Saturday, 22 June 2013

a place to call home ( part 2 )


After leaving Rosli's house, as promised I invited Dr. Sab to my friend's house not far from here. I've been to the place few years back but it was at night. I can't actually locate the house as well. This is something like the journey to Rosli's house too. When we were at Rosli's house just now, I did make a call to my friend informing him that we are going to visit him afterwards.

"Assalamualikum, Jib, we are now somewhere in Kapar. After the traffic light, we take left and from here I don't know which route to follow."

"Ok., you just go straight towards Klang and you take the exit to North Port through Shapadu Highway and you just proceed, after Bandar Baru Sulaiman you take left towards West Port."

"I'll try to follow your instructions, if we can't find it, I'll disturb you again."

We just followed the direction given by my friend, Jib. The road sign to Klang is about 16 km. We missed the first exit of Shapadu Highway, it's not possible to make a U turn so we have to proceed towards Klang Town. I told Dr. Sab not to panic. We've been travelling all around the world and never get lost. This is only just Klang District, it's nothing to worry about. 

I tend to agree with Dr. Sab that our road signage is rather misleading and not properly placed and sometimes make the user confused. Even sometimes by using GPS, it's not helping but will be more confusing. I noticed the signage overseas is more user friendly and systematic. I think the Local Authority should not take this thing for granted as if all the travellers are all locals who are familiar with their destination.

"I'm almost reaching the junction going to West Port, now which way should we proceed?"

"Now you take the left junction, few hundred meters away you'll see a bridge. Just cross the bridge, then you take another left turn where you'll meet a construction site for the new bridge, and on the right hand side you'll see blocks of apartments, from there just proceed straight and you'll find a surau, proceed further, after the watergate you take right."

I don't know whether I can manage to follow the directions or not. It's rather a confusing instruction. Since this is a kampung area, I think we can find the place hopefully. In the older town settlements like PJ, Kepong, Cheras and the like, the signages are all very much confusing. Even the taxi drivers are also having a tough time locating the address. There is no proper signage formulation to ease the situations. 

We are very much lacking in Public Art features that actually contributing towards a friendly environmental neighbourhood. The presence of important town landmark is very much of a concern. The government through KPKT (Ministry of Housing and Local Government) is now actively promoting safe city planning through the agenda 21 formula. 

The housing layout should be more focused on CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) concept. PARP (Public Art Reference Point) concept is very much lacking, where as those are the features that should be of a priority for a safe and friendly settlement. The develop countries have long been in practice and successfully enjoyed those concepts. Countries like Australia, America, Europe are actually championing these elements long time ago. 

Look at their sculptures in the parks and garden, the beautiful wall frescos, the artistic trellis and ballustrades on the standing balcony, fountains and even the lighting and highlight colours on the external steel louvers as part of the facade. Building is also considered as part and parcel of Public Art. Some countries put it as a mandatory procedure in any development that Public Art should be incorporated as part of items in the development and cost are included in the overall development projection.

In some countries, the rules and regulations on artistic works are more relaxed. Even the grafitti works make their presence felt as part of the townscape features. Budding grafitti artists are being regulated through a body or association looking into the interest of their profession and that can be their bread and butter. We have lots of interesting creative grafitti artists of our own but were not given a proper venue, chance and support by the authority and the government. 

There is no place for them in the society and that can be witnessed by the unsightly vandalism on the public property and becomes an eyesore to the built environment landscape. Hoarding and viaducts can be interesting places for the grafitti artist and this can be translated into a mural culture in urban scene. In Malaysia, there are groups of active grafitti artist but they are working in isolation without proper regulated umbrella or body that are looking into their welfare.

I remember Scotland makes Public Art as a mandatory clause in any new development/building and classify it as a "percent for art scheme", that is why their development looks interesting and full of aesthetical values, be it in the building, parks and gardens, road junctions, roundabouts or any available spaces that are of public concerns. Singapore government has now given more priority on Public Art works. 

We can see the differences in the townscape with the injection of Public Art features in which the area will be more pleasing, nature friendly and conducive to human and nature at its best. This can be further enhanced with the concept of Blue Planning, Red Green infrastructures, naturalistic and greenfield development approaches. 

After almost 15 minutes, Jib called back, just to ascertain whether we're in the right direction or not. We found all the landmarks mentioned by him just now. I told him that we are now crossing a sugar cane plantation and a stall selling fresh sugar cane juice.

