Merdeka 118

The creative capabilities of Archicad were used throughout the design and construction of Malaysia's tallest building, Merdeka 118, scheduled for completion in 2024

Merdeka in English means independence and the Merdeka Stadium in Malaysia, designed by architect Stanley Edward Jewkes, has a special significance. It is the site where the Federation of Malaysia was formally declared on the 31st of August 1957, transferring power from the British Empire to the new Malaysian Government, and was the first modern building of the Federation.

In 2008 the Stadium Merdeka received the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Excellence for Cultural Heritage Conservation because of its significance. Any further developments of this important site would need to be equally noteworthy, and the new Merdeka 118 tower is well on the way to completion, scheduled for next year.

Funded by Permodalan Nasional Berhad with a budget of RM5 billion, it will be the tallest building in Malaysia and will comprise 400,000 square metres of residential, hotel and commercial space. The name Merdeka 118 reflects its 118 storeys, 83 of them office space, with 12 storeys of hotel rooms, 5 storeys of hotel residences and a retail business centre - occupied by Park Hyatt Kuala Lumpur. The rest of the spaces are taken up by elevators, recreational and maintenance facilities and parking space for 8,500 cars

The site at Petaling Hil has a number of other historic landmarks which won't be included in the development, but Merdeka Park, where Merdeka 118 will be built, had actually been turned into an open air car park. Instead, the Merdeka 118 development will have access to the newly built MRT Sungai Buloh-Kajang Line, excavated underneath the southern end of Kuala Lumpur old town.

Affirming its cultural significance, 118 Merdeka has a unique faceted design, a mixture of diamond shaped facets which echoes the diversity of Malaysians, and also resembles the raised hand of Tunku Abdul Rahman when he proclaimed independence at Stadium Merdeka.


Merdeka 118 was designed by Australian architects Fender Katsalidis, using Graphisoft's Archicad 24 as the core application. In fact the project has been through a number of revisions of the software, the earliest being Archicad 14 - and all the iterations have brought fresh and useful tools to the process, according to Daniel Goldin, CAD leader for the practice.

Karl Fender, who founded the firm in Melbourne along with Nonda Katsalidis, spoke about his experiences over the last ten years and why Fender Katsalidis chose and continue to use Archicad as the core software for their projects. Fender Katsalidis is well known for producing distinctive landmark buildings in Australia and South East Asia. One of their earlier projects, the Eureka Tower, is Melbourne's tallest building and one of the word's tallest residential buildings. It was completed in 2006 but is now dwarfed by the 650 metre plus height of Merdeka 118.

The distinctive features of many of their earlier sculpturally interesting designs incorporated a variety of natural materials and textures, such as exposed steel left to weather and rough-hewn timber. Merdeka 118 is no less interesting because of its angular shapes and extensive use of irregularly shaped curtain wall sections.

Explaining his use of Archicad throughout the project during the Graphisoft's press launch of Archicad 24, Karl said that the software was able to satisfy all of the practice's creative ambitions with no software limitations, that it is intuitive and easy to use, and the work processes they were able to adopt enabled them to work on bigger projects in a smaller time frame.

His comments were echoed by Daniel Goldin who spoke about the background to the project as part of Graphisoft's recent live video streaming event, which took the place of the annual Graphisoft user conference this year for obious reasons. Daniel said that some of the companies they worked with on the project with were not used to working with BIM, but this was not important, as they were able to share 3D building information using IFC open file formats.


"We started early with clash detection to identify design elements that could interfere with load bearing elements and cause serious problems if not picked early in the design process," said Karl. This thoroughness was also applied to modelling compliance, synchronised with the cloud-based model, and all of it checked regularly to ensure that components from each discipline were placed correctly within the model. "Engineers, in fact, see exactly the same model as the architect, and we use Solibri to identify any problems with the design - a big help in quality assurance."

Karl added that "BIMcloud is invaluable for sharing information with teams on site and other companies working with us on the project, and we also use tools like Hotlink for managing room layers and furniture layouts, which enables us to update all of them, if necessary, in one step."

Karl pointed out other Archicad features that assisted them on such a major project, including the ability to do everything in 3D rather than 2D, making extensive use of the software's messaging and mark-up features. But one of the most significant features he emphasised further was that the same software and model were able to be used for everything from concept to visualisation and construction. Putting it all in perspective, Karl said that the future of the practice is based on what they produce - and anything they can get their hands on to achieve this will be used.


A couple of features were singled out for special mention. Using Rhino, Archicad's integrated GDL object creation tool for Library Part Creation, Fender Katsalidis were able to design one of the building's objects, representing some of the structure's 87 lifts. The created objects, with perhaps a local tweak here and there to conform to their position in the building, were used to populate all of the structure's 118 storeys. The software was able to automatically place the lift objects on each floor and bypass those storeys which individual lifts missed out.

Whilst the process of creating and placing some objects was simplified, others, surprisingly, demanded greater positioning and accuracy. Like the tower itself, the large foyer was composed of a complex series of angled curtain walls. The 3D model by itself wasn't capable of placing smoke detectors on the different sections, as these had to be aligned precisely with the detection devices that picked up an uninterrupted beam from an opposite wall, and had to cope with different slopes, sizes and angles.


The Archicad tool that made the most difference for Fender Katsilidis, however, was the curtain wall tool. Although the tool has been available, and quite stable, since 2010 it wasn't much used then. Daniel said that Fender Katsilidis did consider using an external application to create the complex shapes and surfaces required, but were delighted to find that Archicad's curtain wall tool, using scripted components, was able to calculate and design all of the components of each section.

All of the components were scripted to produce detailed drawings of all of the fa├žades, including each individual element's components such as mullions, as well as entry portals. The principal advantage of this was that all elements remained in-house within the same model and were able to be modified centrally, providing a greater degree of flexibility and control over the whole model.

Rounding the Q and A off at the end of his presentation, Daniel reiterated Karl's earlier statements. "The team, which has been through many revolutions from Archicad 10 to the present, have been creative throughout, free from any software limitations."