THERE was a time when Kampung Kerinchi in Kuala Lumpur was relatively concrete free. Today, Light Rail Transit lines criss-cross highways and flyovers and amid this entire network, is another source of networking but of a different kind – telecommunications.
Menara Telekom, the new headquarters of Telekom Malaysia Bhd, is the latest addition to the Klang Valley skyline and sits snugly in the Pantai area.
The second tallest building in the country after the Petronas Twin Towers, the 77-storey structure is 10 storeys short of the world's tallest building, and among the top 20 in the world, says architect Hijjas Kasturi from Hijjas Kasturi Associates Sdn.
The overall height of the Twin Towers is about 450 metres high, while Menara Telekom is 304 metres from ground level.
The renowned Malaysian architect says Menara Telekom was built with the future of the country and the state of tomorrow's telecommunications in mind.
“But it also has to reflect the culture of the country and the image of the company. It must be economical, in terms of cost and practical usage of space. We had to make good use of the 3 hectares in hand, the result of which is that the space within is almost without columns,” Hijjas says in his Menara Promet office.
Menara Telekom was conceived before the Petronas Twin Towers which was opened to the public in 1999, says Hijjas. It took so long to complete because of various reasons. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad will be officially launching the new Telekom headquarters on Feb 10.
At his home in Kuala Lumpur, former Telekom executive chairman Tan Sri Rashdan Baba says the early 1990s had started a new chapter for the telecommunications company in more ways than one.
“We were the first government department to be privatised. If we had failed, the whole government effort would be in jeopardy and looked upon with question,” he says.
Rashdan was Telekom chairman between 1985 and 1987, and executive chairman for about a decade before reverting to the position of chairman again.
“Telekom, under my time, had about 29,000 staff scattered randomly around. We were also moving from the bureaucratic structure to a corporate culture and so for better management, I felt it was time to have the staff – or as many of them as possible – in one place. We were a product of modernisation,” he recalls.
Rashdan says the company had other parcels of land “but did not want to add to the congestion in the main town area.”
“We thought the Pantai area was a good spot as the location was strategic. We also wanted a building with character,” Rashdan says.
Recalls Hijjas: “The brief for Menara Telekom was specific. The site, at 3 hectares, was small and the demands great. But Rashdan was very clear about priorities.”
And so after a selection process, Hijjas' bamboo shoot, inspired by Latiff Mohidin 's Pago Pago series was presented to Dr Mahathir.
“We went to see him together, Hijjas and myself. His first comment – it looks like the “sail of a yacht”. But a decision was taken that day itself,” says Rashdan.
To add the green factor, there are about 20 sky gardens, one on every sixth floor.
However, Rashdan did not just want a meeting place for his staff. He wanted something that would nurture staff loyalty and commitment. So a kindergarten was added to the complex.
“This is important for working mothers. We wanted loyal staff, to instil a sense of belonging and dedication and improve staff morale.
“To me, personnel is important. While we have to keep pace with technology in order not to be left behind, the greatest asset of the company was personnel. However good technology might be, if there was no one to manage it, it is useless,” he says.
Besides the kindergarten, Rashdan wanted the company to give something back to the community. This he did by incorporating a 1,500-seat auditorium that could be used for concerts, annual general meetings and other activities.
“At that time, the Twin Towers were not there yet and there was no auditorium other than one in City Hall,” Rashdan says.
The Klang Valley skyline is indeed changing. So then is technology.
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