"You're not far from my place already. Just proceed and slowly drive forward, you'll see a Mosque on the left and a Kindergarten on the right. There's a lane with a pair of coconut trees as the gate, just slowly follow that lane and you'll see my palace hahaha."

I was very confused because last time we came through the front but now we are actually coming from the back door. At last we found our destination. It's not much of a change from the last visit except that the trees have grown bigger, the grass more greener and the landscape are more matured. The beauty part about kampung environment is that, the development is not compact but rather sparsely formulated on incremental and natural growth. Thus it's easy to locate and acts as a practical solution to physical reference point.

People is less prone to getting lost in the kampung settlements as compared to urban areas. The society is more friendly, accomodative compared to individualistic, selfish and unfriendly nature of urban folks. We cannot blame on the people because it's actually the environment that creates man. Every where on earth things are of the same nature. Environment creates and influence the attitudes of the so called society and furthermore exaggerated by the differences on ethnical, cultural, religious belief, socio economic status and so on.

"Assalamualaikum, this is my friend, Dr. Sab"

"Wa alaikum mussalam."

Jib brought us to a pavilion which was nicely kept with specially designed chairs and tables. I saw a plate of funny looking murtabak with strange gravy. This must be something special and by the look of it, is a mouth watering. 

"This is murtabak Singapore. You can't find this in Shah Alam. I bought it just now. For a special guest, I must serve something different and special. Please Dr. just have your own drink...this is more casual and self serving."

"Thank you very much. I don't expect all these special treatments."

I have known Jib for almost thirty years. He came to my office for a consultancy service on a piece of land in Klang. At that time his friend (Nazir, already passed away a few years back) would like to develop the land for a housing scheme. From then on we became good friend till today. He's an artist so we are mutually compatible in so many ways.

Jib is a good artist. He's more into spiritual painting. Before he dwelves into any painting, he will conduct a study on the subject matter, sometimes for months in order to get the mood and the imagination in the correct path. Every painting and event has its own root, history and starting point. His subject matter is more on something to do with sailing... things like ships, boats, yatchs and the like. 

He can do portraits as well. Some of his paintings are now in the permanent collection of Shah Alam Museum and Gallery. His famous works include the portraits of Selangor Sultan and a piece on the War at the Bukit Melawati. The late Tan Sri Mubin Shepperd used to recognise his works by awarding him with the certificate of authenticity.

His other passion is as the collector of antiques, rare items and collectibles. From a hobby becomes a dealer. He can be contacted at Menara Amcorp PJ especially on weekends. His friends and him are actively involved in Sunday Flea Markets selling various items and merchandise from antiques, watches, coins, shoes, clothings etc.

Now he's helping his friend in boat building (NGV Shipyard). I was the planner for the shipyard which comprises tenths of acres of boat and ship building dockyard. Orders for the boats and ships come from all over the world - Europe, Middle East, African Countries as well as South America, Asian and some government departments of Malaysia. It's all started with just a passion for boats and now becomes his livelihood. Impossible is nothing if courage and determination are fully utilised and put into proper perspectives.

While we were having our high tea, Jib's wife came and join in at our table. Now only the two of them are staying in this mansion. Their children, a son and a daughter are now staying in their former house in Shah Alam. Today he supposed to visit their children, since we are coming he postponed the visit till our session is over. Jib and his wife are a very nice and loving couple. 

Throughout our years of friendship I never heard he's telling bad things about his friends. From there we know who he is and  what's inside him. Telling bad things and lies, back stabbing are all the nature of ill mannered person. Most artists that I've known are a kind of mind your own business. They are easy going and happy go lucky species. That's what differs the artistic person from the rest.

Dr. Sab seems to enjoy the whole thing, the food, the new acquaintance, the environment. The conversation flows nicely and I was so happy after such a long periods of not meeting Jib. I remembered the last outing together with Jib was when his company sponsored me for the trip to Shanghai back in 2004. That's the time when Tsunami hit Acheh where hundreds of thousands of people became casualties of that devastating tsunami that was the worst had happened in the history of modern era.

