Voids & Spaces
Azrul Kevin Abdullah

Someone once described an empty space as being ‘loud’. What is a space? Is it truly a void? Spaces are carved out from rock or built up by bricks, mortar, wood or whatever the builder chooses. Creating a space in itself, gives it purpose and meaning to those that intend to inhabit or utilise it. A space is loud. It screams form and function; it draws you into it almost engaging the viewer to discern any cracks or imperfections or perhaps even inspire one to decorate it.

In recent years, a new phenomenon called ‘progressive development’ has seen the decline of many period structures including homes, offices and apartments. Neighbourhoods once treasured for their serenity and pristine lawns now compete with earth movers and hydraulic pilers as neighbouring lots are transformed into posh high-rises or shopping malls. The less ambitious will turn a period home into a transient car-park while awaiting development.

Development in KL has also signalled the decline of low-density dwellings, especially townhouses, walk-up apartments and shop-houses. Multiplying the value of a piece of land is all the rage and the era of living on a quiet street is all but a memory. In the Tengkat Tong Shin area, most of the townhouses have since been converted into watering holes and likewise on Hicks Road. The process of adaptive re-use is the order of the day. Though some have maintained the much of the original building, others have totally renovated the spaces with little sensitivity to the context of the original building.

Another victim of ‘progressive development’ has been period bungalows. Many in the golden triangle have literally vanished overnight. Others lingered as odd spaces for restaurants, bars, clubs, galleries, law firms while other less fortunate structures are reduced to rubble to make way for, you guessed it, another car park.

The Images
An empty room is a melancholy space. Devoid of its occupants, it remains a reminder of what the space was used for and who lived there. Some spaces are completely devoid of anything… sterile white-wash, some dust and perhaps broken glass; others look like jettisoned homes with clothing strewn on the floors, a picture of a loved one, a belt by the window, old telephone bills. Somebody wanted to make a quick exit before the bill collectors came. Other spaces end up being ‘commandeered’ by junkies who take refuge at night.

In the apparent ‘roughness’ or sterility, empty rooms are never really empty. Visually, the contain lines, light, shadows, textures that pretty much give it its appearance and pretty much reflects what the architect envisioned. Anything else is a trace from the past.