Lenggong Valley Visitor Centre - UNESCO World Heritage Site
Lenggong Valley Visitor Centre - UNESCO World Heritage Site
(1st Prize Award)
Ar Kamal Alwi
Abdul Warith Zaki
Noorul Fadzlee Khamis
© 2013 CITYLABPROJECTS.SDN.BHD
LENGGONG VALLEY was brought up to UNESCO World Heritage status in June 2012. Prominent archaeological findings around the valley include 10,000 year old Perak Man’s skeleton and the 40,000 year old layer of the Toba volcanic ash. The discovery of Perak Man remains as one of the most important archaeological finding in Malaysia to date.
Inspired by the meticulous and highly time consuming work of the archaeologists, from excavation up to processing and analysing the findings. It stimulates the design team to analyse the vertebrae and developed it into individual components which are then linked up as a structural system that would conform to the contours and site boundary. Immense research was undertaken in finding a lightweight and strong material to take the form, the idea is to avoid deep excavation to preserve the potential antiquities that lies underneath the ground surface.
The Perak Man and his society were walled and roofed by nature, therefore the research concluded to giant grass, bamboo. It is a highly sustainable material that grows in abundance in Malaysia. After all, utilizing bamboo as the primary material made it possible to "grow and cultivate" the whole architecture on site.
Having all that in mind, the Lenggong Valley Visitor Centre is the manifestation of an idea where the form meets structure in harmony with nature. The form seems to sits comfortably, ensconced against the sloping terrain almost like a fossil waiting to be discovered. The play between enclosed and porous spaces of the bamboo structures takes the visitors through the site reenacting the life of the Perak Man under the forest canopy.
The bundled bamboo structure spans through spaces and at some parts, open to the surrounding landscape to give a living connection to nature. To further emphasize the presence of nature, the centre courtyard would be planned for a re-forestation program. It may not be able to address the global deforestation issue that had caused extinction of wildlife and pollution, but at a smaller scale, will demonstrate how the process could be reversed to increase the biodiversity within the area. It can start with regeneration using few fast growing pioneer tree species that restore the microclimate for the incoming multi layered forest of diverse tree species.
The natural forest is indeed part of local heritage. Its presence would be meaningful in nurturing the public on the relationship between man and nature. Upon its maturity, a canopy walk would be introduced to the loop creating an alternative route overlooking the forest and possible excavation sites underneath and among the trees. Even the internal circulation can meander into the courtyard passing through excavation. Visitors could walk along the canopy walk to participate in a voyeuristic journey witnessing excavations from above, be it live excavation by a team of archaeologists or an artificial excavation organised for the visitors’ participation.
The existing building blocks will remain as the administrative centre and multipurpose hall. The buildings will undertake an internal overhaul creating a more conducive working environments. Accomodations would be retrofitted for visiting archaeologists and researchers.
The main showcase, of which consisting of exhibits in chronological order, would be within the loop created by the new bamboo structure. The space would form a circuit of dig site exhibits, archaeological galleries, time tunnels, visitor's amenities and an amphitheatre, all within the building loop. Customised smart phone application could also be uploaded to give extended information and virtually guide the visitors through the space. A combination of full scale model, hologram-like display and sound domes, curates visitors through time & nature.
A look out point is placed strategically at the peak of the site, to view the full panorama of the Lenggong Valley where they can learn about the locations of various archaeological sites in relation to the ancient Perak River. As the earlier palaeolithic settlements such as at Kota Tampan and Bukit Jawa was strategically located along the ancient Perak River where excavation has revealed undisturbed ancient stone tool workshop dated back to 200,000 years ago
The visitors would then be passing through a multipurpose area that could be used for interactive activities and seasonal exhibits. It provides exhibition opportunities for archeologists and even artist to display their work to add variety or even as a focal point to the visitor’s experience.
At the end of the loop, where the current retaining wall near the entrance parking is, a semi outdoor lecture amphitheatre is built against the slope. It softens the hard retaining wall and naturally blends it back into the terrain profile. The space is partly opened to the new forest courtyards allowing nature to be part of the experience.
The public amenities located at the end of the loop would also demonstrate the values we learn from man-nature relationship. Rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling would be applied to the facilities. Even the food waste produced by the café would be turned into compost used as nutrient to the landscaping which would have a substantial percentage of edible plants. Fresh vegetables and ‘ulams‘ would be served at the Café demonstrating a closed loop recycling system.
To conclude, this proposal is conceived beyond just a visitor's centre but also as a knowledge environment that generate, process and re-deploy the archaeological findings for public consumption to connect the human heritage of Lengong with current and future understanding of mankind. It will be made as a HUB for researchers & visitors to further explore the network of archaeological sites within the surrounding area around Lenggong. Aspirations for Archeo-Tourism is growing and with the right planning & implementation, Lengong could land itself with a bright future with the connection to its heritage past.