By Jason Lim Robb Report Malaysia Issue 11 October 2015/ Money / Page 148
We caught up with Chris Wong from c’arch architecture + design, with the intention of understanding the concept of Park Manor from the project architect’s perspective. As tea and coffee were being sipped, we revealed a deeper calling…
“Did you know that I use to teach?” The rhetorical question resonated with a hint of excitement and nostalgia, and I knew we had entered a subject of passion. Chris Wong, founder of c’arch architecture + design, began his architectural studies in US and continued the latter part of his course in Cambridge, UK. “I spent a year teaching before returning home to Malaysia,” he continued.
Referring to the quote on the first page of Park Manor’s brochure which reads, “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it”, Chris points out that the emphasis is on HOME. After 14 years away from “home”, Chris returned to Malaysia. “I started feeling lonely as my friends slowly left UK during the recession of 1991. And visiting different friends each Christmas is different from spending Christmas with my own family.”
That’s why Park Manor has been designed for intimacy. “We make lifelong friends and impressionable memories from our teens.” A cosy path connects all 41 homes and the pavilion near the swimming pools was designed to “sparkle like jewellery.” The ornamental pavilion and the meandering paths serve to bring back meaning to the words “neighbour” and “community”.
Today, Chris is a father of 2 children, aged 5 and 7 years old. In a serious tone, “I now have greater responsibility as a parent.” He continues, “Education never ends. My style of leadership is less of a dictatorship. I prefer to add value through demonstrations. It liberates thinking. I’ve worked with different developers over the years and prefer to lead by example. It’s more constructive. It’s all about making a difference.”
Chris reminisces, “I’ve had some great teachers (Dalibor Vesely) in my life. One of them has taught Daniel Lebiskind (Info on Wikipedia).” Chris is also grateful for his first opportunity in 1992, upon returning to KL. “I didn’t have any experience and the only word of caution from the client was, ‘make it look beautiful or else I will never come and see the building’.” He laughs.
“It took 20 years before developers started approaching c’arch,” Chris explained with pride. “We have some new guys in their 30s, who’ve just joined. c’arch is going through a cycle of re-birth, with the mingling of fresh ideas and energy with my experiences and teaching.”
Our conversation ends with Chris explaining his latest endeavour to “make a difference.” He has collaborated with friends to help a monk in Thailand to start the Dhammagiri Foundation’s orphanage for forty children in Mae Hong Son. He shows us his design of the library: a sketch etched with his life’s ideas and principles.