Arkitrek is a group of talented and passionate architects based in Sabah. The group incorporates a bottom up approach in building and engaging the local community and tourism industry, which frees themselves from facing bureaucratic issues in a normally time consuming building process. An inspiring group that just make things happen with the aesthetic touch.
'Design Like You Give a Damn"- Cameron Sinclair
B: Borneo Art Collective
B: Could you describe your group and group title in brief?
A: Arkitrek is rooted with an absolute passion for both the love for wilderness and design. We love to tackle the question of how the local community can benefit from our services in the construction industry. We are experts in sustainable design, in particular tropical passive design and the integration of architecture with social infrastructure and the natural environment. As a strong believer of social engagement within the circumference of our projects, we practice participatory design and engage with volunteers, students and communities in many ways.
More of our Arkitrek values can be found here:
B: Why and how did you start this group?
A: We have started Arkitrek purely due to the love for nature and design. Then buzz words such as local communities, heritage, sustainability, affordability, the people, education, social enterprise, cultural assimilation, etc. came naturally and we expanded on the basis of setting up ourselves as the first Malaysian social enterprise with the objective to conserve natural resources through design and education.
B: Where do you see your group evolving in the near future? What are you busy working on at the moment?
A: We strive to learn by doing: sambil belajar sambil buat. We want to be a leading company in providing architectural and design service that connects with the day-to-day elements of the environment where our project sits. Our aim is to bring change to the built environment and inspiring other to do the same by us leading the example. There are some really tangible examples of our work especially those that we have done through one of our ‘product’ – Design & build camp. We used to organize several design & build camps within a year with the aim of realizing design briefs set out between ourselves and communities and ngo’s as clients. One of the objectives of these camps is to expose fellow recent graduate and registered architects essential hands-on opportunities in the construction industry which are not readily available. Besides that alongside this platform, participants for the projects come from different part of the world and there is a lot of cultural values and beautiful friendship being formed.
At the moment, we are working on several projects which include a resort ‘Bagus Place’ located on Pulau Tioman; the Heart of Borneo Exhibition Space; the Borneo Bear Conservation Centre and others.
A link to our project database: http://arkitrek.com/projects/
B: How do you see Borneo architecture at the moment?
A: At the moment we feel that the approach towards architecture or the construction industry at large is more driven by consumption and private for-profit business, at the expense of the environment and resources. The built environment in general is giving less attention to the surrounding context in both the social aspect and the environmental impact.
B: How has your architectural designs been inspired by Borneo heritage?
A: One project in particular, called Mantanani Community Learning Centre - it was a very simplistic yet 'compassionate' approach of architecture towards problem-solving, coupled with innovative elements from the design team. One of the featured element was the use of weaved bamboo panel as the facade element. These weaved bamboo are originally used for filtering rice/paddy etc or simply to dry "ikan masin" (salted fish) under the hot sun. Arkitrek, being a socially-driven architectural company, we like to optimize and also to empower the fellow Borneons to be part of this community project. We then got in touch with some local Rungus tribe around the north of Borneo, Kudat town. This is simply because they are the champion in producing all these bamboo weaved material since their ancestral times. They also sourced the material themselves and worked on it from scratch till the final production piece.
We saw the potential in sustaining this Borneon heritage and culture, so we got them on board and negotiated the price per bamboo panel. From Arkitrek point of view, by doing this, we will be able to help sustain and in a way, use this product in an innovative way on our building. We didn't only save on cost for material (should we go for normal wooden/timber facade), we also managed to open the eyes of the Rungus tribe. making them aware that there are so many ways of using their skills in sustaining and even promoting their cultural heritage.
Since then, we are looking to further develop this part of Arkitrek business, and got our fellow Rungus people involved in more of our projects to which they can benefit more from.
You may also refer to this link for more information on this project.
B: How could people access your group at the moment? Is there any public participation/volunteer you allow in your projects?
A: In the realm of architecture, we believe education is very important to the development of oneself, the community and the nation as a whole. Hence, we run live design and build camps to engage students, young professionals and any interested party to join us to explore this limitless potential of collaborative design with the aim of creating the most values for social gain and to explore the real notion of sustainability in the local context.
B: Please recommend stories/projects/individuals/groups that we should reach out to in order to expand the Borneo Art Collective network.
A: A group called Pangrok Sulap. They are artists who use wood cut print work to let the villagers and people express themselves.
B: What would be your message to aspiring fellow Borneo Entrepreneur/Artist/Architect?
A: We are indeed a group of Borneo enthusiasts who struggle through our unique way to realize our own little dreams. Yet we are not alone, we suggest so that all artists, entrepreneurs, designers will utilize platform such as Borneo Art Collective to get engage with the wider group whom strive hard to realize their own very unique objectives. BAC is a great platform to get connected with like-minded groups and individuals and with perseverance and hard work, we are stronger and united to realize the common goals we have.