Yeang, Ken

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Yeang, Ken

Selected Writings

Architect and author

B orn in 1948, in Penang, Malaysia; son of a physician father; children: four. Education: Architectural Association School, architecture degree, London, 1971; attended the University of Pennsylvannia, 1973; Cambridge University, Ph.D., 1975; also attended Harvard University and the Malaysian Institute of Management.

Addresses: Office—Llweleyn Davis Yeang, Brook House, Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HN United Kingdom.


P rinciple, T. R. Hamzah and Yeang Senderian Ber-had (later known as T. R. Hamzah and Yeang International), Malaysia, 1976—; designed Plaza Atrium, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 1986; designed IBM Plaza, Malaysia, 1990; lecturer, Nottingham University, U.K., 2003-05; partner, MPR Ken Yeang International, 2004—; director, Llweleyn Davis Yeang (an architecture firm), London, 2005—.

Member: Royal Institute of British Architects; advisory committee, ARCHIVE Institute; advisory committee, Skyscraper Museum.

Awards: PAM Architecture Award (Malaysia) for the IBM Plaza, 1989; PAM Architecture Award for The Weld Interior, 1989; PAM Architecture Award for commercial building, 1991; PAM Architecture Award for single residential building, 1991; Norway Award for outstanding contribution to quality in the field of architecture, 1992; PAM Architecture Award for the Menara Mesiniaga, 1993; merit award, Kenneth F. Brown Asia Pacific Culture and Architecture design award, for the Roof-Roof House, 1995; IAKS Award, International Association for Sports and Leisure Facilities, for the Selangor Turf Club Grandstand, 1995; AGA Khan Award for architecture, for the Menara Mesiniaga, 1996; international architecture award, Royal Australian Institute of Architects (RAIA), for the Menara Mesini-aga, 1996; PAM Architecture Award for the Central Plaza, 1997; design excellence award, Malaysian Institute of Interior Designers, for Conoco Asia Pacific Ltd., 1997; international architecture award, RAIA, 1998; UIA Auguste Perret Prize for Applied Technology in Architecture, 1999; Prince Claus Award, Prince Claus Fund, 2000.


T he pioneer behind the bioclimatic skyscraper and a designer of many green (environmentally conscious) large buildings, architect Ken Yeang has designed such buildings as Kuala Lumpur’s Me-nara Mesiniaga and Penang’s UMNO Tower. His ecologically sensitive buildings feature both organic and inorganic elements. In addition to designing more than 200 projects, Yeang also wrote numerous books on and lectured about eco-design. As Texas A&M College of Architecture dean J. Thomas Regan told the U.S. States News, “Yeang’s work challenges society and environmental design—philosophically, psychologically, technically, aesthetically, politically, and culturally. He is an inventive and prolific architect who is radically changing not only the face of architecture, but environmentalism as well.”

Born in Penang, Malaysia, in 1948, Yeang is the son of a doctor. After attending the Penang Free School, Yeang received much of his education in England. He attended a boys school, Cheltenham College, from 1962 to 1966, then studied architecture at London’s Architectural Association beginning in 1966. From 1971 to 1974, Yeang worked on his Ph.D. at Cambridge University, and was influenced in his career course by the times. He told Nadia Elghamry of Estates Gazette, “When I was a student, it was the time of the hippy movement. I was looking at solar energy and I decided that eco-design needed to be sorted. The theory was not right, so I went to my supervisor and asked if I could do a Ph.D.”

Yeang’s Cambridge doctorate, “ATheoretical Framework for the Incorporation of Ecological Considerations in the Design and Planning of the Built Enivronment,” included his early theories about green design. Yeang later continued his education in the United States, taking graduate courses at Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, and business classes at the Malaysian Institute of Management.

While Yeang planned on a career in academia, his father asked him to move back to Malaysia. In 1976, he co-founded T. R. Hamzah and Yeang Senderian Berhad (later known as T. R. Hamzah and Yeang International) with Tengku Robert Hamzah, a member of a Malaysian royal family and a fellow student at the Architectural Association. As a professional, Yeang began designing projects which brought architecture and ecology together, and were sensitive to the area in which they were located. Yeang told of his holistic view, “In my heart I believe that biology is the beginning and end of everything. It’s the biggest source of ideas, the biggest source of invention. Nobody can invent better than nature nature is my biggest source of inspiration.”

With T. R. Hamzah and Yeang Senderian Berhad, Yeang began doing research into bioclimatic design in the 1970s and 1980s. He and his colleagues collected data and produced papers on the subject. Yeang was also testing his theories in some buildings. Yeang built his first high-rise, Kuala Lumpur’s Plaza Atrium, in 1986, under many of these principles. Yeang kept in mind the tropical area in which it was built, and put the atrium in an unusual place—between the inside and outside like a colonnade. In this high-spaced atrium, sunlight was diffused and the hot air was allowed to escape through louvers.

