Friday, 25 April 2014

Orange Architect: Steps Builder

Text : Nor Azua Ruslan

[ Dressing Architecture : Colour, Style & Fashion ]
In Relation With Architects and Clothing

Original works submitted to the Manchester School of Architecture for the Bachelor of Architecture dated April 2009. Received a commendation in Summer 2010.

6.0] Orange Architect: Steps Builder
When I left TRHY in 2007, I joined Z&SR Architectural Ventures Sdn. Bhd., another calibre-firm located in Setiawangsa, Kuala Lumpur. The director, Ar. Norzaini Mufti has slightly different background and taste.

Ar. Norzaini Mufti has its own sole-proprietary company called Zaini Mufti Architect. Zaini Mufti received his first education in Kuala Lumpur. He then flew to United States for his architectural education and was a scholar in master from Michigan University. Knowing him as a cheerful person, he loves orange colour and I often seeing him in orange polo t-shirt on his bright and sunny days in the office. For some reasons, he loves this orange colour so much that he did an Interior Design for his new office in Setiawangsa decorated with orange furniture as shown in FIG.5.1 and 5.2.

However, I have never seen him in orange shirt whenever we went out for a meeting with client. Hypothetically, I think maybe because the colour is too loud and not suitable for such formal event, and when I asked him about this, he said that;

As you might have noticed, I dress very casually in the office because I like to work in comfortable clothing.  I do not relate formal clothing with quality of work, thus, I do not impose strict dress code in my office. For newer clients, I do wear so called more ‘acceptable’ office wear not so much to impress but more not to offend if they turn out to be very judgmental towards people by their appearance.  But with regular clients who are already aware of the quality of our services, our clothing become irrelevant.[19]

FIG.6.1: Orange Feature Wall at office lobby.

FIG.6.2: Orange furniture in meeting area.

I was once the Project Leader for a Secondary School project in Port Klang, Malaysia. Throughout the Design Stage, I did involve in the Colour Scheme proposal for the school’s buildings and he turns up with this idea of having striking orange feature walls for each block, which happened to be his favourite colour, and FIG.5.3 below show an illustration of the proposed Secondary School project.

FIG.6.3: Proposed Secondary School with Orange feature walls.

The thing that interests me most is seeing Zaini Mufti as an architect who picks orange as his personal colour and emphasis it in his design. I personally admire this attitude. He was not that kind of architect incomparable to Ken Yeang, not yet. But he ought to have his own personal strength towards creating his own trademark, maybe to be well-known in the future, who knows?  I sought for his personal point of view about this to see how does it related to each other; accidentally or purposely.
Of course one of the main reason is I like orange and it is documented that different colours will create different ambience.  Orange is rather cheerful and happy colour and I would like to create a cheerful environment whenever I can. As a young office, we are still looking for an identity and in these first few projects, we focus on the feature walls and the colour whenever we can to create trademark architecture for the firm.  But I can guarantee you that this will not be our trademark forever and all firms will evolve through maturity and experience. 19

Having had him talked about maturity and experience, is actually how it relates to fashion. Fashion does evolve throughout maturity and experience somehow, like everything does. But to exemplify yourselves from other Architects, you might want to end up being different. You can be a fashion icon at you own style so that everyone recognise you. That is what fashion designer does. We can tell Vera Wang’s dresses by the clean and sleek pleated and ruffled silk dresses on runaway and we can recognise Tom Abg Saufi’s batik dresses with his bold statement of batik in shocking colour.  
To gain recognition, architects need to create their own fashion statement that is reflected in themselves and their buildings to be famous. Perhaps, this is something that Zaini Mufti is looking into because there are risks being stranded in the cloud nine forever in his entire architect’s profession if did not even try.
But that is certainly not true.  We can’t compare architect and Fashion Designer because these two professions have their own unique, however similar their design processes are. Yes, Architects are designers. However we dress, we must not be sloppy. Preferably, we should be fashionable, but need not be expensive but creative and exploratory. 19 Zaini Mufti is in his 40’s and yet still looking for his architectural trademark for his 8-year old company, but this does not mean choosing the best clothes nor fashion for himself, but by choosing the best building characteristic strongly which will establish the firm’s identity.
People who try to understand what fashion is all about to use words like beautiful, chic elegant, smart, dashing. It is not a matter of that at all. It is a matter of being dressed in such ways to attract the least attention....No nation has many fops or peacocks as the German...,A peacock is a man whose clothes serve only to make him stand out from his surrounding.18
I strongly agree with his opinion and as I flashback throughout the years I had in TRHY, I realized that it was one of a very important things that I’ve learned in my architectural education, which cannot be obtained during those years in university. Eventough I have a thought that architects who dare to wear something different has courage to design something unique, but I do not have a data to back it up.

[19] Interview between author and Zaini Mufti (Feb 2009)
19 Interview between author and Zaini Mufti (Feb 2009)
19 Interview between author and Zaini Mufti (Feb 2009)
18 Jules L., Adolf Loos and The English Dandy in Architectural Review, Vol. CLXIX No 1038 Aug 1983