Penang Island is part of a northern state off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Straits of Malacca. The state’s capital is Georgetown, and its historic quarter of colonial buildings in the inner city are designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while much of the city is highly urban and industrialised. International tourism and electronic manufacturing are the key economic industries of Penang and the demographic makeup is highly diverse in ethnicity, language and religion. While this multi cultural identity is evident through the preservation of historic and religious buildings that existed before modernity, the construction boom of recent times has caused the city to be supplanted with homogeneous residential and commercial developments. At the epicentre of this rapid urbanisation is Gurney Drive – the most prominent waterfront promenade in Penang and home to a stretch of shopping malls, hotels and luxury apartments. The site for G Hotel Kelawai is located behind Gurney Drive and tucked within a dense urban context without ocean views. The unfavourable siting entailed a brief from the client to create an iconic destination hotel that would complement the existing affiliate hotel - G Hotel Gurney. G Hotel Kelawai is conceived as an exclusive business hotel with a contemporary outlook targeted at corporate executives and business people. The hotel provides 208 guest rooms and amenities such as a rooftop swimming pool, 3 F&B outlets including Penang’s first sky bar, 24 hour gym, state of the art function rooms and more. Formally the building is conceived in a tripartite composition derived from the programmatic distribution of public and private realms. This manner of organization enables the disparate components to respond with greater specificity towards function and context, with the ultimate goal of creating a dynamic architectural expression that is engaging, memorable and environmentally sustainable. The podium and rooftop contain gathering and entertainment spaces that are designed to draw public interest and provide a redefined engagement with the city of Penang. This is initiated with the creation of a garden alfresco on the ground floor that is imagined as an extension of the adjacent public park. The permeability at the street and lobby level reveals a golden cage that is intentionally suspended to allow multiple points of entry into a series of interconnected volumes that contain the entrance lobby, lounge bar and reception. Upon entering the main lobby, one is greeted with a triple volume space above the main staircase that extends the visual and spatial continuity to the all day dining restaurant and a tree courtyard that gestures back to the park beyond through a veil of aluminium strips. These locally manufactured hollow section strips are used extensively as a common denominator for defining the array of spatial and formal gestures visible from the street as staggered white blocks and the golden cage within the lobby interiors. The idea of supporting local industry is again manifested through the use of aluminium expanded mesh screens on the tower facade. Deep concrete overhangs not only cut off direct solar heat, but are formally manipulated to support the metal screens in a geometrical striation that is immediately iconic and engaging on a macro and micro level. At night the facade undergoes a transformation as the screens light up to animate the city - displaying fading and moving effects as well as colour changes to represent local festivals celebrated by the culturally diverse local population. On a more intimate scale the white screens catch the animated rays of light that morph into a calm ambient backdrop within the guest room interiors. The guest rooms are housed inside the tower component and as the primary source of amenity, revenue and cost for the hotel operator, the tower envelope was designed to provide an iconic image and address the harsh tropical climate and dense urban context. To balance the need for daylight provision, reduction of solar heat gain and also given the lack of views, the window apertures within every guest room were kept to only 2 full height double glazed windows measuring 1m wide. The resultant window to wall ratio on the overall tower envelope area is only 23%.
Combined together - the windows, ledges and screens form a passive and integrated environmental design solution that aims to not only make sense of what a high rise in the tropics could be, especially without the ubiquitous curtain wall system but to also imbue the pragmatism of this tropical expression with a sense of dynamism and flux.
The final cap stone of the building is the rooftop swimming pool deck which boasts Penang’s first sky bar - the only publicly accessible space of its kind that affords panoramic views of Penang Hill and Georgetown, enabling a new perspective of the city.