Once again MSSA and CIDB have taken the joint initiative to run the Open Ideas Competition (OIC) to showcase final year engineering and architecture students in a building project that would use steel as their choice constructing material, and also to enable them to realize that building design is not the sole prerogative of either the architecture or the structure engineer alone. In reality, building design would necessitate both the structure engineer and the architect to an understanding that in constructing a building of equal measures of sturdiness and aesthetic appeal would necessitate their concerted joint collaboration. From this point of view, this Competition presents an opportune occasion in providing these students with the opportunity to collaborate in a building design that enables them this practice as well as necessitating them to employ steel as its main structural and finishing building material.

Themed Iconic Tower in Steel (IT’S), the Competition focusses on the building of a unique structure which is both high-tech in its innovative use of steel construction combined with the artistic design of a tall, narrow and slender tower. As an iconic tower that did need not be habitable, it needed however to be able to contain and support a myriad of activities and programmes in and around it. As an iconic Malaysian tower, this tower needed to be viewed as one of Malaysia’s main tourist attractions to exemplify Malaysia as a modern, innovating and highly developing country in South East Asia, as well as internationally.

This meant that contestants needed to focus on a steel tower with a minimum of 50m and a maximum of 100m in height which is exceptionally high in proportion to its width and length. In addition, the tower also had to be lofty in relation to its surroundings. Located on either dry land or in water, on terrain, hill or valley, the tower could either be freestanding or be attached to a larger structure that is fully-walled in or to be of a skeleton framework in nature. No mean feat, contestants are also required to identify their potential clients who should be synonymous with the purpose of the tower and who would be key in financing the project.

The Competition comprised of three stages:

For Stage 1, each participating university would hold its own in-house judging to shortlist a maximum of five groups to be forwarded to Stage 2. At this stage, each entrant would submit a project report that delineates their purpose for IT’S and justification for their site selection; together with a 3-dimensional building model and a table format summary of the structural design and analysis of the tower. Each of the team of five to six contestants had to comprise of final year students from the Architectural and Engineering faculties. All in all, 17 universities registered participation in the Competition.

At Stage 2 or the Semi-Final, the shortlisted groups would submit to the OIC-2016 Secretariat a preliminary report on the design proposal and structural system, and five A1-sized portrait presentation boards. The ten finalist teams selected would subsequently each receive a RM 1,000.00 grant to refine and improve on their submissions, as well as to build a scaled physical model of their design. They were namely; three entrants from Universiti Teknologi MARA, three entrants from Universiti Teknologi Petronas, three entrants from Universiti Sains Malaysia and an entrant from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. 

For the Final Stage 3, each team would conduct a 20 minute verbal presentation before the panel of judges to present the finalised report of their design proposal, the refined presentation on five A1-sized portrait boards, an animated multimedia presentation, as well as a scaled model of IT’S. In concluding their presentation, each team would submit to the judges their finalised report on CD, the animated multimedia presentation, the five A1-sized portrait presentation boards, digital photographs of the model at various angles, and at least ten digital photographs of the team at work on the project.

Stage 3 concluded with the judges headed by Puan Amna A. Emir,  Ir. Hj Mohamad Sobri Abd Ghani,  Mr Tony Liew Voon Fun, Dr. Farzad Hejazi, Prof Madya Dr Ramlan Abdullah, and Ir. Low Chin Yen  deciding after much  deliberation on five teams from the ten teams shortlisted at the end of Stage 2. The five teams selected were two entrants from Universiti Teknologi Mara, two entrants from Universiti Sains Malaysia and a team from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.
In view of the reduced time given to prepare for the Competition this year, the five judges who represented academicians and practitioners from the architectural, engineering fields, as well as a subject expert matter on design  were of the opinion that the contestants had nevertheless presented themselves quite well in interpreting the demands of the Competition. Of noteworthy interest were the common themes recurring among the finalists whereby the more popular forms of the iconic towers was the lighthouse, with favourite sites for the towers located at Telaga Harbour, Langkawi or Kota Iskandar, Johor.

Ultimately, the event proved to be an excellent platform for the architectural and engineering students to learn to collaborate in a project in preparation for the industrial world they would face upon their graduation. Taking into consideration the iconic towers that the students had painstakingly and creatively designed, the judges recommended a competition website be set up so that these ‘towers’ could be displayed to be shared and viewed by others. Besides, the judges also felt the website would provide an excellent dialogue venue to ensure better understanding of the competition demands for future competitions.

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