Nestled in the Cameron Highlands, three hours outside of Kuala Lumpur, the BOH Tea Centre welcomes tourists and day-trippers to this Malaysian tea purveyor's lush estate. The country's leading grower, BOH pioneered Malaysia's first highland plantation and has made its home in the region since the company was established in 1929.
In an attempt to improve circulation and enlarge and update the facilities to attract more tourism to the plantation, BOH brought in Kuala Lumpur-based architects ZLG Design. The program called for a building that would provide a new home for the existing teahouse and serve as a conduit, guiding visitors through a retail shop and exhibition space to a pick-up area where a tour of the nearby factory begins. Furthermore, the company stipulated, the new building had to be linked to the existing factory and facilities while remaining respectful of the natural landscape.
Elevated so that it has a minimal impact on the site's contour, the steel structure incorporates cutouts to
Taking the tea ceremony to dizzying new heights
accommodate existing trees. Naturally ventilated, and with ample daylight penetration, the center needs little artificial lighting and cooling. Visitors enter the facility via a ramp that deposits them at the enclosed food and beverage area. The restaurant and its cantilevered balcony, with their breathtaking views of the valley, make for a dramatic arrival. Four-hundred-sixty-five feet long and 30 feet wide, the floor plan functions as a floating pathway that shepherds visitors through the building, offering ample glimpses of the lush plantation below. "For circulation purposes," says project architect Susanne Zeidler, "this was the logical approach." Ancillary facilities, such as the kitchen and toilets, are expressed as cubes that punctuate the long rectangle of the main building.
All building materials were procured locally, with most sourced from the Cameron Highlands region. Randomly arranged steel frames that form the facade feature glass louvers in the enclosed restaurant and shop areas, while the rest of the building functions as a breezeway. Open to the outside, the covered walkway's walls are partially screened by 4-inch-thick cross sections of logs found on the estate. Throughout, bamboo is used for the ceiling and as both a cladding and fencing material. A nod to one of BOH's old Cameron Highland factories, which is sheathed in perforated zinc, ZLG used the same material for the building's roof and sections of its facade.
In the BOH Tea Centre, ZLG has created a dynamic building that, hovering over its almost spiritual backdrop, lends a Modern note to this historic region and the ancient drink associated with it. ■
The center's restaurant and terrace are can-tilevered over the plantation's sea of tea bushes (left and prior page). Indigenous building materials, such as bamboo (bottom) and thin-cut logs (below) help anchor the building in the landscape.
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