PROF. KENNETH YEANG

Dr. Ken Yeang was born 1948 is a Malaysia architect and ecologist whose planning and designs have had the constancy of the theoretical framework of ecological and bioclimatic premises for almost 40 years. Beginning his architectural practice in l974, Yeang continues his research and designs by constantly interpreting his theoretical and technical work into actual designs, built projects and master plans around the world. In addition to a fulltime practice that encompasses large scale projects, skyscrapers, and ecomasterplanning, Yeang has been a prolific writer of books about ecodesign and a visiting scholar at universities in Australia, China, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He apparently has a son called Max and lives in Mayfair.

Born in 1948 Penang (Pulau, Pinang) Malaysia, Yeang attended Cheltenham College in Gloucestershire, England, received his first qualification in architecture from the Architectural Association in London, and received a PhD in ecological design from Cambridge University (UK. His dissertation was entitled, “A Theoretical Framework for the Ecological Design and Planning of the Built Environment”.

As a principal in T. R. Hamzah and Yeang in Kuala Llumpur, Malaysia, since 1975, he was instrumental in developing the design of passive-modelow energy skyscrapers,as bioclimatic skyscrapers. As a result of his energy conserving innovations, Yeang has designed skyscrapers in London, Singapore, Kuwait, Canada, China, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. The firm has also designed master plans for both sites and multi-building complexes in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, and China.

Yeang is regarded as the ‘father’ or ‘inventor’ of the bioclimatic skyscraper, largely the result of his book ‘The Skyscraper: Bioclimatically Considered’ (1997 John Wiley & Sons). University of Washington Professor Udo Kulterman stated, “Professor Ken Yeang is internationally renowned as the “father” of the “sustainable bioclimatic buildings”. His bioclimatic buildings extend to low-rise high density and sub-grade structures. Ken Yeang’s architecture is based on his theoretical ecological studies published in The Green Skyscraper: The Basis for Designing Ecological Sustainable Buildings (l999 Prestel) in which he addresses the ecological design of large buildings and skyscrapers. Early work, incorporating bioclimatic principles as passive low-energy design, led to his ecologically sustainable agenda. Early experiments include the Roof-Roof House in Kuala Lumpur (1985), providing a louvered umbrella structure over the building. Yeang’s early focus applies bioclimatic principles to skyscraper design.”

In 2005 Yeang became design director (and subsequently Chairman in 2010) of the venerable English firm of Llewelyn Davies, which rebranded as Llewelyn Davies Yeang with headquarters in London. The combined firms of Llewelyn Davies Yeang and T. R. Hamzah and Yeang have offices in London, Kuala Lumpur, Shenzen, and Beijing. Bold text

Theoretical basis of work and impact on architecture and the environment: Ken Yeang is regarded, by his peers, as a man ahead of his time. He recognized 40 years ago that global warming and increased contamination of the environment would adversely affect the natural balance of biodiversity and ecosystems. Applying the ecology based approach to master planning of one of his mentors, Ian McHarg, Yeang has successfully applied those principles to architecture.

Yeang uses his concepts of ecodesign in all of his architectural projects. Through constant experimentation over many decades Yeang developed a solid reputation as a pioneer, advocate, and innovator of authentic bioclimatic ecological design. By the mid l990’s private and public clients around the world have selected him for their ecomasterplans and architectural ecodesigned projects.

Based on the principles of ecomimicry (a term he invented), all of Yeang’s architectural ecodesigns and masterplans achieve a connectivity and benign biointegration between the human built environment and the surrounding ecosystems.

The current environmental concerns have produced a generation of architects and engineers who approach “green” design and construction through ecoengineering or simple compliance to green accreditation systems (such as LEED, BREEAM, and Green Globes, for example) around the world. To Yeang, these practices,while relevant and progressive, but do not constitute authentic “green” design in totality.

