The inspiration of the design was gained from its pre-war building, its heritage being in Chinatown and it formerly being a brothel.
UNIQUE PROPERTIES / PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
PS150 is a cocktail bar set in nostalgia part of Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is a speakeasy concept where the entrance is disguised as a traditional toy shop. The space is divided into three different sections, marking three distinct eras. Many of the original pre-war condition of the building were preserved, enhanced and reinterpreted. It also gives a sensual feel, harking back to the building’s former life as a brothel.
OPERATION / FLOW / INTERACTION:
The site was an old Chinese shop house unit with a front street and dark rear back street. The space was crippled with a challenging and a visually unexciting provision shop run by an old couple. To add to the misery, the 8m shop front span is divided into 3 parts.
What was going to be a hip bar now faces a serious problem with its presence. The solution was to create a hidden away speakeasy concept entrance that will look like a shop that was frozen in the past, making the first point of interaction by the guests a memorable one.
As guests go through the journey, the spaces and texture starts to unfold. Each space is coupled with a great sense of meaning, translating the major historical milestones in the art of cocktail - the three seating zones that bookmark three distinct eras.
In the main hall, the music and vibe comes together. The space is purely intimate and sexy. Counters are design with just the right ratios for comfortable over-the-counter conversations. A personal encounter and experience; immersive and playful.
PROJECT DURATION AND LOCATION:
The project started in July 2015 in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur along Petaling Street and was completed in December 2015. Before and during this period, the street night scene never existed, people think of it as a complex area of town. In post 2016, the street is now cleaned up and people have started to patronise this street again. New bars and charming cafes have also sprouted up since then. The bar had been voted many times as the top 10 bars with charm in Malaysia.
FITS BEST INTO CATEGORY:
Interior Space and Exhibition Design
PRODUCTION / REALIZATION TECHNOLOGY:
This project did not use much of high technology. Focused on the methodologies in using raw materials, it ensures the old charm had been kept - Straits Chinese merchant in the 1960s.
In modern day metropolis, it was important to ensure that the design of the bar remains authentic. Recycled timber was used to build the carpentry. The traditional construction method of carpentry was harnessed by the old carpentry master hands. Some of these fitments were done without nails.
The original pre-war bricks were exposed and its plaster stripped away, revealing the textures of the building that was once lost in time.
Natural cement was used to mimic the old style of these Straits Chinese shop houses. Whimsical spayed-on patterns on the floor mimic the traditional Indian Hanna tattoo. These subtle details were added to enhance the richness of the experience, giving an “indie” feel.
The pre-war 1940s bricks, fittings and fixtures, its decorations of old forgotten toys and photographs, materials and applications made it all very challenging in modern day Malaysia.
SPECIFICATIONS / TECHNICAL PROPERTIES:
Bar, Speakeasy, Heritage, Memory, Pre-War, Nostalgia
The beginning of our research was the search for a good and suitable space for the bar. There were a lot of “speakeasy” bars sprouting up in Kuala Lumpur. However, many of which were of European or English type gentlemen bars; formal timber panelling and baroque picture frames. It is all about being trendy.
It was felt that the guests need the soul and experience that is totally local and is meaningful to anyone staying in Malaysia. A bar that Malaysians can truly say “I’m local”.
Designing a bar is like creating a cult culture in itself. Creating secret doors and walking through darken back streets are a must haves for a “speakeasy” concept bar. There is actually a heavy metal door at the rear of the bar, which was also a secondary entrance for guests who want a dark street entrance adventure.
This street was also once a thriving brothel district which has since been cleared out. The unique history of the 1920s seems to echo a sense of rich identity, not as a bar or a brothel, but in ways of how positively the community had moved on. Surreally, the architecture and space stood still in time.
The point of entry was the greatest hurdle while mentioning about the old school toy shop experience as its entrance; this did not happen until the last one month of the project being handed over. The original space was at the middle section and the rear of the dark back street entrance. The owners of the provision shop wanted the front section to be selling women’s hairclips. It was a nightmare until the last moment when the owners pushed the idea to the old couple that it will bring life to the front of the street. Hence, the iconic PS150 toy shop entrance was born.
Perhaps it was by chance and will of the space that the front entrance was given. This completes the idea of having a suitable entrance. From a community stand point, the street has now seen incredible transformation. PS150 has indeed changed the experience of Petaling Street.
TEAM MEMBERS (3) :
Creative Director: Mr Benjamin Kim, Interior Designer: Ms Vanny Gan and