Category: News@Lenggong.

The New Lenggong Valley Visitor Centre – UNESCO World Heritage Site By Citylab Design Studio

WHS#1396 | Lenggong | Tourist Maps | Travel Guide | Photo & Video | News Update

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The new Lenggong Valley Visitor Centre is a tribute to the local archaeologists, which through several decades of dedicated work, had brought the Lenggong Valley to the UNESCO World Heritage status.

Findings like the 10,000 year old Perak Man’s skeleton and the 40,000 year old layer of the Toba volcanic ash were huge milestones. They, had sparked interest from scientist all over the world, but despite all these amazing discoveries, most Malaysians knew very little about them and the heritage that lies underneath.

Through architecture and effective presentation of information, the objective is to create the level of performance in conveying information that can be repeated again and again for the consumption of the public at large. And at the end of the day, it is not just about learning how things were in the past, but to learn from it to improve the present and the future.

The Perak Man was an encyclopaedia of knowledge at his time which earned him a highly respectable position in his society. This was evident in the respect shown through his burial. It proves that even in the ancient time, knowledge was power.

The team was inspired by the meticulous and time consuming process that had been undertaken by the archaeologists in extracting the date and life cycle from the Perak Man skeletal remains. Hence the vertebrae became the object of our inspiration. The human vertebrae was digitally taken apart, the “DNA” of the spinal structure was extracted and developed into individual components and then linked up into a structural system that would conform to the contours and site boundary.

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The team sourced for a suitable building material which has the strength and lightweightness to take this form. The idea of using lightweight structure is to avoid deep excavation to preserve the potential antiquities that lies underneath the ground surface.

The team looked at several possibilities like composite aluminium, fibre glass and the revolutionary ETFE,but then they remembered that their ancestors were walled and roofed by nature. Hence, they decided to go with the giant grass, bamboo. It is a highly sustainable material that grows in abundance in Malaysia. After all, utilizing bamboo as the primary material made it possible to “cultivate and grow” the whole architecture on site.

Bamboo has superior tensile and compression strength. It is light and could provide great insulation. It is also the fastest growing plant on earth with growth rate up to 1.2 meter a day, it can be grown on site and harvested for construction in 2 years. In Japan there are bamboo houses that had lasted more than a 100 years. Currently, there are natural and chemical treatment available to increase the natural lifetime of bamboo.

Having all that in mind, the Lenggong Valley Visitor Centre is the manifestation of an idea where the form meets structure in harmony with nature. The form seems to sits comfortably, ensconced against the sloping terrain almost like a fossil waiting to be discovered. The play between enclosed and porous spaces of the bamboo structures takes the visitors through the site reenacting the life of the Perak Man under the forest canopy.

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The bamboo structure forms a radical architecture rooted deep in the nature itself creating a space inspiring the mind, ready to reach out to the abyss of history, to places the visitors have never been.

The bundled bamboo structure spans through spaces and at some parts, open to the surrounding landscape to give a living connection to nature. The language of raw architecture creates a position beyond the normal expectation. Bamboo structures meet raw concrete, untouched by the conventional modern material creates a space of sustainability in harmony with nature.

To further emphasize the presence of nature, the centre courtyard would be planned for a re-forestation program. It may not be able to address the global deforestation issue that had caused extinction of wildlife and pollution, but at a smaller scale, will demonstrate how the process could be reversed to increase the biodiversity within the area. Several reforestation techniques was proven successful. It can start with regeneration using few fast growing pioneer tree species that restore the microclimate for the incoming multi layered forest of diverse tree species.

Site Plan

The natural forest is indeed part of our heritage. Its presence would be meaningful in nurturing the public on the relationship between man and nature. The space within the centre courtyard would be a fertile ground for the re-forestation program. Upon its maturity, a canopy walk would be introduced to the loop creating an alternative route overlooking the forest and possible excavation sites underneath. Even the internal circulation can meander into the courtyard passing through excavation sites to include active excavation into the program. Visitors could walk along the canopy walk to participate in a voyeuristic journey of witnessing excavations from above, be it live excavation by a team of archaeologists or an artificial excavation organised for the public’s participation.