As Yeang stated in his Cambridge University PhD dissertation in the l970’s, “It is easy to be misled or seduced by technology and to think that if we assemble enough eco-gadgetry in the form of solar collectors, photovoltaic cells, biological recycling systems, building-automation systems and double-skin facades in one single building that this can automatically be considered ecological architecture. Although these technologies are commendable applications of low-energy systems, they are merely useful components leading towards ecological architecture; they represent some of the means of achieving an ecological end product. Ecological design is not just about low-energy systems; to be fully effective, these technologies need to be thoroughly integrated into the building fabric; they will also be influenced by the physical, ecological and climatic conditions of the site. The nature of the problem is therefore site specific. There will never be a standard “one size fits all” solution.”

As a consequence of his strong beliefs in ecomimicry, Yeang’s design projects focus on achieving benign and seamless biointegration, that includes reduced or zero dependency on non-renewable sources of energy, enhanced ecological nexus through devices such as eco-land bridges, eco-undercrofts, vertical landscaping, ecocells, green living walls, ecological corridors and fingers which reach into the landscape and towards the sky at the same time. Some of the devices he uses in his buitforms include light shelves, light pipes, skycourts, vertical linked enclosed green atriums, and windscoops. They seek to minimize disruptions with the adjoining ecosystems and to maintain the sensitive ecobalance. His most recent advances include the setting of biodiversity targets and the creation of new viable habitats within his builtforms and their surrounds.

Yeang’s ecomasterplans establish, through design, a single living system that is both interactive and functional and requires biointegration of four ecoinfrastructural armatures in order to be an overall coherent system: 1) green infrastructure which includes nature’s corridors and networks that link open spaces and the habitats for fauna and flora; 2) grey infrastructure which includes sustainable engineering systems such as roads, sewage, and utilities; 3) blue infrastructure which encompasses hydrological management, water conservation, sustainable drainage, bioswales, filtration strips, retention ponds, and storm water management; 4) red infrastructure which includes the built environment, enclosures, and hardscapes and human socio-economic and political systems. This is a ground breaking approach to ecomasterplanning that provides a general framework that allows an inclusiveness of complex factors, but has a flexibility that slows obsolescence.

Architecture, the built environment, and humanity: contributions and impact

Ken Yeang’s single minded pursuit of ecodesign through his designs, built works, masterplanning work and writings for close to four decades has influenced countless architects all around the world, as professionals in a wide range of fields not just in the way they approach ecodesign and planning but aesthetically – what a green building should look like.

Because ecodesign in the l970’s did not have the benefit of research or academic theoretical models and frameworks, Yeang did his own research, design, and development of ecological processes that could be replicated in manmade structures. As a result, he has written several key books on ecological design, including Designing with Nature (1995 McGraw-Hill),The Skyscraper, Bioclimatically Considered: A Design Primer (1997 John Wiley & Sons)), The Green Skyscraper: The Basis for Designing Sustainable Intensive Buildings (1999 Prestel), Reinventing the Skyscraper: A Vertical Theory of Urban Design (2002 John Wiley & Sons), Ecodesign: A Manual for Ecological Design (2006 Wiley-Academy), and Eco-Masterplanning (2009 John Wiley & Sons), Eco Design Dictionary, an Illustrated Reference with co-author Lillian Woo (2009 Taylor and Francis, London), and is currently co-authoring with Ms. Woo Ecomimesis: Ecological Design for the Built Environment Using Natural Processes as a Model. Few architects who design and build, write – Yeang’s theoretical and technical research and recording these prolifically sets him apart from the other green architects

There have also been a dozen monographs authored by others of Yeang’s work between l989 and a forthcoming publication by Sara Hart (2010 John Wiley & Sons).

Yeang has lectured at many schools of architecture and conferences in over 30 countries. He has been Professor or Practice at Texas A & M University; Distinguished Plym Professor at the University of Illinois; Graham Willis Chair Professor, University of Sheffield; Provost’s Distinguished Visiting Scholar, University of Southern California; Advisory Professor, Tongji University (Shanghai), Honorary Professor, University of Hong Kong, and Adjunct Professor at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, University of Hawaii, University of New South Wales, Curtin University (USA), University of Malay, Deakin University (Australia).

