Preston Liew @ Taylor’s University [Bachelor’s of Science (Honours) in Architecture]
The project for the design of a fitness centre developed through two fundamental investigations:
- When a site is sandwiched alongside two monumental office buildings and a highway within the context of a very structured and supervised administrative district, the resultant environment is a ghost town where most recreational activities are either illegal or not provided. As a development, how can we provide a controlled environment for recreational activities to activate the site on both weekdays and weekends?
- Parkour as a programme is the first element of this proposal as the sport is considered illegal (within Putrajaya) without a controlled environment, and it acts as a uniting factor between architecture and the environment. Subsequently, a fitness centre that allows the user to train for the sport and casual fitness emerges. The ultimate aim of this fitness centre focuses on increasing the user’s performance both mentally and physically through providing spaces with different privacy for different levels of fitness and volumes that define spatial performances and free running.
To design a building for parkour & fitness, one must first understand the aspects of it – Strength, Endurance, Balance & Flexibility. Programmatically, spaces are catered for these fitness aspects when composing the building in the planning stage. Besides that, it is conceded that there will be users with different levels of fitness – new, progressing or skilled. Consequently, how can we design a building for people who have different levels of fitness and manifest it through architecture?
To solve these perplexities, the design for the fitness centre took off with three tectonic approaches to display the fitness levels and privacy of programmes- different levels of transparency reflected on the facade, manipulation of landscape + volumes, and gesture of the roof.
What prompted the project?
To commence a design project, I think it’s important to figure out a programme that addresses the needs of the required user group and concurrently work on spaces that invite interaction with the surrounding contextual conditions. As part of the narrative for the design, parkour was considered an illegal sport within the given administrative context as it was a necessity to uphold a strict and reputable image. So the intention was to challenge that necessity, by providing a controlled environment for the sport. Using architecture and landscape as a mediator between parkour and the context.
Using design to tame the pandemonium.
Do you parkour? How did you acquaint yourself with the practice and necessities of this sport?
I was always amused with the idea of parkour. The aim of getting from one point to another in urban spaces efficiently.
Though I have never tried the sport but it challenges me to see the built environment in a new way, making the mind wander off. Searching for potentials of moving around it freely. Seeing practitioners doing it, is like getting to witness music in its physical form. Absolutely stunning! (Painful at the same time)
What defined the language of representation of this? From the plan to the section to the vignette, how does each drawing reveal different aspects of the project?
Drawings are visual representations for people to understand the design intention more in depth. The challenge for me in doing the drawings was to think of simple ways to illustrate movement into static frames for the presentation. One of the easier solutions was to add running human silhouettes!
The drawings were composed in a way to let viewers to interpret the movements themselves, visualizing someone running on the slab, climbing the structures, or even jumping from building to building. Making the mind doing the parkour.
What defined the way you choose to frame the visuals and vignettes?
Rendering a perspective or taking a photograph is about content and composition to me. I wanted to create manifestations of static and motion or let’s call it static motion!
Vignettes are framed up close, personal and dynamic, as if you were running along with a practitioner.
Visuals are framed further, like a photograph to highlight the design features and also compositionally acting as a “spacer”. Not making everything disorganized and overwhelming.
How important was the act of drawing and production of diagrams and scheme for the development of the project?
The diagrams were produced to give people a more in depth understanding of the kinetics behind the sport. It was also like an instruction manual for me to develop the form, structure and landscape for the project. They give justification to the design.
Without the diagrams, the form and language will seem arbitrary and unreasoned.
What is your take on colour? What defined the use of the monochromatic palette?
The idea behind the drawings was to make people’s mind run (or parkour) through the drawings. A consistent palette will give the drawings equal hierarchy on presentation day which allows the eye do the parkour across each drawing!
In design, colours are very personal. I chose a monochromatic palette for the consistent look and also as a mediator to prevent critiques on colour choices. The aim to make people focus on the architecture and design itself instead of getting distracted and going off course.
Did you ever think of exploring the project through an animation someone which would parkour through the fitness centre?
Yes, but i did not go through with using animation due to these reasons-
Back to the idea of static motion in drawings, it is about giving the viewer an ability to wander their minds away in the drawings. Not everyone can do parkour, but I believe that the drawings and visuals produced gives people an opportunity to imagine themselves running along the crafted route.
Animation is a very straight forward method to show people the journey of the design more thoroughly. But for this project, I chose not to do it as I believe it will take away the fun in immersing yourself into the drawings. Also the more you reveal, the more (problems) people can detect! Hahaha
What would you say is the architects most important tool?
As cliche as it may sound, but I believe that not just for architects but for humans in general, the most important tool is confidence. For example-
The confidence of knowing what you’re good at and how to be better at it.
The confidence in pitching an idea and making people believing in it.
Not everyone is born equal. There are people who are constantly being looked down on and it hurts their confidence. The only advice I could think of is to take down what you can learn from it. Then wipe your tears, get back up and you will be stronger and more confident!
P/s: confident but not to the point of being over-confident, cause nobody likes to have arrogant people around 🙂