Structure with no response towards its surrounding yet has the potential to be placed anywhere.
“Out of place, or always in place?” – We raised this question on our Instagram post on Dec 7th, 2020 with the visualisation of a monolith structure visibly stitched with The Exchange tower’s crown for viewers to have their own perspective(s) on the subject that we were trying to touch on.
Around that time, the world was shocked with the appearance and disappearance of a number of enigmatic monoliths that had emerged in multiple states in the United States including one in Romania. It was a huge internet sensation for over a month as its form truly resembles that in the famous science fiction film by Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey – thus, giving rise to speculation about an extraterrestrial-related source of origin.
The juxtaposition of The Exchange tower’s crown with monolith’s body structure is intended to connect the elements of “alienation” between both structures in terms of its odd-placement in context and the public’s response towards the subject matters.
The monoliths are rigid objects placed in an organic context - yet why do they look like they belong there? Like they have always been there? Is it because of this weird combination of structural-context elements that made people go crazy on them? Now observe the picture below..
Can we agree that The Exchange Tower serves the same external quality? The newly developed and rigid shape of the tower (1) does not serve a significant contribution towards KL Skyline, (2) does not compliment the harmony of existing super-tall-structures in Kuala Lumpur (KLCC, Menara KL), (3) looks very secluded, introverted and alienated within its extended context – yet, its presence in KL skyline is not exactly a sin. It’s as though we completely reject what reality NEEDS to offer, and we, the urbanites, just simply embrace our physical environment (even the stuff that “sucks”) with our modern conveniences and inclination for the sense of denial.
In addition, we can also see that The Exchange Tower’s appearance in the skyline of Kuala Lumpur bear a resemblance to the work of Japanese painter Minoru Nomata - who’s famous for visualising a progressive language of imaginary buildings, monoliths including hybrid aerostate. Most of his works radiate a sense of deja vu that echoes the styles of “ancient monuments of forgotten civilisations with a futuristic feeling that sometimes underlined by enigmatic technological inventions” even though they do not exist in reality.​​​​​​​
But unlike the works of the Japanese painters, The Exchange Tower is real. In fact, the subject matter in the paintings signify a distinct symbol of status, power, absolute and control while we can simply say otherwise for the physical appearance of the tower.
Besides, it is justifiable that The Exchange Tower actually has the potential of being an “alien” structure. Alien works well in terms of its architectural language, disruptive to surrounding context, and its form and appearance operates as a non-contextual anomaly - which is very much acceptable if we take a step back to look at the bigger picture.
Now that we’ve established the distinct internal similitude between these subject matters (the monolith and The Exchange Tower), what if we try switching their respective surrounding contexts to see what happens?​​​​​​​
It is proven directly that, just like the infamous monolith placements, it IS possible to place The Exchange Tower in any metropolitan skyline as we can see that the apparent disconnect between context and this skyscraper's design clearly highlight its individualistic/egoistic design that obviously does not mirror its extended urban context, which begs the question: does this non-contextual architecture promise greater design potential or is it actually an inevitable issue?
We must keep in mind that one of the subject matters is a mixed-use tower in a well-planned business district and is “the embodiment of elegant sophistication and the nation's ambitions” as its official website states, while the other is merely an entity of a lifeless object.
Non-contextual architecture, in definition, is a design approach which focuses on the needs of the architect and of their client, involving design solutions that do not necessarily create desirable places. The institutional form itself often becomes an object to be manipulated at will [to] achieve the maximum gratification of the desires and needs of its designers and owners. The "non" part basically means not having a context - meaning that it does not have a built-in relationship with its surroundings (including other skyscrapers) or any other structure in any urban context.
When it comes to architecture without context; it’s not necessarily just about attention-seeking and extraordinary structures. The design intention can be used to create new trends and design languages, not only in terms of aesthetics, but also as part of a sustainable or radical movement.
This write up is beyond doubt an attempt to widen the spectrum of the term’s definition by exploring its potential within the context of our subject matter.
“ is possible to place The Exchange Tower in any metropolitan skyline..”
Within the context that we’re on, we believe that the built “form of design” of The Exchange Tower have the potential to be the genesis of a movement which proves that reproduction of the same content of design is possible to be put elsewhere in any metropolitan cities.
If we go a little bit deeper, perhaps, this movement will help unravel strings of predicaments in terms of (1) design authority where it can act as a "motif in a pattern" where future potential projects now have a form to lean on which leads to endless scaled templates (as preached by Superstudio) (2) set up a language for the brand where one can use the same design approach to create sense of familiarity for the brand and (3) acts as a symbol (be it of power or capitalism) where it will serve the “maximum gratification of the desires and needs of its designers and owners”.
There’s still space for this topic to be developed, for the reason that the built form is contradicting in itself; it can be both good and bad altogether – resulting in an emotional paradox. One thing for sure, the impact of good architecture will inspire a surge of growth, progress, and revival. And its only good that we conclude this write up with an excerpt from the book, Citizens of No Place by Jimenez Lai;

“If we think of the skyline as a collection of personalities, we can see that its silhouette has the potential to project the personality of one of its buildings… This implies that the posture of a figure can express attitude and personality, and that shape of a building can be seen as both an aesthetic and an affective project.”
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