He has also mentored senior design students at the University of Hong Kong; University of Nebraska; Louisiana State University; Illinois Institute of Technology; University of Cardiff (Wales); University of Sheffield (UK); University of Newcastle (UK);, Deakin University (Australia); Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (Australia), University of New South Wales (Australia); and National University of Singapore.

Architectural design: contributions and impact:

Ken Yeang has created outstanding designs throughout his 40 year professional career and continues his original and fresh approach to the forms and shapes of his buildings. If Yeang’s buildings were judged solely on their beauty, boldness, originality, and imagination, they would have, and already have, received critical acclaim and architectural awards.

However, Yeang’s enormous design talent has been coupled with his pursuit of ecomimetic design that melds nature and its processes with a wide range of form and space for a building’s intended purpose. Yeang has pursued and developed an architectural style for ecodesign – a new “green” aesthetic. This new aesthetic does not have the shape or form of any building that has been done before and does not in any way resemble existing prevailing architectural styles. This new aesthetic is an independent style that encompasses ecodesign holistically through its thorough understanding of ecosystems. It is, in other words, authentic ecodesign whose shapes and forms combine and incorporate building features that are directly connected with adjoining ecosystems, take full advantage of the natural site harmoniously, minimize pollutants and other negative consequences, and are more energy efficient than conventional buildings. Yeang demonstrates that ecomimetically designed buildings necessarily establish a green aesthetic of their own. In a word, Yeang’s ecodesigns produce shapes that tantalize the imagination by their organic, “green and hairy” characteristics.

This new aesthetic has won praise from workers and visitors of these structures. This assessment has been underscored by architects, critics, and design awards juries.

Yeang’s recent new projects exemplify the maturing of Yeang’s design work with a growing confidence which now has an evidently ecoaesthetic that defines his own independent architectural style.

Yeang began garnering awards for his designs in l989, and since then he has been recognized for his extraordinary designs with over 35 awards, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for his Menara Mesiniaga.

Yeang has designed over 200 projects since 1975. His key benchmark buildings and projects include:

  • The Roof Roof House – Kuala Lumpur (l985) – bioclimatic house that rethought the idea of bioclimatic responses to passive-mode low energy building design .
  • Menara Mesiniaga Tower – Selangor, Malaysia (l992)- bioclimatic tower that exemplifies Yeang’s key principles for the design of the bioclimatic skyscraper
  • Kowloon Waterfront Masterplan – Hong Kong (c. 1998) – green masterplan with the use of ecoinfrastructures and ecocells
  • National Library of Singapore (2005) – green accredited tower that received the Green Mark Platinum Award
  • Soma Masterplan – Banagalore, India (2006) – signature ecomasterplan that espouses the idea of the horizontal ecoinfeastructure (horizontally).
  • DiGi Technical Office – Kuala Lumpur (under construction, anticipated completion 2010)- advances the idea of an ecowall as a nexus of greenery linking all the facades of the building.
  • Solaris – Singapore (under construction, anticipated completion 2010)- includes a 1.3km linear green park that wraps itself around the tower’s edge.
  • Spire Edge Tower – Gugaon, Delhi, India, (under construction, anticipated completion 2011), a signature tower that espouses the idea of a vertical eco-infrastructure,

Honors and exhibitions

There have been 18 exhibitions of Yeang’s bioclimatic works, from Tokyo to Berlin to New York, London, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Rotterdam dating from l985 through 2008. Yeang and his ecodesigns have been featured in a number of special broadcasts, including BBC television and radio, NHK (Japan) and Asia Discovery Channel, and Public Broadcasting System’s design=e2 in which he was specifically identified as one of three architects in the world who have the greatest influence on ecodesign. In the 5 January editionGuardian magazine Yeang was referred to as one of the ‘50 People who could save the Planet’,

In 2003 Yeang was awarded the Government of Malaysia’s Danjah Mulia Pangkuan Negen (DMPN) that carries with the official title of Dato. This is generally regarded as the Malaysian equivalent of the UK’s Order of the British Empire (OBE).

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