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Native seeds inspire top design team to showcase Malaysia’s heritage at Milan Expo

Web Structures teamed up with acclaimed architects Hijjas Kasturi Associates to design the Malaysian Pavilion for Expo Milan 2015 in Italy.

The theme of the Milan Expo is Feeding The Planet, Energy For Life. Nutrition and sustainable development are global issues and 123 countries will gather to meet, discuss and debate the future of the planet.

Malaysia’s rich and diverse cultural heritage is evident in its culinary traditions and the country’s interpretation of the core Milan Expo theme is entitled “Towards a Sustainable Food Ecosystem”.

At the official Pavilion launch, the Malaysian Government predicted two million people will visit the exhibition space contributing to the Expo’s attempts to find the answers on how to ensure sufficient, safe and healthy food for all mankind.

The innovative design by Hijjas and Web Structures will hold its own at the Expo in comparison with other nations’ efforts.

The design draws inspiration from the humble rice seed and the seeds of the rich tropical rainforest of Malaysia - a metaphor for Malaysia’s own economic transformation from one based primarily on commodities and agriculture through export-oriented industrialisation, and one driven by higher value-added industry and services.

Complex structures and engineering play a major role in the design and construction of the pavilion and shows how Web Structures is at the forefront of redefining what is possible in engineering to make construction more sustainable and ease the carbon footprint on the planet.

The practice has developed detailed and step-by-step processes which do not allow the use of any more materials than is absolutely necessary.

In the built environment, Web Structures’ philosophy is to follow the fundamentals of sustainability, which is minimization of the carbon footprint, managing the water resources and applying energy management principles. Then sustainability will follow.

An important extension of Web Structures is Web Earth, set up in 2011 to deliver holistic solutions for creating eco-friendly buildings and infrastructures. The company specialises in sustainable building design, water resources and carbon management. Web Earth was also an integral part of the competition winning team and worked closely with the Hijas team.

Hijjas has been at the forefront of creating architecture with a strong sense of a modern aesthetic allied to a desire, since the 1970s, to express a distinct national identity in Malaysia.

The award-winning practice increasingly reflects sustainable design, socially responsible solutions to construction challenges.

Hijjas’s distinctive architecture includes some of Kuala Lumpur's iconic skyscrapers including Telekom Tower, Shell and Celcom towers respectively. Hijjas Kasturi’s work has received many honours, including the Tokyo Creation Award in 1998 and the Malaysian Architects Institute Gold Medal in 2001.

Other outstanding designs include Herriot-Watt City Campus University. Hijjas architects and planners are involved in designing Putrajaya, the nation's administration centre which includes designing the Putrajaya Convention Centre.

The pavilion spreads over 2,047 square metres, takes the shape of four seeds. The curves of the design and the weaving patterns on the structure reflect the versatility and dynamism of the nation.

The construction of the pavilion itself is a green building, using locally-sourced sustainable materials. The entire external structure of the seed will be constructed from ultra-light weight “Glulam” or glued laminated timber, produced by a Malaysian company.

Glulam possesses the inherently positive environmental characteristics common to all wood products but with the properties of steel structural materials.

As a structurally engineered timber product, the glue laminating process is able to produce a large single span of timber, a process not possible with solid sawn timber. Glulam material can create structural features to an almost limitless variety of straight and curved configurations.

The choice of Glulam, combined with the structurally complex design of our pavilion was deliberate so as to showcase Malaysian capabilities in both design and innovative materials.

The ramps and walkways of the Pavilion will be from reconstituted rice husk decking, a recycled material from paddy husks. Innovative design elements take advantage of the climate of the site and allow the interior to receive maximum daylight while maintaining a moderate temperature.

The journey through the seeds will be a discovery of Malaysia as a nation pursuing its socio-economic developmental goals in an innovative, sustainable and environmentally conscious manner.

The Malaysia Pavilion was officially launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin; the Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed; the Secretary-General Datuk Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, and the head of the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation, Datuk Dr Wong Lai Sum.

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