to us, which is why we specialise in both interior design and architecture. Most of the time, there are contradictions between the architects and interior designers in the course of the design process. By synergising these two divisions, we can create an end product that is aesthetically pleasing, functional and cost-efficient, all in one package,” Eow says, adding that EOWON sees itself as a design company, although architecture is what it does.
Apart from interior design and architecture, the company also offers branding, digital marketing, 3D animation, website development and graphics design.
One of the rules of the company is that there can be no hierarchy. Like a clock, each component is important and has to work with the rest. “We are all colleagues and there are no bosses in the company,” Eow stresses.
For the future, the company is looking at work opportunities in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, where Eow spent some time. It also goes without saying that it will continue to design more good buildings for the public.
Tips for future architects and designers
As our interview draws to an end, each director offers a piece of advice for future architects and designers.
Kevin urges young architects to travel to experience spaces and then adapt their ideas. “A lot of young architects pick their references from images and try to recreate the feeling but most of them fail. I think it is very important for them to experience the space. For me, travelling is an important investment for a future architect.”
Liou says, “First, one must equip oneself with capabilities, skill and technical strength. The basics and fundamental understanding are very important. Then, in the following years, it is more about one’s attitude and ability to lead a team. Second, it is more about how one can deliver value to a site and be socially responsible. It is about creating a project that benefits the society.”
Chew’s advice is to be daring enough to try new things and think out of the box. “A lot of designers and architects are very conventional. My advice is to think out of the box and to create something new, rather than keep to the traditional and conventional building designs.”
Eow sums up by advising young architects to bring architecture into their lives instead of treating it like a job. “We are the creators of space and buildings and we can’t just do it like a day job and after work, go back to someone who has no connection to architecture and design. We have to live the life of an architect.”
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