Malaysian timber has come a long way since those days where the mention of a wooden structure would conjure up imageries of traditional, vernacular built forms in rural villages such as the ubiquitous village houses or native longhouses on stilts with thatched roofs. This article showcases the application of timber in extraordinarily imaginative and creative ways. It features some of the most uniquely daring and different uses of Malaysian timber, which sees perfectly eye to eye with beauty and functionality, and more. The Henderson Waves and Nautique in Singapore, Four Seasons Resort Langkawi and the Shangri-La’s Villingili Resort as well as Viceroy Resort in the Maldives, whose distinctive time-transcending designs are testaments to the versatility and flexibility of Malaysian timber for innovative and experimental uses.
Named after the road it crosses at an elevation of 36 meters, the Henderson Waves connects Mount Faber Park and Telok Blangah Hill Park in Singapore in a rather dramatic fashion. This 274-meter bridge, the highest pedestrian walkway in Singapore, has intermediate supports at 24-meter intervals with a central span of 57 meters. The bridge effortlessly harmonies itself with the natural landscape, connecting existing pathways and parks to provide natural and continuous access from both hills. This engineering feat of a bridge comprises four distinct sections, i.e., seven undulating curved steel ribs; supporting hollow sectioned vibration dampening steel frames; Balau timber deck with curved balustrades, wooden seats and alcoves. The undulating curved steel ribs form a ‘wave’ that alternately rises over and under its decks. The curved ribs form alcoves that function as shelters hugging seats within.
The bridge’s sinuous curves, designed to look like three- dimensional waves, and its 1,500 square-meter timber deck required a great variety of different modular panels to form the complex dimensions. Five thousand pieces of 70mm x 32mm Balau modular boards were used to clad the bridge in areas meant for interaction between man and material, such as the walkway, alcove seating and sidewalls. The boards were fabricated with numerical precision using proprietary software, which provided exact dimensions of the surface at regular 500mm intervals, thus reducing material wastage. Timber specialist Venturer Pte. Ltd. of Singapore supplied the Balau strips, which were certified as originating from sustainable sources by Certisource, a UK-based timber legality verification standard.