klaf2019 : international design competition

Tropical house for orang asli



25 APRIL 2019, 11.59pm GMT+8

The Tropical House for Orang Asli Design Competition is part of the KUALA LUMPUR ARCHITECTURAL FESTIVAL 2019 (KLAF2019: TOMORROW)’s programme in collaboration with Epic Society.

Epic (Extraordinary People Impacting Communities) is a social enterprise that creates platforms that inspire, mobilise and empower people for personal and community transformation, with a vision to make collaborative social impact accessible to all.

Epic was established in 2010, where they began their journey with Epic Homes, a movement that seeks to build relationships between the urban and rural divide through the activity of building homes for underprivileged communities, founded by John-Son Oei, co-founded by Loh Jon Ming, Jayne Kennedy and Jasmine Ng.


The Epic Homes programme is designed to develop support networks by bringing together rural and urban folk through the act of building homes, leading to the development of cooperative, resilient and sustainable communities.

This competition calls for the design of houses for the Orang Asli of Malaysia.

Who are the Orang Asli?

Orang Asli is a collective term (which means original or first peoples in Malay) for some 18 ethnic groups of less than 180,000 in total who are widely regarded as comprising peninsular Malaysia’s original inhabitants. They are generally divided into three distinct groupings: the Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay. While perhaps half of the Orang Asli live in or close to forests, may be involved in hill rice cultivation or traditional hunting and gathering activities, others such as the Orang Seletar and Mah Meri live near the coast and fish. Still others, such as the Jakun, are involved in agriculture with some continuing a semi-nomadic lifestyle, such as the Negritos.

Over the last few years, through shared experiences in Orang Asli community projects, Epic Homes have developed friendships, mutual respect and admiration for their sense of community mindedness, resilience and rich culture that they’ve cultivated through generations.


Why are the Orang Asli losing access to their safe homes?

With the urban fabric seeping rapidly into rural landscapes, logging and extracting forest resources on the rise along with land encroachment, the Orang Asli community are constantly battling a rapid changing of culture and loss of access to natural resources, forcing many into the urban lifestyle. What was once a largely nomadic self-sufficient community is now transforming into permanent residents of their land. As a result of many factors, including losing access to forest resources, many Orang Asli now have to get secular day jobs for money to survive instead of living off their land and it’s resources. Many of those working in secular jobs have to work 6 to 7 days a week, some also having to take up additional odd-jobs to make ends meet. This results in a lack of time to maintain, fix and rebuild their homes and community infrastructure. It also takes away the opportunities for traditional knowledge and skills to be passed down to younger members of the community, often leading to disrepair and unsafe living conditions. This is the challenge we seek to address.

What are the options available now?

The options that are available now, in the best case scenario, involves pulling together the families and community to work together to rebuild or fix their homes within the time and resources that are available to them. In less ideal situations, they may have to take time off work to gather materials and build their own homes, hiring within or outside of their community to progressively fix and build their homes slowly as they save up. Lastly, they can request assistance from the government housing schemes which are limited in resources and design, providing little options for customisation and personalization.

How can this Design Competition aid the current situation?

We believe the situation can be improved through a step-by-step facilitated collaborative approach between all stakeholders, moving forward to develop in the way the local communities wishes, without compromising their livelihood. We believe a good first step is for people to have the power of choice.

The KLAF2019 International Design Competition aims to widen access to designs, providing potential options for the Orang Asli. In the past, we have had village heads and residents asking us to visit their village to share ideas and resources for housing. Ideas and designs that emerge from the KLAF2019 International Design Competition will be shared and discussed with them for further exploration. Dialogue and discussion will also be organised with various stakeholders such as relevant government bodies to help advocate for more alternatives to our current housing for low-income rural communities. This we hope will lead to a bigger discussion on development, partnerships and how we as a country can continue to mobilise our resources for each other.

Epic Homes have spoken to some of the families and village representatives whom they have worked with for many years regarding this competition and its intention, and they look forward to the value this competition can bring. They will be hosting us for visits into their villages at selected times to be announced soon, to share deeper insight into their culture, preferences and challenges. We strongly advise against visiting village homes for your own research as these are private residences and personal or family spaces.

We hope that this will provide an opportunity to showcase how we as a country can collaborate, using the resources available to one another, for one another.


