It's a small world

26 Oct 2016 / 11:19 H.

SPANNING 17,000 sq ft and 36,000 man hours, Malaysia will have its largest indoor miniature exhibition. Located at Summit USJ, MinNature Malaysia will feature iconic and historical buildings and magical themed models as well as fun interactive activities.
The exhibition was derived from Alvin Wan Cheng Huat's personal fascination with buildings. It occurred to him when we go overseas we always look at other people's culture and buildings, and that made him think of what we have in Malaysia that he could share in a special way.
“Our place will use a concept where there are no barriers. We want to give visitors a different feel which allows them to ‘go into’ the scenes and feel connected to the models. We want to educate them that this is a new concept and for them to keep it alive, they need to play a role.
“We will allow you to touch the models but you need to handle with care. It is now up to us how we want to educate and my team suggested to run it for a few months to see if this concept works,” Wan said.
Explaining why it took eight years to complete, Wan said not all the models could be bought off the shelf and the 3D printer was very expensive at one time. Only recently, the price dropped making the project viable as they had to design and build everything. With the 3D printer, Wan and his team could go as detailed as they want.
“The structures are handmade where each printed piece is combined to make it. The people here managed to salvage some parts to make some of the buildings. For example, the surau is made from spoiled pieces from other places and the team managed to join, spray paint and put it up.”
The main material used is plastic but the exhibition also has real rocks and stones as well as wood and wires. The trees are made from sponges soaked in different shades of colours and blended to create it, while the padi feature is made from cutting up a broom.
The main challenge faced is staffing. Wan got many friends of friends through word of mouth and a mix of students and adults working full-time with him. He doesn't necessarily look for someone with an architecture background, but someone who loves scale modelling as this work is not about the money.
“They are here because they love the work and they don’t want to go home because they want to complete the details. Many of them stay until two, three in the morning not because I ask them to, but because they want to spend time looking at the details. I look for those who have the passion and drive to put these things into reality,” he said.
Wan himself is not from an architecture background and self-taught himself much of the work from casting the plaster to wood work and even wiring.
“It is passion that drives. The people here have that same drive and it pushes them to learn new things. They don’t question why can’t they do it, but how can I do it. I give them all the parts and they will come up with the best idea,” he said.
The whole idea of the exhibition is to be interactive as well as educational. There are a few exhibits where visitors have to interact with it to make it alive, and there will be reading displays to explain each of the buildings with trivia and fun facts.
“Another idea we have is to have a workshop to teach kids how to build things and develop critical thinking skills. We hope to come up with the modules for kids and even young adults to come and learn how we made all of these buildings.
“It is sad to see people going to Kuala Lumpur and not knowing these buildings exist. I want to have happy people leaving this place to be fascinated that they will go to the city and experience it for themselves,” Wan said.
Wan plans to make it bigger and more attractive. He wants to add more educational items and make it more interactive to stimulate his visitors to think out of the box. He doesn’t want people to let systems and thoughts limit them – you only limit yourself – that is what he wants to do and incorporate in this exhibition.

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