JUNK=ED

‘Junk=ed’ is an elective project for architecture students at Taylor’s University School of Architecture, Building and Desgin (SABD) that explores the aesthetic of upcycling. The project was conducted in partnership with #BetterCities, an initiative based in Kuala Lumpur focused on improving urban living and environments through creative intervention, critical discourse and grassroots participation.

Five groups responded to the challenge of transforming five bus stops in Bandar Sunway into better places. They looked at the usability of unconventional materials sourced from junkyards with a minimal budget to house and satisfy the needs of the local community through creative solutions. The groups, suitably named in accordance to their various concepts, were ‘Narkali Project’, ‘Project Ketuk-Ketuk’, ‘The Shelter’, ‘Project Mesej’ and ‘The Fence’.

Bachelor of Science (Hons) Architecture students Tan Wan Zheng from ‘Narkali Project’ and Lawrence Chua from ‘The Shelter’ shared their unforgettable experience.

On the CONCEPT

Wan Zheng:
The bus stop that we were assigned did not have a chair and so our project was obviously to build one. The chair was built mainly for the community living in the flat located not far from the bus stop. The community mainly comprises of Indians, which is why the project was named the ‘Narkali Project’. The word ‘Narkali’ means ‘chair’ in Tamil. We hope that building a chair at the bus stop would help the community at PJS 7 to be able to rest while waiting for their buses.

The concept of the chair was generated from the intention of promoting interaction. The chair has a unique retractable feature that encourages the passengers waiting for the bus to interact with each other. It is thus an interaction tool. Apart from that, the chair takes into consideration the frequent rainy days of Malaysian weather where when it happens, secondary chairs that are kept under the chair remain dry, allowing passengers to sit on them when the primary chair is wet.
 

Lawrence:
Our site is located at an industrialised area where "conceptual" and "awareness" based ideas were hardly workable. Hence, our final idea was solely based on solving the problem at hand and providing for the wants of the bus stop users. We maintained the existing element of the site – the visual connectivity to the surroundings, and provided a solution – the shelter. It was a practical based idea; the final installation actually created a better bus stop for the users and allowed them to interact physically.
 

On the CHALLENGES FACED

Wan Zheng:
We faced various challenges from material sourcing up to the construction phase. The major challenge was actually to transfer the idea into a realistic chair. What we had previously planned did not turn out as expected. Fortunately, we had started early, which allowed time for inevitable spontaneous changes. Throughout the construction phase, we, as a team of five, would brainstorm for the fastest and simplest way to solve the endless problems that cropped up. We would often sit down to discuss and plan the ‘work-need-to-be-done’ for the next phase. This usually happened between the stages – when we finished the previous phase and were moving on to the next phase. Appropriate planning was really important.

Lawrence:
We indeed faced a number of challenges. The most critical one was deciding the final look of the proposed structure. As the surface area of where we were going to put up the structure was rather large, we struggled to come up with a design that would solve the issue while taking into account the aesthetic value, time and limited budget. Thanks to the helpful lecturers, we managed to deliver. During the structure processing and pre-installation at the workshop, our group took a longer time compared to the other groups as we wanted our project to be modular and easily detachable. We had to get all the individual components precisely measured, cut, drilled and so on. We were quite worried that we would not be able to finish on time but fortunately, we managed to get what you see on site done through sleepless nights and tiring weeks.

On the BENEFITS OF THE PROJECT

Wan Zheng:
This project is undeniably beneficial for the community living in the nearby flat. We asked the people who used the chair after it was fixed on the site and they were really happy with it. Gone are the days when they had to stand and wait for their buses which were usually not on time. Last but not least, the project really helped all five members in our team in understanding the value of civic responsibility and community engagement.

Lawrence:
This project is beneficial to the local community as what is provided by the authorities may be lacking in comfort. Although what we have done may have only solved small problems, we think it was certainly a crucial and great initiative taken to raise the concern of relevant authorities to look into feedback from the users to improve the facilities. By providing shelter at the bus stop, we hope that users would feel more comfortable waiting for buses in comparison to the past. At the very least, they are no longer affected by splashes from the rain and the glare from the sun.

On the IMPACT ON SELF

Wan Zheng:
The project has definitely made an impact on me. From being totally clueless about constructing furniture, we managed to produce a real chair! Every single step was a learning process: sourcing materials, picking the right screws and nails, taking apart the wooden palettes, cutting the materials by the correct measurements, fixing the wheels and not forgetting the battle with endless problems that cropped up during the construction stage. It required hands-on experience and knowledge!

Lawrence:
I was assigned to be the team leader to overlook the whole project. It allowed me to have a first-hand experience of how project management would be carried out on a real site. In the end, it allowed me to thoroughly understand how small ideas can create big impacts when transformed from blueprints into real life structures. I am proud of our team and felt a sense of achievement upon completion of the project. That, I must say, is the glorious plus side of doing this subject.

Watch the full video for ‘Project Narkali’ and ‘The Shelter’.

For more information about ‘junk=ed’ and #BetterCities as well as videos of other bus stop projects, visit facebook.com/junkequaled and facebook.com/bettercities.