This article first appeared in City & Country, The Edge Malaysia Weekly on October 24, 2022 - October 30, 2022
In a dimly lit hall at a convention centre in Bukit Kiara, an audience consisting of Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM) members and students roars with elation and excitement as the winners of the PAM Student Awards (2022) are announced. The awards mark the end of the 2018 to 2022 cycle, which sees a benefactor sponsoring the prize money for a five-year run. The awards grant prizes that amount to RM100,000 per year, or a total RM500,000 for five years.
Benefactor Tan Sri Esa Mohamed remarks, “Over the last five years, we saw a variety of great ideas and diversity of projects by the students and their predecessors that were of high quality, which proved Malaysian students are capable of talents that are world class.”
The PAM Student Awards aim to recognise outstanding local talent among architectural (Part 1 and Part 2) graduates, and help catapult them into the next phase of their careers. The financial grant is provided by principal benefactor, Esa, who was also a PAM Gold Medallist in 2016, PAM past president and International Union of Architects (UIA) past president. The award is a continuation of the PAM-Tan Sri Chan Sau Lai Architecture Awards 2012-2016.
This year, the winner of the main prize, the Silver Medal, is Kaizer Birges Hud from The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, for his project, Waterloo Park Hospice: Considering an Alternative Space for Dying.
Hud’s win was followed by Silver Medal first runner-up Low Xue Yee from Universiti Malaya (UM) and Silver Medal second runner-up Muhammad Izzat Ramli from University of Auckland, New Zealand. The other Silver Medal finalists are Chuah Kok Sheng from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Cho Ken Ying from Taylor’s University, Chai Yi Yang from UM, Loke Hau Yee from Universiti Putra Malaysia, and Chong Sher Li from UM.
The Bronze Medal was awarded to Jarod Yap Sheu Yuan from UCSI University, while the other Bronze Medal finalists are Celvin Choong Li Xin from Taylor’s University, Wan Jun Hong from UCSI University, Wong Hau Nam from Taylor’s University and Ng Tze Way from Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman.
According to Esa, the submitted projects are forward-thinking. “They are savvy, aware of all the current technologies. The submissions also address urban issues and climate change, which must be considered.”
The panel of jurors comprised PAM past presidents Datuk Ezumi Harzani Ismail, Dr Tan Loke Mun and Lee Chor Wah, Wooi Architect principal Wooi Lok Kuang, PAM vice-president Adrianta Aziz, PAM-Tan Sri Chan Sau Lai Architecture Awards 2013 winner Qhawarizmi Norhisham and Engky Design Sdn Bhd director Khoo Eng Kee, with convenor Esmonde Yap and deputy convenor Alan Teh.
Esa says, “Malaysia is part of the global market and trade … We must recognise the global demand for sustainability and mitigations of the impact of climate change. So [the] designs must be sensitive to the environment, which take these factors into consideration.
“We have entered the new era of digital technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Building Information Modelling (BIM), 3D printing, drones and advanced technologies that will refine [the students’] creative endeavours and shape our future.”
PAM president Sarly Adre Sarkum says, “Education is among the primary building blocks and catalysts of the advancement of the profession. After all, our current architecture students are our future architects. The PAM Student Awards seek to promote scholarship, innovation, merit and excellence in the youth towards the study of architecture. The awards also demonstrate the commitment and investment of both PAM and the benefactor towards architectural design excellence and its future.
“The awards augur well for the students and have a great impact on the future of architecture … that little acknowledgement goes a long way, because it gives the students the validation and the confidence for their good work.”
In terms of the submissions, the quality has improved tremendously, observes Sarly. “They are cognisant of the changes and technologies, sustainability and [subjects] pertaining to architecture … The students’ abilities to generate ideas have improved in the past decade. We hope the awards will continue in the long term, with future, potential benefactors.”
Many of the winners of the first cycle of the PAM Student Awards have continued their journey to become successful professional architects themselves, says Sarly.
A case in point is none other than PAM-Tan Sri Chan Sau Lai Architecture Awards 2013 winner Qhawarizmi, who is also a jury member for this award cycle.
Qhawarizmi, who runs his own practice Qhawarizmi Architect and lectures occasionally now, says, “There is a shift in value. A lot more projects are now a little bit more inclusive, and empathetic. Although the projects are commercially driven, students are looking at the other side of the coin and how to contribute to the community.”
This year’s Silver Medal recipient Hud shares details of his winning entry: “The Waterloo Park Hospice: Considering an Alternative Space for Dying” project proposes [that the] hospice use the metaphor of the forest to make death’s acceptance easier. Patients are put to rest in a forest park, their bodies turned into trees, which shade the living … Altogether, the hospice focuses on patient comfort while suggesting that dying might not be scary.”
Sarly adds, “Some of the winning submissions address social issues, taboo subjects that are complex to tackle, which sparks a new conversation in the profession.”
Bronze Medal winner Jarod comments on his project, Autonomous City: Take of Borneo: “This project is a two-acre [mixed] development at the coast beside Kampung Bangau-Bangau, Semporna, Sabah; the site chosen as a starting mooring point of this project is the burnt-down area.”
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