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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Salvaged art

By The Star

OLD is gold. Given a twist, it can take on a whole new life as in the case of the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac).

What was formerly an old, rundown engineering workshop used by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd had been turned into a space for performing arts.

The old is married with the new; the transformation is simply stunning.

Every cloud has a silver lining

The flash flood on June 10, 2003 destroyed The Actors Studio complex in Plaza Putra below Dataran Merdeka and left the founders, Datuk Faridah Merican and Joe Hasham, scouting for another location.

Fusion of old and new: The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.
They soon heard about the site in Sentul. After seeing the place, they knew that it was perfect and wrote to YTL Corp Bhd managing director Tan Sri Francis Yeoh. Later, they met and presented their plan for a performing arts venue in the city.

Yeoh, who has a passion for arts, shared the couple's vision and told them to “go for it”.

KLPac’s founding partners were Yayasan Budi Penyayang, YTL Corp and The Actors Studio.

Building KLPac

The concept was a creative adaptation of the old and original to one that transcended history and culture.

In order to keep as much of the original structure intact, brick walls of the workshop was preserved. Then, a modern, four-storey steel and glass structure that provides functional and aesthetic spaces was incorporated into the old structure.

In fact, some materials of the former workshop unearthed on site were retained as part of the theatre design, said KLPac theatre manager Teoh Ming Jin.

The brick facade of the former Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd engineering workshop.
“We wanted a raw finish to the building, which is true to its form. The cracks on the floor, for example, added to the authenticity of KLPac,” he explained.

The pre-mix flooring was unconventional. Heavy-duty tarmac was used for indoor use and required no maintenance.

In Pentas 1, a strap of old zinc roof ran around the wall above the stage. The side walls bore timber blocks in various sizes and PVC pipes were used to enhance acoustics and add to the aesthetics of the theatre space.

By reusing buildings and natural materials, the embodied energy was retained, making the project much more environmentally sustainable than entirely new constructions. The old trees and vegetation that matured with the old building was retained and preserved. Lighting, sound and rigging were designed with practicality, user-friendliness and quality in mind.

Teoh said KLPac reflected an innovative use of building materials within a very tight budget and timeframe.

“The entire project cost RM30mil and was completed in 15 months (plan, design, construct and build),” he said, adding that the 11-month construction period was considered extremely quick.

In comparison, Istana Budaya, which had almost the same capability, cost approximately RM250mil.

Decision making between teams also contributed to the success of KLPac, said Teoh. It involved theatre people designing for theatre people, besides architects and contractors.

Teoh said: “We knew exactly what we wanted, the vision was there and we stuck to it.”

A showcase of adaptive reuse

Besides being honoured by FIABCI Malaysia in the Malaysia Property Award 2007 in the Special Award for National Contribution category, KLPac had won the Persatuan Arkitek Malaysia award in 2006 for the adaptive re-use category for its creative blending of old and new architecture.

Adaptive reuse is a process that changes a disused or ineffective item into a new item to serve a different purpose. Sometimes, nothing changes but the item’s use.

Successful built adaptive reuse projects are those that best respect and retain the building’s significance and add a contemporary layer that provides value for the future.

Not only are performances held in KLPac, it also hosts other events such as product launches and dance events.

“A whole lot of new people are coming to use the space, “ Teoh said.

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