Category 1 - Rural Housing


First Prize

RM10,000 +


Second Prize

RM5,000 +


5 x Honorary Mention

RM1,000 +
Certificate each

Category 2 - Semi Urban Housing


First Prize

RM10,000 +


Second Prize

RM5,000 +


5 x Honorary Mention

RM1,000 +
Certificate each

Key Dates

  • Registration Open Date 14 Dec 2018

  • Submission of Queries 7 Feb - 20 Feb 2019

  • Publication of Queries &
    Registration Closing Date 27 Feb 2019

  • Closing Date of Submissions 24 Apr 2019

  • Judging - Shortlisting May 2019

  • Judging – Juror Meeting May 2019

  • Announcement of Winner Jun 2019

  • Exhibition 22 Jun - 7 Jul 2019



Ar. Mohd Fuad bin Zakaria


Mr. Ridhwan Dzulkafli

Panel of Jury

  1. The President of PAM or nominee
  2. Rita Soh, President of ARCASIA or nominee
  3. John-Son Oei
    Founder and CEO of Epic Homes
  4. YBhg. Dato’ Ajis Bin Sitin
    Ketua Pengarah Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli

  1. Dr. Wan Srihani Wan Mohamed,
    Universiti Putra Malaysia
  2. Ar. Eleena Jamil
    Eleena Jamil Architect
  3. Ar. Lee Chor Wah
    Past President of PAM


To seek the best architectural design solution for a house that reflects the ambition of Epic Homes to provide Basic Tropical Shelter for the Orang Asli community in Malaysia based on the following two scenarios.

Registered participants may select either one of these categories or may also submit for both categories. Submissions for each category must be complete as per the stated submission requirements.

Participants wishing to submit more than one proposal for any particular category will need to register separately for the additional submission/s

Category 1: Rural Housing

Housing in the rural and remote parts of Malaysia faces issues that surpass economic considerations. Due to the high level of deforestation and urbanisation, many rural villagers, especially Orang Asli have been slowly forced out of the forest – and the source of their livelihood. They are now forced to take on secular salary-paying jobs 5-7 days a week instead of relying on their forest resources and traditional skills. They are unable to find the resources (due to deforestation) and time for doing essential things such as fixing or re-building their homes.

The Clients for these designs are the rural Orang Asli who has unique communal, cultural and traditional backgrounds, including the way they build and maintain their homes.

How might we propose a suitable and affordable built solution for them?

Category 2: Semi-Urban Housing

The semi-urban landscape of housing is increasing as rural villagers are slowly moving away from their villages because of easier accessibility to facilities and amenities such as hospitals, schools, transport and jobs.

This creates a diversified demography in an area especially in terms of ethnicity and culture that brings about individualism and a decrease in communal sharing and living. Due to the high influx of population, many of these hot-spots lack sufficient land, causing tight, unsanitary, un-safe (due to informal extensions) and over-crowded conditions in their homes with very little opportunity to expand further should their family grow.

The Clients for these designs are residents of semi-urban communities who are diversified in their cultures and slowly being urbanised. They have very little land, resources and time.

How might we propose a safe, suitable and low-tech expandable built solution for them?

Category 1 - Rural Housing. (Mr. Zamri’s Family)


Zamri (30 years old) & Rezi (28 years old) have a young family of two boys and one girl – Jefri (7 years old), Rose (5 years old) & Jas (10 years old). Zamri has lived in the village all his life, while Rezi originates from Kg. Hulu Selangor.

Based on a technical analysis, Zamri & Rezi’s family require a new home because:

1. Their current home was built by Zamri from jungle resources - untreated timber, bamboo and leaves - which are increasingly difficult to get due to forest depletion and requires a complex treating process to last long. The bamboo has lasted for 3 years but now leaks and is rapidly deteriorating.

2. The Orang Asli are spending more of their time collecting jungle resources for cash profit to support their families’ basic livelihoods as opposed to collecting for personal use such as for building their own homes.

3. The inside of the home is a non-conducive environment for the children because the dark internal spaces restricts their ability for studies and recreation.

During the week, Zamri works odd jobs in the village, including collecting jungle resources to support his family. Rezi takes charge of the home and family.Their drinking water is piped from the hills some 10 minutes from the village.

The submitted proposal shall take into consideration the following factors:

  • Suitability
  • Affordability
  • Low-tech expansion capability
  • Durable
  • Communality
  • Transportability (i.e easily transported manually)
Category 2- Semi -Urban Housing (Mr. Jamal’s Family)


Jamal & Rina are a young family. They grew up in Gombak and have lived in their current home for more than 15 years. Jamal’s father-in-law lives in the house next door to them. In his everyday life, Jamal works as a security guard in the shops nearby. Rina takes care of the home and their children

Based on a technical analysis, Jamal& Rina’s family require a new home because:

1. Jamal and his family of 4 live in a 200 sq. ft. house and it is overcrowding.

2. The house they are currently living in is dark, very cramped and small spatially; the insides of the home is a non-conducive environment.

3. The current house sits on unstable ground which has caused cracks to their concrete slab foundation, making the living conditions unsafe for the family.

The submitted proposals shall take into consideration the following factors:

  • Suitability
  • Affordability
  • Low-tech expansions
  • Durable
  • Modular
  • Space Efficiency
  • Transportability (access is often via narrow side lanes and gaps between buildings)

Site location-

Category 1 - Rural Housing.

