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Asean Bintulu Fertiliser, Bintulu

The client’s brief called for office space for 200 staff members in a building that was energy efficient and flexible – the usual hallmarks of a modern and progressive work environment.

What was un-expected and not ‘progressive’ was the client’s request for the demolition of the existing offices, and for the new building to sit on the cleared site.

The existing office building is a cluster of five blocks with steeply pitched pyramidal roofs and a Minangkabau roof as the entrance statement. The existing buildings had maintenance problems including water leakage.

The existing site was cradled by low hills with mature trees; it is relatively low-lying when compared to its surroundings. The question remained whether the existing building needed to be demolished to make way for this building; as we are aware that these buildings are part of the site’s history.

We then decided to partially demolish the existing two buildings and to merge them with the new 4-storey Administrative Building.  With the demolition of the front portion of the existing buildings, a space has opened up in the front of the buildings – this would serve as the forecourt to the NAB.

The new building has a rectilinear floor plan with the long elevations facing North-South; the typical floor plan was broadly divided into SERVED and SERVANT spaces; a large open plan office that overlooks the planted hillside supported by the shared spaces such as meeting rooms and pantries are located along the north face facing the tree court and plaza.

This project demonstrates how existing structures can be incorporated in new designs without compromising the new or old. Ultimately – we believe that existing structures on site should take precedence above all else as they represent material and emotional investment of the past.

The PAM Awards committee awarded this a Silver Medal in the Commercial Category in 2011, the jury citation reads “A refreshingly modern yet sensitive approach in the design of a new office building; taking care to retain existing structures to involve them in a conversation with the new building.  The design of the work environment is thoughtfully balanced with communal spaces. “