Much like the Hamp­tons to well­heeled Man­hat­tan­ites or Berk­shire to af­flu­ent Lon­don­ers, Janda Baik has be­come some­thing of a week­end get­away to KL-ites with means.

Over the hills and not so very far away is this year’s win­ner of PAM’s Gold Award. Tak­ing home the ac­co­lade in the Sin­gle Res­i­den­tial Cat­e­gory: Melvyn Kanny’s idyl­lic Janda Baik bun­ga­low.

Much like the Hamp­tons to well-heeled Man­hat­tan­ites or Berk­shire to af­flu­ent Lon­don­ers, Janda Baik has be­come some­thing of a week­end get­away to KL-ites with means. Af­ter all, in just half an hour, one can swap the city’s traf­fic con­ges­tion and pol­lu­tion for clear moun­tain air and un­in­ter­rupted ver­dant views.

The sleepy town has seen the mush­room­ing of week­end homes of var­i­ous ar­chi­tec­tural am­bi­tions, many which grat­i­fy­ingly work with the ter­rain rather than against it. Two such homes were built by Melvyn Kanny of MJ Kanny Ar­chi­tect, who got to know a mid­dle aged cou­ple who had two sin­gle acre plots of land that they had pur­chased up in Janda Baik. They had been rec­om­mended by the late David Win­ter, an in­te­rior de­signer with whom Kanny had worked, and re­quested for him to pro­pose two houses: one in­tended as their hol­i­day cum re­tire­ment home, and the other for in­vest­ments or for their chil­dren to use.

Lo­cated in on a steep slope with a com­mand­ing view of the Gent­ing Hills, both units were to be of a sim­i­lar con­cept, and yet dif­fer­ent in terms of spa­tial us­age. While the site was spec­tac­u­lar, Kenny con­fesses that it acted both as muse and mas­ter . “The form was in­spired by the cap­ti­vat­ing land­scape of Janda Baik with its jagged hills and out­crops that fi­nally in­spired the built form that was in it­self very nat­u­ral and or­ganic. All the in­te­rior spa­ces had dif­fer­ent spa­tial char­ac­ter­is­tics, and no room had 90 de­gree cor­ners. Each space was de­signed to cap­ture a view of its im­me­di­ate nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and all ef­fort was taken to blur the dis­tinc­tion be­tween in­side and out,” en­thuses Kanny.

As the houses were a built on the prin­ci­pal of sus­tain­abil­ity, the ma­te­ri­als were cho­sen to be as nat­u­ral as pos­si­ble. Con­se­quently, raw con­crete, nat­u­ral brick walls, and plas­tered walls with un­painted fin­ishes be­came the nat­u­ral choice. How­ever, this had to be bal­anced with the client’s taste and re­quire­ments, as they wanted the home to also be cosy and wel­com­ing. Thus, some stone and tim­ber was also used to dif­fuse the mas­culin­ity of the rugged un­fin­ished look. “I think the fi­nal out­come was a del­i­cate bal­ance. The prin­ci­pal has al­ways been to use lo­cal nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als as pos­si­ble. Even the nat­u­ral un-plas­tered brick­work was se­lected from nearby fac­to­ries. Bam­boos that were cut on site were re-used as out­door lamp posts, and even as a shower stand in the mas­ter-bath­room,” ex­plains Kanny.

Al­though the client didn’t ini­tially re­quest a “green” house, Kanny sub­tly in­fused the

con­cept into the de­sign. Firstly, the house was de­signed to not re­quire air-con­di­tion­ing, and to cap­i­talise on the nat­u­rally cool tem­per­a­tures of Janda Baik. This was done by max­imis­ing open­ings and aper­tures to al­low air to move freely through the house, while high­level mo­torised win­dows al­low hot air to es­cape. A lift shaft was pro­vided as per the clients brief, but the lift would only be in­stalled in fu­ture if needed. The idea then came to con­vert the shaft into a wind chim­ney, cap­tur­ing the cool moun­tain breeze and forc­ing it down into the in­ter­nal spa­ces, a con­cept pop­u­lar in mid­dle-east­ern coun­tries. This later be­came a prom­i­nent de­sign fea­ture of the house. Apart from that, nat­u­ral lo­cal ma­te­ri­als were used ex­ten­sively, with lit­tle use of chem­i­cals and VOCs like paint. The brick walls were built in two lay­ers, with an air-gap in be­tween keep­ing the in­ner walls al­ways cool.

Sun-shade anal­y­sis was car­ried out to re­duce West­ern and East­ern di­rect sun. The re­sult of these stud­ies led to the unique roof form. This was achieved by cre­at­ing large roof over­hangs on the East­ern and West­ern sides. “Our main is­sue was the co­or­di­na­tion with the en­gi­neer to make the struc­ture work, es­pe­cially with the ex­tralarge roof over­hangs. The roof was the most chal­leng­ing and com­plex part of the house de­tail­ing. It was a three­d­i­men­sional struc­ture with falls in 3 di­rec­tions. We wanted the roof to hover over the house, and so we used frame­less glass be­tween the roof and the walls and struc­ture be­low. Get­ting this right was chal­leng­ing. To make mat­ters worse, there was no plas­ter or paint­ing on the struc­ture, mak­ing any mis­take in the set­ting-out al­most im­pos­si­ble to rec­tify,” re­calls Kanny. “The struc­ture was mostly ex­posed, and not hid­den with ceil­ing as in a con­ven­tional house. So, the struc­ture and ar­chi­tec­ture must work hand-in-glove to achieve the seam­less look. The con­trac­tor was very help­ful in try­ing to build ac­cord­ing to our de­tails, as the house was not a typ­i­cal con­ven­tional two-di­men­sional struc­ture. There were very com­plex an­gles on both the floor plate as well as the el­e­va­tions. They built a scale model be­fore pro­ceed­ing with the works in or­der to com­pre­hend how the fi­nal form would look like, and this helped them in plan­ning the con­struc­tion. Ku­dos to the con­trac­tor for achiev­ing this.”

Rain-water, as well as nat­u­ral ground water is col­lected into a pond at the bot­tom of the site and re-used for ir­ri­ga­tion. How­ever, due to bud­get con­straints, the land­scape works were kept to a min­i­mum and is still a work in progress. Al­though it will take years for the new trees to grow and fill up the site, the client, who Kanny de­scribes as hav­ing green-fin­gers, is do­ing his part by grow­ing his own or­ganic plants like av­o­ca­does, Mu­sang King, and olive trees. Fresh air, fruit­ing trees, and a stun­ning view; what could be bet­ter?

In­deed, Kanny re­ports that the clients are sat­is­fied with the re­sults. “They are gen­er­ally very happy with the house. The main chal­lenge is clean­ing the high level glass and ceil­ing which is con­stantly bar­raged by in­sects and spi­der-webs.

In a work­ing re­la­tion­ship, it is very dif­fi­cult to strike a bal­ance be­tween the client’s needs and the ar­chi­tect’s vi­sion of the house, and some­times the ar­chi­tect needs to back off on cer­tain is­sues that the client feels strongly about that may go against the ar­chi­tect’s de­sign aes­thet­ics. Ul­ti­mately, there is al­ways a solution that both par­ties can live with, and it’s find­ing it that makes it all the more chal­leng­ing and worth­while.”

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