One firm has been transforming urban landscapes for 50 years

  • Design
  • Thursday, 29 Mar 2018

The RGB Pavilion at ArchiFest 2016 was built using construction netting and scaffolding steel pipes which were all reused after the festival. Photos: DP Architects

It is no stranger to Singapore’s architecture scene, having designed landmarks the likes of Suntec City, Marina Square, Esplanade – Theatres On The Bay, Paragon Shopping Centre, and Singapore Sports Hub, to name a few.

And since its inception in 1967, DP Architects has grown into a global, multidisciplinary design firm with eight subsidiaries, 17 international offices and 3,000 projects spanning 77 countries, including Malaysia.

As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the firm launched an inaugural international exhibition entitled A Common Line | One Global Studio last month at the Malaysian Institute of Architects (in Malay, Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia, PAM) centre in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.

The exhibition showcases the firm’s five decades of work in transforming urban landscapes, and features major projects all over the world.

“We believe that what we share is not only good architecture but also how our firm has progressed and has been able to play a part in transforming cityscapes,” says Steven Liew, a director with DP Architects (Malaysia), when met at the PAM centre recently.

DP Architects
Lim (L) and Liew with a scale model of the iconic Ampang Park. Photo: The Star/Norafifi Ehsan

“We are keen to create sustainable communities and improve people’s quality of life through design. We are concerned for the built environment.

“It’s not just about creating a building but about placemaking and designing together with people who contribute to the building, such as consultants, contractors and end users, who are all part and parcel of the design process.

“That is the foundation of our people-focused design philosophy,” says Liew.

The DP Architects Malaysia office itself is 45 years old.

“We have a historical relationship with Malaysia, especially with Ampang Park, the first DP job outside of Singapore,” says Lim Wei Liang, another director at the Malaysian office.

The first shopping mall in Malaysia, Ampang Park was built in KL in 1973. However, it is currently in the process of being torn down to make way for infrastructure development, and the firm is documenting all things related to the building.

“We are collecting all the information, drawings and photos about this building. We are also looking at the possibility of working with PAM to record this building’s history,” says Lim, adding that the firm still has the old architectural drawings made for the mall.

Here are the highlights of five projects that form part of the exhibition:

DP Architects
Everyone wanted to visit Ampang Park in the 1970s.

1. Ampang Park

Completed in 1973, Ampang Park was the biggest shopping complex in Malaysia back then, with a rentable space of over 14,000 sq m.

The mall housed shops, a supermarket, a department store, a bank and restaurants. However, it was well-known – among those who are old enough, at least – for the covered amusement park on the rooftop.

Today, however, the complex is in the process of being torn down to make way for the construction of the Ampang Park Mass Rapid Transit station. Its final day of business was on Dec 31, 2017.

DP Architects
Situated next to the tallest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world by gross floor area (550,000 sq m).

2. Dubai Mall

Situated next to the tallest tower in the world – the Burj Khalifa, 830m – the Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world by gross floor area, 550,000 sq m. Spanning 34ha, it was conceptualised as a “city” divided into eight precincts, each with different concepts and designs.

The mall also houses one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums and an Olympic-size ice skating rink. The facade features an arabesque motif while the roof is designed as a composition of modern geometric shapes when viewed from the nearby high-rise towers against a background of desert and building blocks.

Completed in 2008, the Dubai Mall is touted as the world’s most-visited shopping and leisure destination. It is undergoing a massive expansion in multiple phases, which DP Architects is a part of.

DP Architects
The RGB Pavilion was designed to allow people to sit in its midst for a unique experience.

3. RGB Pavilion at ArchiFest 2016

Built on the grounds of Raffles Place Park, the RGB Pavilion was a multicoloured urban sculpture (above) erected during Archifest 2016, an architectural festival in Singapore. Designed to “inspire visitors to re-think their relationship with Singapore’s urban environment and breathe new life into it”, the project won an award in the Architecture+Colour category at the Architizer A+ Awards 2017 (Jury and Popular Choice).

Composed of construction netting and scaffolding steel pipes, it embraced the zero waste approach where materials were reused on other construction sites after the festival. The netting was dyed in various colours to create a psychedelic effect.

DP Architects
An artist impression of the main dropoff point at Setia SPICE (Subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre), Penang.

4. Setia SPICE (Subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre)

An integrated recreation and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) facility located in Bayan Baru, Penang, Setia SPICE is housed under an outdoor park and green roof located in Penang People’s Park. Rather than build on top of the park, the architects wanted to retain the green space for the local community.

The project incorporates the existing Penang International Sports Arena to the east and the Aquatic Sports Centre to the south. Both venues have the capacity to host international competitions and, together with the newly constructed convention facilities and lifestyle amenities, Setia SPICE is the first integrated convention and recreation complex of its kind in Malaysia.

DP Architects
The Singapore Sports Hub's National Stadium has a capacity of 55,000.

5. Singapore Sports Hub

Completed in 2014, the Singapore Sports Hub is a world class sporting events venue integrated with a retail mall and sports library. Located on a waterfront site, the plan comprises the 55,000-seat National Stadium as the nucleus, complemented by two other competitive sports venues – the OCBC Aquatic Centre and a multipurpose sports hall, the OCBC Arena.

A large ring of covered space encircling the stadium houses retail outlets. The covered promenade connects the stadium to 35ha of plazas, recreational facilities and public transportation distributed across the site as multipurpose gathering places.

The project won the Sports Building Of The Year Award at the World Architecture Festival 2014 and the Singapore Institute Of Architects Architectural Design Award 2014.


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