PUTRAJAYA: Those working and living here have become used to the quick construction of buildings of various sizes and shapes, but the newly-completed Putrajaya Convention Centre still draws curious glances.
From afar, the centre, with its folded origami-style roof, looks like a spacecraft landing on Putrajaya. But the design is actually based on the pending perak, a bejewelled accessory worn by many Malay women with their sarong.
The pending perak is a diamond-shaped silver royal belt buckle. The design was inspired by the unusual contours of the hill, explained Putrajaya Holdings Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Mohamad Othman Zainal Azim during a media tour of the complex and its 20.6ha site.
The overall design is spherical, with an oval 'eye' occupying the nucleus. In this case, the major halls are located within that 'eye'.
He also said that 80% of the materials used were sourced locally, from the beautiful carpeting and furniture to the breathtaking chandeliers that hang in many of the major halls.
Most of the imported goods are basically electronics, he added..
The centres first international convention will be for the Organisation of Islamic Conference meeting in October.
While existing convention and meeting centres have served their purposes well, they do not have the capacity to host, say, inter-governmental meetings of the United Nations or the G77 congress, Mohamad Othman said.
Our centre has been designed specifically to be able to accommodate that kind of numbers.
The centre, which sits imposingly on the highest point of the Putrajayas south side, was officially handed over to the Government by Putrajaya Holdings yesterday in a glittering ceremony attended by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, marking the completion of a 24-month hectic construction schedule.
Built on a fast track plan at a total cost of RM650mil, the centre spans a floor area of about 135,000 sq metres, divided into seven levels and three main halls: a plenary hall for 3,000 people; a banquet hall with extensive kitchen facilities catering to 2,000 people; and a stunning Head of States Hall for 180 VVIPs.
In addition to these amenities, the centre also has seven bilateral rooms, one VVIP lounge, 33 meeting rooms, one restaurant, two public galleries, three prayer rooms, two smaller halls, 10 conference rooms and 1,198 parking bays at two lower basement levels.
Mohamad Othman said that hosting international conferences was a good way of attracting visitors to a country.
For example, the Australian Tourist Commission found that 75% of its visitors are international convention delegates who otherwise would not have entered that country.
This convention centre will also enable Malaysia to gain a firmer footing in global politics and play a more active role in international decision-making, he said.
However, the real idea behind the Putrajaya Convention Centre was the realisation that the capital needed an icon a building of some stature to complement the majestic dome of the Prime Ministers Office at the other end of the city, Mohamad Othman said.
But we would like to stress that this is not just an icon for Putrajaya. Its an icon for the whole country. Malaysians should be proud of it, he said.
The centre also boasts of a wireless system for language interpretation. The system is believed to be the first of its kind to be installed in Malaysia and uses infrared radiators. It is capable of allowing interpretation of 32 languages at the same time.
On the third floor, the centre has a viewing deck from which diplomats and delegates can feast on one of the most tantalising views of Putrajayas famously well-planned vistas.
Perched atop a hill at 60m above sea level, the centre sits over a scenic 4.2km boulevard extending from the Prime Ministers Office in the distance, across the Seri Saujana and the Seri Gemilang bridges, and bordered by government offices. It is this boulevard that will be the highlight of the National Day parade come Aug 31.
The centre also has one of the tightest security systems ever put in place for a building in the country.
Because of previous experiences at other convention centres overseas, the centre comes packed with security features. The building enables the evacuation of its occupants within 10 minutes and it is thoroughly designed to handle all possibilities.
Security is uppermost in minds of the authorities, he said.