We were on the official visit with the Selangor State delegation that was headed by YB Fatah, the Infrastructure Exco at that time. I was given a VIP treatment with the business class return ticket plus the hotel 'suite room' in Shanghai. The purpose of the visit is to study the canal system as part of the transportation routes besides the highway. My role is to study the canal system and to come up with some suggestions on how to improve our Sungai Langat river as a water transportation route. The NGV shipyard was located along the Sungai Langat same goes to the Lion's Steel Mill. 

Shanghai is famous for the canal system that has been operating in so many years with success. The Lion group under the leadership of Tan Sri William Cheng, who has been working with China Government is the man who initiated the visit. With his good connection and rapport with the China Government, the delegation was well received. Lion group has so many business operations in China. The most well known is of course the Parkson chains of supermarket outlets throughout China.

During our 10 days there, we were given so many briefings, presentations on the canal planning and operations as well as site visits to various heavy industries, shipyards and other related water transport activities. It was winter time, it's bloody damn cold and some of us can't take the weather. Most of us were infected with flu and running nose.

I noticed Shanghai is such a fast growing city. It's 10 times bigger than KL. We can notice lots of buildings were built during the British Colonial times witnessed by the conservation and preservation of heritage buildings. The Pudong District is the most developed with so many new post mode and contemporary design buildings. The boat cruise on the new year's eve was my favourites. The lighting on the buildings was so enchanting, lively and phenomenally romantic reflecting on the water surface. Buildings by the worlds renown architects parading the waterfront. How I wish one day I can be part of them.

All the while I never thought we can find halal food in Shanghai. My guess was wrong. During our stay there every day and night we were served with the halal dishes sometimes accompanied by unique cultural dances from various ethnics and tribes found in China. Some of them do not look like what we used to imagine. Many of them especially from the Northern Region have some kind of similarities and resemblance with the Uzbekistanis, Khazastanis features and people from the regions of Southern Russia. It really opens my perspectives on the beauty of God's creations of multi ethnicity.

Since this is Dr. Sab's first visit, I suggested Jib to show or to have a garden and house compound tour. Dr. Sab informed Jib that actually he is looking for a model home for him to erect his own at the newly bought land at Sungai Buluh.

To his surprised Jib's house is not up to his imagination. It's too grand, too majestic to sample as a model. He is looking for something like a simple retreat homes like chalets or something of semi permanent structure. Dr. Sab was awe struck by the simple garden planting and minimalist landscaping. It's a vast different compared to Rosli's house and compound.

Jib's place is actually suits the theme of  a rural retreat hideouts. This place was so calming, serene and soothing. The neighbours houses were all spread out and in the midst of greenery all around. This is a real kampung setting with less gate and fences. 

While Jib was showing Dr. Sab on the mansion's compound, I took the opportunity for some lens testing.

The weather was very good, clear, windy and full of sunshine. With the right setting any camera can produce a stunning image. I was busy photographing and I didn't know what both of them were talking and discussing. I saw Dr. Sab was in full concentration listening to Jib's explanations.

The whole thing was thoughtfully and nicely planned. According to Jib, the house was inspired by a magazine on Mediterranean and Spanish concept but with a compromise on the tropical-themed ambience. The total area is about three quarter acre, so he can freely play with the design and placement of various components. 

The house was constructed based on in situ style where there was no proper working drawings done prior to the erection of the building. What he did was to stand at various angles and he personally directed the carpenter to suit the building orientation according to his in situ visionary.

He studied the air flow, the orientation, the shadows, the various views in relations to neighbour's houses and compounds, the direct sunlight on the day time, while at night, the moon and stars also play an important element in deciding the orientation of the house and landscape features, allowing the interaction and movement during day and night time.

The strong physical connection between inside and outside was made through a wide empty lawn that forms a frame to the main entrance. The open garden concept allows the occupants to embrace and immerse themselves with the outdoor and the surrounding kampung environment as part and parcel of the overall landscape theme.

The whole concept caters to the connectivity of different functional elements. This was really a cohesive symbiosis of elements and very much a practical thinking design that seldom be found in ordinary design and construction.

All the building materials were specially outsourced. None of the materials can be found or bought at any hardware store or building material supplier. The materials were all reconditions but not to be mistaken as the cheap and junk yard or second hand kind of materials.  It's a recondition material of highly fine and high class grades which normally found in prestigious buildings.

