UPM’s ‘Bird of Malaysia’ sculpture at klia2 a symbol of sustainable future

Travellers at klia2 will be pleasantly surprised to see a huge, unique, and striking wooden structure in the form of a giant bird greeting them.

Called the ‘Bird of Malaysia’, it results from the grit, determination, and hard work of students from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

Associate Professor Dr Mohamad Fakri Zaky Jaafar, the Head of the Architecture Department at UPM, had tasked his students with a project designed to teach them the fundamentals of innovation and collaboration.

The project’s purpose was also to pursue innovation from an architectural perspective. The students were tasked with designing a sculpture or installation and were required to pitch their idea to various industry stakeholders and obtain the necessary funds and materials to make it a reality.

However, they faced challenges as the project took off in August 2021 during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was no easy task, but they adapted and overcame the obstacles.

They held online sessions with potential stakeholders to earn their support and secure the materials and funds for the project.

“This was a difficult time for the students. During the movement control order (MCO), they worked hard to hold online sessions to pitch their ideas to potential stakeholders who expressed interest in their project,” said Fakri Zaky.

“However, the wood they were working on was unsuitable.”

Fortune smiled at them when the students managed to get in touch with entrepreneur Law Eng Lim of Gain Green, who graciously supplied them with Paulownia wood for the project.

It was perfect for their needs. Paulownia is a hardy wood with many industrial applications and can be used as sawn timber, plywood, mouldings, furniture, and veneer.

The students also received funding from the Malaysian Timber Council, while another party contributed the steel structure for their project.

The concept and design of the project stemmed from Malaysian vernacular architecture.

Aryton Kong Tze Khiang, one of the students attached to the project, explained that the chosen style relates to the diverse culture of Malaysia. He said the design of the sculpture itself was symbolic.

The sculpture’s metaphorical bird’s wing design, wrapping and growing out of an egg in the centre, symbolises growth and progress. Within the wing of the sculpture are silhouettes of Malaysian personalities who contributed to the nation’s growth and progress.

“The use of Paulownia wood aligned with our vision of sustainability. Not only does Paulownia grow faster than other species of timber, it is also lighter, stronger, and more durable. Paulownia fits the needs of this project perfectly,” said Kong.

Fakri Zaky said the project was to instil the spirit of innovation by gathering resources and funds from different parties and stakeholders. He wanted the students to broaden their horizons and look at the bigger picture from the perspective of others.

He said in this day and age, multidisciplinary collaboration and working across borders was the key to pushing for innovation.

“Therefore, the students needed to be versatile when gathering resources and funds. They exceeded my expectations.”

He added they would be assessing the durability and reliability of Paulownia for housing construction and its durability as panels and furniture.

“With further research and development, the next milestone would be to push Paulownia for housing construction.”

The road to sustainability is tricky, and those intending to tread that path must be aware of the potential obstacles and challenges. Despite the apparent hurdles, some, like these UPM students, face these challenges head-on with unwavering determination.

The students of UPM have driven the idea of a sustainable and green future, fuelling their resolve as they persevere in creating greener and more sustainable solutions.

Those who worked on the ‘Bird of Malaysia’ project have proven that it is not only hard work and determination that brings success, but also a sense of unity, creativity and innovation. – @Green