The existing building will remain as the Administrative Centre and the Multipurpose Hall. The idea of recycling an existing building into a more efficient green building has become more attractive. The Existing Administrative building deserves an internal overhaul creating a more conducive working environment. Accommodations would be provided for visiting Archaeologists and researches, or even visiting aritsts who would like to work with the resident researchers.

The main showcase would be within the space created by the new bamboo structure. The space would form a circuit of dig site exhibits, archaeological galleries, time tunnels, visitor’s amenities and an amphitheatre, all within the building loop.

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The story of mankind is arranged in a chronological order along the proposed loop. It could probably start with the current Kota Tampan excavation site, where the visitors can be introduced to the history of Kota Tampan and the story of how it was first discovered. They will get to see a life excavation site and a demonstration on excavation techniques in archaeology.

They will then go through a time tunnel that brings them back to the early Neolithic age which ends with the replica of Gua Gunung Runtuh where Perak man was discovered. Customised smart phone application could also be uploaded to give extended information and virtually guide the visitors through the space. A combination of full scale model, hologram-like display and sound domes, curates visitors through time & nature.

At this point the visitors would have had reached the peak point of the site. They have the option to take a break to go up to the new look out point, to view the full panorama of the Lenggong Valley where they can learn about the locations of various excavation sites in relation to the ancient Perak River. As the earlier Palaeolithic settlements such as at Kota Tampan and Bukit Jawa was strategically located along the ancient Perak River where excavation has revealed undisturbed ancient stone tool workshop dated back to 200,000 years ago. To be able to visualise the special relationship between man and the river as source of life in a real scale would add a special dimension to the visitor’s experience.

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The journey continues through the second time tunnel carrying them back all the way through the Palaeolithic age ranging from 10,000 to 2 million years ago.

The visitors would then be passing through a multipurpose area that could be used for interactive activities and seasonal exhibits. It provides exhibition opportunities for Archeologist and even Artist to display their work to add variety or even as a focal point to the visitor’s experience.

At the end of the loop, where the current retaining wall near the entrance parking is, a semi outdoor lecture amphitheater is built against the slope. It softens the hard retaining wall and naturally blends it back into the terrain profile. The space is partly opened to the new forest courtyards allowing nature to be part of the experience. It provides and alternative venue to the existing indoor multipurpose hall which offers a different experience and direct connection with nature.

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The public amenities located at the end of the loop would also demonstrate the values we learn from man-nature relationship. Rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling would be applied to the facilities. Even the food waste produced by the café would be turned into compost used as nutrient to the landscaping which would have a substantial percentage of edible plants. Fresh vegetables and ‘ulams‘(local salad dish) would be served at the Café demonstrating a closed loop recycling system.

To conclude, this proposal is conceived beyond just a visitor’s centre but also as a knowledge environment that generate, process and re-deploy the archaeological findings for public consumption to connect the human heritage of Lengong with current and future understanding of mankind. It will be made as a HUB for researchers & visitors to further explore the network of archaeological sites within the surrounding area around Lenggong. Aspirations for Archeo-Tourism is growing and with the right planning & implementation, Lengong could land itself with a bright future with the connection to its heritage past.

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Moving forward, finding the right investors and stake holder with passion in nature and preservation would be key to the viability of the vision. That’s the team’s STORY OF MANKIND, the story that will continue for generations to come…

Team: Kamal Alwi, Ridzwa Fathan, Warith Zaki, Fadzlee Khamis, Zulamru Zainal
Studio: Citylab Design Studio

[http://www.3d-dreaming.com/2013/06/the-new-lenggong-valley-visitor-by.html]

Category: News@Lenggong
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