Not everybody or everyday we can find the opportunity to own this kind of valuable assets like this. As mentioned earlier, Jib was actively involved in Flea Market business, he has so many contacts on the rare and authentic materials which became part of his cartels. He knew the secrets and all the tricks of the trades. The funny part of it was the collections of rare materials that I've never seen in my life.

Everything in this house is so precious, from the door knob, floor, wall, door, grill, glass, tiles and all the interior furnishings were all of rare and highly collectibles. Be it the chandeliers, bath tubs, sinks, toilet bowls, table and chairs and so many other small decorative items were all rare and one of its kind. The magical side of it was that he managed to get and collected all these things at a very minimal price. Present day valuation, the house would cost millions but the actual was just a fraction of it.

The house became a special entity and cannot be measured in dollar and cents. It became something like original paintings from a famous artist. It's one of its kind in the world. It took him years to complete his creations. According to him this house was about 70 percent completed. He got some more planning on new ideas for the future. He's waiting for the right moment to nail them. I'll not mention from where he got all the contacts and the items because I respected his privacy in this matter. 

Every available space was made to full use. The roof was converted into various attic and rooms with windows for natural lighting. The house looked like a one and half storey but once inside, we can notice there's a staircase leading to the attic. The staircase is a finely crafted wrought iron of personal design. This is really an artist house. 

In another compound annexed to the main mansion, Jib designed and personally built a retreat resort chalet to entertain friends. The whole structure was made of wood, glass window louvers, and attap on the roof. It's a two contrasting features between the mansion and this structure.

Inside there was a bed nicely kept and tidy, a bathroom with shower and special bath tub rarely found nowadays.

The kitchen was placed outside the main building attached to the bathroom on the different level with the main structure. The hall and the bedroom were raised on stilts thus having a good cross air ventilation and rich in magnetic gravity.

The compound was simple with basic garden furniture and rustic look pavement. There was a fish pond nicely planned facing the main door/entrance of the chalet.

The whole landscaping was made simple with few rare species of plants, hardly found elsewhere. An outdoor jacuzzi was located at the wall edge of the neighbour and heavily screened with big canopied trees.

The jacuzzi is still in good working order. Besides the jacuzzi, a reflexology path was created to break the monotony of the pavement while at the same time function as a healing theraphy area.

Most of the garden landscaping was holistically planned as a synthesis of human and nature taking into account of all living creatures. The sound of insects, the rhythmic melody of water flow, the scents of flowers and myriad exotic colours of plants and shrubs create a nirvanic atmosphere that soothes the body, mind and soul. The co-existence of human and nature made the whole environment as a sphere of influence on cosmic gravity.

I saw lots of insects, squirrels and few species of birds make themselves comfortable as their home. Most fruit trees such as bananas etc. were not meant for own consumption but rather to be shared with the insects, birds and other fruit eating animals.

The three Persian cats were housed in the back portion of the garden. The big compound make them freely roaming around, well protected and segregated from other intruders.

It's almost maghrib time. Dr. Sab got an appointment with the doctor for her daughter in the evening. I've to be in  CTC to fetch Nisa and to take her back home since she has to attend lecture tomorrow morning. Jib and his wife were also going to visit their children in Shah Alam later this evening. 

Before we say goodbye, I apologised to Jib and his wife for not granting permission prior to our snapping photo sessions of his house and garden. I know not everyone of his close friends was allowed to do so. Today he is so kind and happily showing around especially the interior of the house. I am one of the very lucky few that he enjoys showing around what he has done.

He used to get some ideas from me with regards to some design concepts, could be that one of the few reasons why I was permitted entry in the house and the tour. Even the media used to suggest him to advertise and promote the house in the magazine but he declined. I understand the house is always a matter of family pride and not for showcase but more on personal satisfaction and a statement of lifetime achievement.

On the way back home, Dr. Sab was full of praise for Jib. A nice friendly guy with multi talent. The sun was about to set, in the far distance the colours started to paint the sky, producing exotic rainbow colours with fluidity as in a watercolour splashes. Dr. Sab was happily smiling steering the Alza to my house. The whole experiences this evening hopefully will be his lasting memory and be a positive one.

As part of escapism from  a dull daily routine chores, this kind of peaceful and relaxing activity can contribute as one of free theraphy session. I love this fruitful activity very much. Still lots of places in our own backyard we haven't be free for the adventure.......!  

thank you for finding some times reading this text.....till then...cheerio.