Designing for the betterment of his hometown sees Malaysian walk away with the NPYDA Gold Award in architecture

POSTED 4 years ago

Nippon Paint Younger Designer Award Gold Winner in Architecture.

The recently concluded 8th Nippon Paint Young Designers Award (NPYDA) saw a Malaysian participant from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) walk away with the Gold Award in the Architecture category. But what made his work stand out apart of those of his peers from around the region? Was it the ultra modern approach in design or the technological aspects incorporated? It actuality, it was neither.

For Tan Kwon Chong, his submission for an Eco-Learning Market Centre designed specifically for his hometown of Pontian Kechil located in the southern state of Johor, Malaysia was an expression of "Design with Heart" the theme of the NPYDA. In this small fishing village he calls home, Kwon Chong wanted to create and present a design that would transform the socio-economic environment of this sleepy village; in a way that gives back and benefits the local community while still packaged in a more compelling design of space.

In the initial planning phase, he interviewed and spoke to the local community to gain insight and to better focus the direction of the planned structure. After all design for pure designs sake without purpose would not serve the betterment of the community. The result of Kwon Chong's efforts is this unique mix of eco-learning that focuses on the daily work of the local fisherman and packaged together with a better equipped marketplace to transform and improve the way business is done in Pontian Kechil and help facilitate improvements to the socio-economic opportunities for the local community. 

With the selected site for the development fronting a lovely river side, its impact on the surrounding environment played a critical role. By taking into account the lay of the land, looking into more sustainable architectural design and highlighting design influences that reflect the sites history, this eco-learning marketplace presents its own unique style that is relevant to the area. Without drawing from more sleek modern designs, Kwon Choong instead selected the traditional bamboo "perangkap ikan" or fish trap commonly used by fisherman as the defining element.  

Combined with a more open design that allows natural light and wind to permeate the different spaces of the marketplace, the spaces created focus more on the interaction with space as well as a space that the local community can utilize for gatherings and functions. The incorporation of locally available materials and reclaimed timber further decreases the overall impact on development costs while a unique modular approach allowing the marketplace and eco-learning centre to be built in phases makes it a more feasible development. One that beautifully benefits a community that more often than not falls below the radar but one critical in the overall scheme of things. 

For more information about the NPYDA (now renamed as Asia Young Designer Award), please log on to their website at