Rural village in Hulu Selangor, Selangor.
(Site visit will be organized and date/s will be announced)
Site plan is attached as Appendix D

Category 2- Semi -Urban Housing

Semi-Urban Kampung, Gombak, Selangor
(Site visit will be organized and date/s will be announced)
Site plan is attached as Appendix E

Competition Rules & Conditions

a) The Competition is open to all of any age and background, whether architect or graduates, builders, designers, students, etc. Individuals or consortium groups are welcomed.

b) No member of the competition organising committee, member of the jury, nor any person who has been concerned with the preparation or organization of this competition shall be eligible to compete or assist a competitor.

c)There is no limit to the number of entries that can be submitted by participants who complies with the above item. However, the rules of the Competition herein (including the registration and submission procedure) shall likewise be applicable to each additional entry.

a) Registration fees of RM80.00 per entry.

b) Only registered participants may submit queries and entries to the Competition.

c) Each participant or organization may submit more than one (1) entry subject to compliance with the rules of the Competition herein (including the registration and submission procedure and payment of the requisite fee) for every entry made.

d) Participants may select either one of the 2 categories or may also submit for both categories. Submissions for each category must be complete as per the stated submission requirements.

e) Participants wishing to submit more than one proposal for any particular category will need to register separately for the additional submission/s as per c.) above.

The Competition will be conducted in a single stage, i.e. participants’ entries will be judged as submitted without the need for further submissions or interviews / presentations by the participants.

a) All submissions must not bear any name of the participant or any identifying marks whatsoever so as to ensure anonymity.

b) Submissions received by the Competition Secretariat shall be assigned an entry number which would not be made known to any party other than the Organiser.

c) Anonymity of all participants must be preserved throughout the entire duration of the Competition.

d) All entries submitted shall be kept secret until the final results are announced.

e) Non-compliance with any of the Competition rules and conditions may result in the entry being disqualified from the Competition.

a) Participants may submit queries only with the Query Form as per Appendix C to the following address:

Competition Secretariat
99L, Jalan Tandok, Bangsar, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

or email to: query.tropical@klaf.my

b) All queries must be submitted by 20 February 2019.

c) Official replies to the queries, if any, based on the queries submitted, will form part of the conditions and instructions and shall be posted on the KLAF2019 Website by 27 February 2019.


a) All entries must consist of:

i. Site plan, schematic plans, sections, elevations, axonometric and interior/ exterior perspectives of the scheme to scale

ii. The plans should demonstrate how the scheme works within the Site Context.

iii. Construction assembly and transport methodology

iv. Materials specifications

v. Key construction details

vi. An illustrated Two (2) A1 size board in ‘portrait’ (indicate Left and Right boards) to be submitted for each Category (1 and 2) in the following formats;

a. JPEG format min. 72 dpi, and

b. PDF format min. 300 dpi, size not more than 100Mb

a) Each submission of entry shall be uploaded on the website

b) All submissions must be received by the Competition Secretariat not later than 17:00 hours Malaysia Time (GMT+8), Wednesday, 24 April 2019.

a) Failure by participants to comply with the rules and conditions of this Competition may lead to immediate disqualification from the Competition.

b) Late submission of any entry may be disqualified.

c) The work submitted must be of original creation. It must be unpublished or has not been submitted to any other competitions or events.

d) The work and the participant will be disqualified immediately from the Competition if plagiarism is found or brought to the attention of the Organisers at any point during the Competition. Any winners/shortlist will be removed from the participant(s)’ title and winnings.

e) The Jury shall have the sole and absolute discretion in deciding on the acceptance or disqualification of any entry on any grounds whatsoever; and the decision of the Jury on the same shall be final and binding on all parties concerned.

a) The Promoter and Organiser reserve the right to retain all entries for the purposes of exhibition, publicity and promotion, subject always to the provision of Copyright Act 1987 (ACT 332) and all its amendments for the time being in force in Malaysia.

b) The Promoter and Organiser reserve the right to reproduce any of the submitted materials in their publications and websites or in other publications and websites authorized by them, without any payment to any party, and in doing so, will undertake to give due credit and acknowledgement to the authors concerned.

c) All designs, including those disqualified by the jury, shall be exhibited, as a general rule, together with a copy of the signed report of the Jury. The exhibition shall be open to the public free of charge.

d) The Organiser shall notify registered competitors in good time of the date and place of the public exhibition and of the results of the Competition.

a) The copyright of all the participants’ works shall be in accordance with the Copyright Act 1987 (ACT 332) and any of its amendments for the time being in force in Malaysia.

b) The author of any design shall retain the copyright of his work; no alterations may be made without his formal consent.

c) In all cases, the author of any design shall retain the right of reproduction, subject always to the provision of Article 18 (b) above.

a) The Promoter and Organiser will not accept responsibility for any loss or damage to the entries.