Regarded, by his peers as a man ahead of his time, Ken Yeang was quick to recognize that global warming and increased contamination of the environment would adversely affect the natural balance of biodiversity and ecosystems. He successfully applied an ecology-based approach to the art of architecture, and his approach to design witnesses an intertwining of ecology and architecture; this involves nature, humans, water, and the built environment dovetailing together to create something sustainable of substance.
By eschewing the mainstream and marrying modern urban architecture with ecologically sensitive and sustainable design, Ken Yeang has created a green aesthetic that integrates seamlessly and benignly with its built environment. This is particularly remarkable since as a species, the human race has changed and shaped landscapes and even climate, and in the process damaged the delicate balance of nature that we must all strive to maintain. As Ken Yeang himself stated, “We have no time to lose. If we had done something twenty years ago, it wouldn’t be too late. But we have crossed that threshold and need to do something now. If we continue the way we are, the whole world becomes synthetic and inorganic. What becomes of nature and everything organic? We need to see how we can emulate nature and bring it into our built environment so that we can give back to nature what we have taken from it.”
He was quick to add though that the change we seek has to come from us. “What if we get everything right, but don’t change ourselves? A great future is not just about design, it’s about us as well If people don’t change, then all of the technology will be to no avail. The change has to start with us. We have to move away from the materialistic behavior of wanting more and more, of wanting things that we don’t need.”
If imbibed, the lessons from eco-architecture will doubtlessly benefit us all. As an increasing amount of the world’s population shifts to urban areas, sustainability will increasingly come under the scanner as urban development puts a strain on Mother Nature. Much of Yeang’s inspiration comes from observing the processes found in natural ecosystems, in which all the individual elements interact to contribute to the health of the whole. Thus, the built and natural environment are not to be in conflict, but part of a symbiotic whole in which the well-being of one feeds the other.
About the author
Hailed as “one of the 50 people that could save the planet”, Ken Yeang is the Senior Principal and Founder of T.R. Hamzah & Yeang Sdn Bhd. He is an architect, ecologist, planner and author from Malaysia, best known for his ecological architecture and ecomasterplans that have a distinctive green aesthetic. He pioneered an ecology-based architecture (since 1971), working on the theory and practice of sustainable design.