By the early 1990s, Yeang had developed the principals behind bioclimatic skyscrapers. His bioclimatic skyscrapers defied the conventional idea that such tall buildings could not be completely green. This type of tall building was built with an ecological conscience, often with plants or other greenery, and features to encourage low energy consumption. Many of his buildings had heating and air conditioning systems, but he worked to make them self-sufficient. Yeang was initially designing these buildings in Malaysia, then other countries in Southeast Asia.

One of Yeang’s first bioclimatic skyscrapers was the Menara Mesiniaga IBM Tower in Kuala Lumpur. This building, built in 1992, featured creative ways of processing the air. As Clifford A. Pearson explained in the Architectural Record, “Instead of relying solely on mechanical systems to condition, circulate, and ventilate air, the building supplements such systems with operable windows, natural ventilation, shaded outdoor spaces, and proper orientation to the sun.” Other bioclimatic skyscrapers designed by Yeang included the conceptual Tokyo Nara Tower in 1992, Penang-based MBF Tower in 1993, and the Guthrie Pavilion outside of Kuala Lumpur and the UMNO Tower, both in 1998.

Yeang began regularly working in England by the early 2000s. He became partners with MRP (Mason Richards Partnership), which became known as MRP Ken Yeang International in 2004, and joined a British-based architectural firm, Llweleyn Davis Yeang, as a director in 2005. In England, he continued to focus on designing large buildings and mas-terplans that were green. In the latter, he often incorporated his ideas about high-rise buildings as vertical urban design. Through his British companies, Yeang designed two high-rise residential towers around a 15acre park in the Elephant and Castle area of Southwark, London, in the early 2000s. He also worked on international projects like the 43story Al Ghofa Tower in Kuwait City, Kuwait, as well.

Yeang was also concerned with furthering the education of other architects. To that end, he served as a lecturer at Nottingham University in Nottingham, England, between 2003 and 2005. There, he was involved as a reviewer in the 2003-04 Minerva Tower educational design project. In addition, Yeang wrote or co-wrote a number of books on the focus of his design work—tall buildings—including Bioclimatic Skyscrapers, published in 1994, The Green Skyscraper, published in 1999, Reinventing the Skyscraper: A Vertical Theory of Urban Design, published in 2002, and Ecodesign: A Manual for Ecological Design, published in 2006.

While Yeang believed that his eco-conscious designs helped the environment, he saw green buildings as only the tip of the iceberg. He told, “A lot of people think that if I put [in] a green building everything is going to be fine, but actually it’s not just the green buildings we need, but green businesses, green governments, green economics. We have to extend the greening of buildings to our business and our lifestyles—that is the most important thing to do next.”

Selected Writings

Tropical Verandah City, Longman (Malaysia), 1986.

Bioclimatic Skyscrapers, Artemis (London), 1994.

Designing With Nature, McGraw-Hill (New York City), 1995.

The Skyscraper Bioclimatically Considered: A Design Primer, Academy Group (London), 1996.

The Green Skyscraper: The Basis for Designing Sustain-able, Intensive Buildings, Prestel Publishing (Munich, Germany), 1999.

(With Robert Powell) Rethinking the Skyscraper: The Complete Architecture of Ken Yeang, Thames & Hudson (London), 1999.

Reinventing the Skyscraper: A Vertical Theory of Urban Design, Academy Press, 2002.

Ecodesign: Instruction Manual, Academy-Wiley (London), 2005.

Ecodesign: A Manual for Ecological Design, Academy-Wiley, 2006.

Eco Skyscrapers, Images Publishing Group (Mulgrave, Australia), 2007.

The Mutiara Masterplan, Images Publishing Group, 2007.



Age (Melbourne, Australia), August 14, 1993, p. 12.

Architectural Record, March 1993, p. PR26; August 1998, p. 81; July 2001, p. 30; January 1, 2008, p. 52.

Architectural Review, February 2000, p. 23.

Building, July 6, 2001, p. 50.

Building Design, May 28, 2004, p. 1.

Estates Gazette, August 13, 2005, p. 44.

Financial Times (London), June 4, 1990, p. I13.

New Scientist, September 3, 1994, p. 4242.

Planning, August 5, 2005.

Straits Times (Singapore), December 12, 2001.

U.S. States News, November 1, 2006.


“Biography: Ken Yeang,”, (October 12, 2007).

“Dr. Ken Yeang,” University of Nottingham, (February 25, 2008).

“Q&A: Ken Yeang Interview”, (October 12, 2007).

—A. Petruso