Arch Daily, May 23, 2015
Architects: RT+Q Architects
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Photographs: Courtesy of RT+Q Architects
From the architect. The Capers is a mixed residential development comprising two 36-storey towers and two 5-storey blocks of residential apartments, rising from the piano nobile of a landscaped carparking podium. It is located amidst the suburban sprawl of Sentul, 5 km north of the Kuala Lumpur city-centre. It occupies 4.3 acres amongst various other land-parcels within the larger Sentul Masterplan. It is developed by YTL LAND under the leadership of Dato Yeoh Seok Kian — mastermind, risk-taker and visionary.
THE AESTHETIC IDEA
The search for architectural form began from an interpretation of the site: its flat terrain and geography, and its rugged landscape of greenery and parks. The organic form of the towers drew inspiration from the soft billowing ‘lalang grass’ and weeds that grow wild in the area.
The meandering and free form of The Capers complement, in a counter-intuitive manner, the shapes and rigorous geometry of the other tower blocks of Sentul, developed previously by YTL. While The Capers is a ‘relative’ amongst other YTL residential developments in Sentul (like The Tamarind, The Saffron etc), its playful semantics and naughty aesthetics can also be enjoyed literally as a caper — a prank — amidst the austere urban conditions of Sentul. Since the emergence of its form, it has garnered nicknames like ‘the crooked building’, ‘the up-ended battleship’, ‘the kris’, and ‘the bengkok building’ amongst taxi drivers, inquisitive passers-by and curious onlookers.
THE PROGRAMMATIC AND URBAN DEMANDS
The vision was to create a new designed urban environment to stimulate urban revival and to provide about 500 units of mid-cost housing in Sentul. Conceived as part of a larger masterplan of buildings, bridges, parks, gardens and railroad corridors, The Capers is the high-rise residential counterpoint (in form and in usage) to a series of adjacent low-rise office and commercial blocks.
The residential units consist of flats, maisonettes, penthouses, bridge units and townhouses designed around a forum of landscaping, greenery, water-features, swimming pools, pavilions and amenities like function rooms, gymnasiums, prayer rooms, childcare centres, playgrounds and laundromats; in essence, it is a vital microcosm of a larger and mature urban context. The towers are oriented with views towards Batu Caves (the region’s tourist attraction of limestone cave temples) to the north and the Petronas Twin Towers (until recently the world’s tallest buildings) to the south.
THE STRUCTURAL AND CONSTRUCTION CHALLENGE
The construction is borne out of a series of modest building methods, materials and structural design. For instance, the twists and turns of the building form is a result of simple laws of physics: as the floor-slabs are ‘pushed out’ every floor to sculpt the slanted profile of the tower, the building ‘knows when to turn back’ as gravity looms and common-sense prevails.
The structural design is predominantly an interlocking series of reinforced concrete vertical shear walls and horizontal flat slabs. This rudimentary economy of its structure belies the challenges encountered, subsequently, on site. For instance, the jagged form of the towers prevent normal methods of hoisting, delivery and installation. Common construction methods were rethought and improvised.
Materials like aluminium panelling and steel edge-detailing were deployed as a leitmotif to express a fresh aesthetic to the prevailing multicolour and plaster-and-paint Sentul experience. Details of metallic fins and edges were also incorporated to preserve proportions and geometry of the design.