Counterpoint & complement

by TERESA CHOW on Jan 6, 2012 in Architecture
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Set to complete in 2016, the upcoming Angkasa Raya mixed-use complex will define a ‘harmonious contrast’ to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, says architect Ole Scheeren

When the Petronas Twin Towers were unveiled in the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur in 1998, they were the tallest office buildings in the world. Since then, they have become iconically associated with KL’s skyline – so when Ole Scheeren was invited to build a new skyscraper directly alongside the towers, he knew he needed to design something that was completely different – yet very respectful to them.
‘To do a twin tower facing the Petronas Twin Towers, one could only lose,’ he says. ‘But if you do a single tower, in a way you lose too, because how could you differentiate its identity from all the other surrounding towers?’
The brief for the Angkasa Raya project required the architect to utilise a relatively small plot of land to accommodate a high density mix-used project with offices, a hotel, residences and retail space. According to Scheeren, the complexity of the brief was that the hotel  had to be housed in a separate building. ‘In a way it was a real dilemma: The site was too small for two separate buildings, so it was almost an impossible request to begin with,’ he says.
The spectacular location of Angkasa Raya – directly facing the Petronas towers – also posed a distinct challenge for the design. The twin towers, explains Scheeren, are such a prominent structure that ‘you cannot design a building without considering their neighbouring presence’. Harmonious contrast, therefore, was the only solution.
Rather than a single mass, Angkasa Raya is made up of three cubic volumes which appear to float above open, horizontal layers. The ground levels form an interconnected spiral of both pedestrian and vehicular circulation and draw the diversity of the streetscape into the building. Urban life will be introduced to these levels with shops, a food court, car parks, terraces and prayer rooms. A second stack of horizontal slabs, the sky levels, is lifted up in the air, appearing to ‘hover’ above the city. Three ‘floating’ blocks accommodate serviced residences, a hotel and offices. The façades are clad with modular aluminium sun-shading, geometrically optimised and oriented to reduce solar heat gain.

With demolition of the existing building on the site completed in 2011, construction is set to begin in the first quarter of 2012, and the project is expected to complete in 2016.


 Read the full story in the February 2012 issue of Perspective magazine!