At a glance, its tropical vernacular architecture suggests that the building must be a holiday resort. Upon closer inspection, however, the primary thought is proven wrong, particularly as the sight that catches the eye as one draws near is that of stalls laden with local fruits, plants and other agricultural produce. This is Malaysia’s first official Agriculture Heritage Park (AHP), built to showcase the development of the nation’s agro-based commerce and its contribution to the nation’s economic growth over the centuries. TIMBER MALAYSIA met with officials from the Putrajaya Department of Landscape and Parks to discover more about one of the administrative capital’s major attractions, which has incorporated the use of wood in its design.
Sitting on a fourteen-hectare site, the AHP boasts a Visitors’ Complex, a Viewing Deck, a Rubber Processing Demonstration Area, a “Herbs and Spices” Track and a Pepper and Coffee Processing Demonstration Area. Visitors can, for example, see how rubber is processed, from latex collection to the coagulation process and the rolling of rubber sheets.
A large part of the site has been planted with 170 different types of agricultural trees and plants like rubber, cocoa, oil palm, pepper, coffee, fruits, herbs and spices. It is a haven for plant lovers, as they can see how these agro-based
trees and plants are germinated, grown, nursed and later harvested and processed into downstream products, edible or otherwise. During the fruiting season, free fruit samples from the orchard will also be offered to visitors.
What we were more interested in was, of course, the use of Malaysian wood in the design of the Visitors’ Complex.
The Visitors’ Complex’s architectural design is reminiscent of age-old traditional Malay palaces. Its entrance provides a bold welcome statement with imposing wood-clad pillars and trussses, high gabled roofs and wide pebblewash stone steps. The wooden stair-rails are punctuated by solid posts, with wooden lattice in place of balusters, inviting the visitor to proceed from the visual to the tactile experience as one walks up the steps while
holding on to the stair-rail.
Upon climbing the stone steps, one is visually greeted by an expansive courtyard, another feature borrowed from the design of ancient royal palaces. The courtyard atmosphere, however, is decidedly egalitarian: gallery cafés and fresh produce stalls compete for visitors’ attention and custom.
At the top of the stairs, on the right, is a handsome structure, with a verandah whose baluster carries through the post-and-lattice theme featured on the stair-rail. This structure hosts, among other things, souvenir and craft shops. Within this structure is a generoussized multi-purpose hall, where visual interest is quickly reaffirmed through sight of the impressive beams and roof trusses. Although concrete and steel have been used as the core for the beams and trusses, it is mainly through the use of wood that the dual demands of form and function are fulfilled. The result: a unique look that is both rustic and elegant, and a spatial experience that is highly pleasing
and warm to the senses.
In keeping with the traditional theme, mobile stalls made of wood are strategically placed for smaller vendors. Modern comforts are not forgotten, however, as the hall is fitted with enough fans and lighting. Modest-sized function rooms can be made available by sectioning off areas with a series of folding doors. Wooden slats placed under the gabled roof provide an aesthetically pleasing solution to the need for air circulation.
As one re-enters the courtyard from the impressive hall, one sees oil palm trees gracing the plaza, beyond which
lay the tempting offerings of agricultural produce: food. The cafes and food stalls at the end of the plaza also feature wooden beams and trusses, with lantern-shaped lamps to evoke the feeling of yesteryears.
The design of the Visitors’ Complex and other main features of the park are sympathetic to the natural terrain of the site. The Viewing Deck, adorned with Chengal decking, regally sits atop the highest point of the park. From this vantage point, one can see the many beautiful buildings, bridges and lakes adorning the administrative capital, Putrajaya.
There are walkways covered by solid Chengal pergolas linking various parts of the park. One can imagine how these walkways, flanked by growing fruit trees, shrubs and other tropical plants, could only become more pleasant as time goes by. One area where the trees are already more mature is the smallholders’ house. This area is, naturally, full of rubber trees which are old enough to be tapped. In fact, a rubber-tapping demonstration is also one of the attractions at the park.
|Interview with Putrajaya Corporation
TM The Visitors’ Complex uses a lot of wood as a building material. What was Putrajaya Corporation’s objective in specifying wood as the dominant building material in this structure?
PC The park aims to showcase and raise public awareness on the nation’s agricultural heritage, particularly on agriculture-based commodities that have been successfully commercialised for export. As such, during the conceptualisation stage, it was felt that the use of wood as a building material would be highly appropriate to complement the many natural elements within the park. The choice of tropical vernacular architecture was deliberate, and very much in keeping with the concept of celebrating plants and trees that essentially belong to the outdoors.
TM What was the inspiration underlying the design of the Visitors’ Complex?
PC The design of the Visitors’ Complex was inspired by traditional Malay architecture. This theme is also carried through to other main buildings of the park, including the wakaf (traditional gazebo), the smallholder’s house, the Viewing Deck and the administrative building.
TM Did it cost a lot more to specify wood in the design? And what about the cost of maintenance?
PC As we specified high quality and naturally durable hardwoods like Chengal and Balau, it did cost us twice as much in terms of building materials. However, this cost is highly justifiable as the use of timber has helped us achieve the desired rustic effect, and the chosen species require very little maintenance in the long run.
The park, on the whole, provides a wonderful setting within which to introduce the nation’s agricultural heritage to young Malaysians and foreign visitors alike. Given time, as the whole park gets naturally cooler through the benefit of more mature trees, the visitor’s experience will only be more pleasurable. And all the wood that has been used in building the park’s infrastructure will only serve to further enhance the natural beauty of the place for many, many years to come.
For further information on the park, please contact:
Taman Warisan Pertanian Putrajaya
(Agriculture Heritage Park)
No. 7, Jalan P16, Presint 16,
62150 Putrajaya, Malaysia
Tel: + 6 03 8888 0099
Fax: + 6 03 8888 5151 / 8889 1102
Photos courtesy of Sin Seong Hin Sdn Bhd.