To see greatness in a tiny seed

31 March 2020 

We drew inspiration from the humble rubber seed to design Malaysia’s largest trade and exhibition centre.

Even from a distance, the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MITEC) demands attention. The massive structure’s beautifully contoured roof is clad in brilliant metallic panels, creating an unmistakably futuristic look. Yet inspiration for the design goes back over 140 years — to 1877, specifically, when the first rubber plantation was established in Malaysia. From this, an entire industry flourished, and the country grew to become one of the largest exporters of natural rubber globally.

Rubber placed Malaysia on the world map once. We believe it can do it again, but this time, as a symbol of the country’s aspiration to be a world-leading Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions (MICE) destination.

MITEC is Malaysia’s largest and Southeast Asia’s third largest trade and exhibition centre. Sprawling over 13 acres of prime land in KL Metropolis, it is the first component of an ambitious public-private partnership development by Naza TTDI Sdn Bhd, built for mega international events.

Credit: TTDI KL Metropolis Sdn bhd

It was imperative that our supershed design seamlessly combined the demanding requirements of form and function. Outside, the façade is strikingly iconic with its rubber-seed-inspired curved roof. Inside, 11 exhibition halls are spread over three double-volume floors. Halls on the first level have a heavy-duty floor loading to support heavy machinery and vehicles, while the hall on the third level was created with a column-less area and up to a 15m-high ceiling that can be combined or separated by a 12m operable wall.

MITEC can house mega-exhibitions for over 100,000 visitors and conventions for 20,000 delegates. In fact, as its ceilings can go up to 36m, even indoor sports events are possible — as evidenced when it hosted the 29th SEA Games in 2017.

While these details were being meticulously planned and carefully engineered, our greatest challenge was realising our creative vision for the rubber-seed roof of the 64m-tall, 300m-wide building.

“The challenge lies in the centre’s enormous scale and its lengthy span [in structure], especially being column-less,” explained Hud Bakar, Managing Director of RSP in Kuala Lumpur who led the project. “Architecturally, MITEC’s façade is meant to emulate a shell, a fraction of the rubber seed, which is a natural shape, and was quite a challenge to carve and build. Nonetheless, we managed to find a balance between the materials that we used and the construction cost.”