Ministry of Design adds extension to Malaysian heritage building

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Ministry of Design adds contemporary extension to century-old Malaysian heritage building

Singapore-based Ministry of Design has used a 100-year-old colonial building in Malaysia as a "cookie cutter" for a contemporary extension featuring the same profile and materials (+ slideshow).

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design

Ministry of Design was tasked with creating a showroom and office for Malaysian property developer Ecoworld. The building is on the edge of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Penang, and was already home to a historic bungalow – so architect Colin Seah had to adopt a sensitive approach.

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design

Rather than keeping the two structures separate, he chose to use the old building as the template for an extension, connected only by a thin strip of glazing.

"We were very interested in conveying the idea that the new building 'emerges' directly out of the historic building and could not exist without it," Seah told Dezeen.

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design

"To achieve that, we treated the heritage building like a cookie cutter, and 'extruded' the new building out from it," he said. "As a result, the new building shares exactly the sectional profile as the old, from its roof pitch to the moulding pattern on the facade."

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design

The extension has the same roof shape and height as its neighbour, but instead of the traditional colonnade and rows of windows, it features a fully glazed facade with a projecting canopy.

Inside, it accommodates a seven-metre-high space that can be used to host large events.

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design

"It was important for us to signal that the new building possessed its own contemporary spirit," said Seah, whose previous projects include a sharply pointed pavilion in China and a Singapore building with a rampart-like facade.

"We achieved this using several devices – the modern canopy, the vertical glass slits that mark each twist the new building makes, and the column-free seven-metre-high space on the inside," he said.

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design

Named the Eco Flow Building, the structure is located at a busy traffic junction on Macalister Road, which runs through the UNESCO-listed Melaka and George Town district.

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design

According to UNESCO, this area represents a "specific multicultural heritage" formed through over 500 years of trading and cultural exchanges between the East and the West.

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design

"The approach to new buildings here typically involves placing a generic glass box beside the historic building, but this project is different because we decided to find a more symbiotic and dynamic way of having old and new co-exist, in fact not just co-exist, but have the old inform the new, and have the new be still relevant rather than a pastiche," said Seah.

"Now that it is completed it has become a bit of a cultural icon in the city."

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design

Photography is by Edward Hendricks/CI&A photography.


Project credits:

Architectural design: Ministry of Design
Project team: Colin Seah, David Tan, Karen Wong, Inez Low, Marc Kho, Arnel Anonuevo, Don Castaneda
Developer: Ecoworld Development Sdn Bhd
Main contractor: TNH Group
Interior designer: Art et Domain
Landscape designer: Coen Design International
C&S: Team PDB Sdn Bhd
M&E: GH TAG Consultancy
Submissions Architect: BYG Architecture Sdn Bhd

Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design
Concept diagram – click for larger image
Eco Flow Building by Ministry of Design
Floor plans - click for larger image