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Brunei’s Future Designers – Ak Muhammad Safwan bin Pg Haji Damit and Ak Ali Akbar
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In continuation of our Politeknik Brunei focus, we return again this month to showcase the capabilities of the up-and-coming generation of Bruneian architects and interior designers, to whom the task of developing aspects of the Sultanate will fall to.

 

AK MUHAMMAD SAFWAN BIN PG HAJI DAMIT

A natural need to be different combined with an eagerness to prove himself, this fella is not shy in the least. I had barely introduced myself before he was already off, explaining his designs with a bright smile. This is good. As long as his humours are balanced, that hunger can only serve to propel him to succeed, regardless of the endeavour.

With an active imagination, this month’s Interior Design student from Politeknik Brunei, Ak Muhammad Safwan bin Pg Haji Damit, is a 22-year-old man who sources his concepts and designs from a variety of primarily entertainment platforms.

“I get my inspiration from everywhere, but mainly movies, TV shows, and video games. This is one of the reasons why I personally am not too keen on standard Bruneian designs and templates. I am quite fond of Western approaches to interior design, more specifically, an industrial outlook.”

Safwan continues, citing an example from his six-month internship with Eco Bumi Architects. “The environment at Eco Bumi was very different from school. At Politeknik I have the luxury of being able to approach fellow students and lecturers. I had to be a lot more independent during this time. One day my supervisor, Ms Yanti, gave me an assignment. A piece of property that was basically a square shaped, semi-detached residence. I was charged with redesigning it completely. At that time I had been playing Metal Gear Solid a lot, and there were ideas that came to me based on the game’s graphical representation of buildings and locations.

“Ms Yanti was really helpful. As much as she liked my redesign, she was always advising me to adopt a local view or context when conceptualising designs.” An example of this are the ground floor windows, which are basically all-encompassing, and Bruneians for the most part are very private people (Hari Raya is an exception to the rule). To prevent people from peeking through windows that are large enough to afford commanding views, “I decided to use frosted glass to overcome this problem. This was backed up by a perimeter wall for extra privacy.”

Touching briefly on his journey to Politeknik, Safwan shares that he underwent stints at PTE Meragang, prior to enrolling at the Nakhoda Ragam Vocational School. He quickly learned that there were too many core subjects that strayed far from his actual subjects of interest, and it was at Politeknik that he discovered a course that covered areas very close to his own passions.

It is not easy moving from place to place, which is why BHC Magazine says “Kudos!” to this young man, for persevering until he found the perfect fit.

 

AK ALI AKBAR

“A fellow hybrid!” This was the perfect ice-breaker as my exclamation elicited a huge grin from Ak Ali Akbar – a half Malay, half Filipino citizen of our Sultanate. A well-spoken young man, this 24-year-old Politeknik student “grew up with architecture” in more ways than one

“My mum used to work for an interior design company called Wiltshier Interiors, which unfortunately closed down a number of years ago,” Ali says. “My dad would take me to visit my family at work. It wasn’t just my mother. I had uncles and cousins who were contractors so it was common for me to see them hard at work building, painting, and applying tiles when I was brought to project sites.” It was during this time Ali learned the basics of architecture, such as how to produce proper building sketches for example.

The first student that BHC Magazine has encountered so far who carried out his internship with the Ministry of Defence, Ali spent six months under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Development & Work Services (DDWS). “It’s kind of like a mini JKR”, Ali describes, before adding, “From garrisons and camps to a hospital and an academy, property belonging to the Brunei military stretching from Kuala Belait to Temburong are serviced and maintained by the DDWS.

“I really enjoyed doing my internship with them. There were a lot of site visits and it was really interesting”. Having been a cadet while at Maktab Science, Ali developed a strong respect for the armed forces. “One time I went on a site visit to the Defence Academy where a large section of the grounds needed the tiles removed and replaced with asphalt due to issues with water leakage that was causing damage to the tiles. Other site visits involved the Medical Services aspect of the military such as ongoing work on the MRS Hospital, which will be the division’s first major structure. So far the other medical-related facilities have been a lot smaller.”

Touching briefly on a Politeknik based assignment, Ali shares his appreciation for modern approaches to design, or more specifically in this case, container cabin houses. With a striking blood red exterior that utilises natural elements indoors, Ali utilised timber due to his preference for its texture and a natural glossy look.

An organised and disciplined individual, Ali believes you should always have a contingency plan in case things go awry. So (going on a slight tangent here), as much as he genuinely loves architecture, he possesses an equal amount of passion, and knowledge, for aircraft engineering and its intricacies. There you have it everyone, you read it right here – words of wisdom straight from Ak Ali Akbar: Always have a backup plan.

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