KEM JENERA LONGHOUSE (2004), KELANTAN, MALAYSIA
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Design Team

Tay Kheng Soon
Raymond Ang


Design Data

Client/Developer - Sarifudin Budin Mohd

Text

Tay Kheng Soon (preface)
Raymond Ang

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PREFACE

The Kelah (Tor tambroides) is the most revered fish in Malaya found in many rivers including the Nenggiri. Nenggiri River is affected by severe erosion due to logging and road works.
Sharifudin Budin Mohd. was able to obtain the agreement of the Kelantan State government to grant 40 km of upper Nenggiri consisting of 4 tributaries leading to that section of the Nenggiri River itself. The condition was that he had to prove that river conservation is economically viable as an alternative to further logging.


Accordingly he has developed an eco-tourism plan for the whole area which includes the livelihood of the inhabitants. Central to the plan is Kelah conservation. This involves firstly the study of the life cycle of the fish, its attendant eco-system, and the bio-botanical ecosystem surrounding the eco-system. This is already underway with funds from International organizations. Part of the program would also involve commercial breeding and harvesting of the fish for the market. This an important part of the program because it will undermine traditional destructive harvesting methods of this valuable fish – dynamiting, netting and poisons are often used to catch it, causing irreparable damage to the eco-system. Catch and release fishing is another part of the program. Anglers form all over the world would pay top dollar to experience the environment and to fish for the Kelah.


The native Orang Asli belonging to the Temair tribe are very much part of the plan. The Temiar “dream people “of the Northern Malayan forests are in full support of the scheme and will act as eyes and ears against poaching and other destructive activities.”

 

THE PROCESS


Kem Jenera at the promontory at the confluence of 2 rivers (Jenera River, Nenggiri River), consists of a main longhouse with adjoining open deck, kitchen and dining hall, workers’ quarters, composting toilets, oxidation pond.
An experiment was conducted to bend bamboo into arches to support the roof, making the central longhouse space column free. Orang Asli Sewang dancing, communal activities both traditional and contemporary (e.g. gatherings of Orang Asli caretakers of the Centre, housing seasonal sport anglers, scientific discussions) would then take place spatially unimpeded, enhancing human interactions.
The experiment failed. Not enough detailed study on the bending properties of the indigenous bamboo species was carried out. The bamboo broke when arched. In the end, bamboo triangulated trusses, with slender greenwood columns to prop up the middle parts of each truss.
This main longhouse is 21m long and 9m wide, raised 3m above gently sloping ground on merbau timber columns, piled by traditional methods of leverage-piling using human weight.
The bamboo woven floor matting on bamboo rafters rhythmically flexes in hypnotic resonance to the Orang Asli Sewang Dance. Incidentally this is held to placate the spirit of an Orang Asli Medicine Man (nicknamed Tok Durian) who died and was buried at the foot of a durian tree nearby in the 1950s.
Space under the longhouse is used for storage. Bonfires are lit below to burn waste and get rid of nyamuk.
The longhouse’s open deck is raised on greenwood whose slenderness resulted in V-shaped groupings for adequate compression resistance. The deck skirts around an adjacent fruit tree, whose extensive branches arches over and defines the deck space.
Palm Thatch is harvested nearby and woven as the wide overhanging roofs. The roof has 2 jacked upper sections to facilitate ventilation and let indirect light in.
Only 1 merbau hardwood tree was chopped down for the Longhouse’s structural purposes. Bamboo, fast growing, readily replenisible, is largely used. Roof rafters, floor joists, balustrade, open deck, are mostly bamboo. Almost no metal nails were used. Rattan harvested on site was extensively used to secure. Whatever little greenwood used in proportion to bamboo was harvested from a few sporadic small, fast growing trees.
The kitchen, toilets are similarly constructed of bamboo with merbau structural columns. The toilets are positioned up the slope from the longhouse high above the flood level. Decomposable Waste generated is channeled to sedimentation tanks, before the partially purified water flows to an oxidation pond nearby where kangkong is grown.
The Raised Workers’ Quarters, smaller than the longhouse, is similar in construction and proportions. It is positioned at the site’s edge to guard against elephants likely to appear and cause damage.
The terrain is inaccessible to land vehicles. Materials and equipment used were limited to river transportation by small perahus propelled by small 5 horsepower engines over shallow waters.
The construction labourers were largely from the Orang Asli village nearby, with the rest, plus construction foreman from Kampong Star.
Small hydro-powered dynamos recycled and reconfigured from old truck engines provide electricity. No generator is used to respect the river’s incessant rush and hush.
2 notions were central in design execution:
Modernity insofar that it is universal in spirit has as its starting point, specificity towards a given place at a given time in advancing fundamental human necessities. And only when the latter is addressed fully can it then be acknowledged universally as human progress. Progress as civilization’s prime mover is universal, timeless and boundary-less, neither East, West, old, new.
Elegance arises from precise, economical actions / thoughts, eradication of wasteful actions / thoughts, to maximize labour / material input. Complete foundational knowledge and autonomy of ethics is a priori before poetic elegance, poems being epigrammatic encapsulation of meaning in but a few lines after complete mastery of whole languages.

THE EXPERIENCE

late July 2004……
I stand at the edge inside the longhouse. My eyes drift beyond wide, low shade of the overhanging roof towards the setting sunlight brilliant in contrast, playfully scattered and dancing with the river’s ageless sprint.
Shortly the sun sets, as abrupt as it can get in this part of the world. Outside, on the raised bamboo deck, the moon benevolently rewards my patience by gracefully disentangling from the hilly backdrop of silhouetted trees, insect orchestra chorusing an ode to her as she gently caresses me with her soft regal aura. The order of kasar and halus circumscribed within Nengirri’s semangat is wordlessly all-encompassing, predestined, unquestioned.
Man, Nature as One.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

siteplan

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cross section

elevation

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section through podium

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lourve details

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context

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