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  • Outside the Kuan Yin Temple a vibrant kolam flower, a symbol used in Hindu festivals, was colored with color hardener.
  • Another flower design outside the Mariamman Hindu Shrine was also colored with color hardener.
  • Malaysians use bold colors in unusual combinations to achieve unique concrete surfaces.

I believe the concrete industry can be divided into two groups: those that think and work in a shade of gray and those of that think and work in color. The people of Malaysia definitely think and work in color. Their unique use of bold colors and interesting hue combinations in their concrete work is worthy of notice.

Someone once told me that "Americans are scared of color." As I work internationally, I see firsthand what is meant by this statement. Malaysia is a country bursting with rich cultural diversity and lots of color. Examples of this can be seen in Penang, where colored concrete has been used to maintain the spirit of a culture while utilizing current building products and practices.

In 1999 Penang's historic enclave of Georgetown was listed as an endangered cultural treasure. Georgetown boasts incredible 18th century landmarks, including the Sri Mariamman Temple, the Kuan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) Temple, and the Kapitan Kling Mosque. Architectural imprinted concrete, with lots of color, was the choice to renovate and provide feature areas for these historic religious sites.

In each of these projects we see the use of bright and vibrant colors. Outside the Mariamman Hindu Shrine color hardener was used to mimic a Kolam flower, a design used in many Hindu festivals. On the same road, or jalan, as they say in Malaysia, is the Kapitan Kling Mosque. Here yellow, green and buff colors were used to pay respect to the Islamic culture while keeping with the theme of the Kolam flower. The same theme was carried over in front of the Kuan Yin Temple, where color hardener was used to blend a vibrant yellow into a more subtle red on the petal of the trademark Kolam flower.

These three projects are a perfect example of using colored concrete in a way that honors the past while incorporating new practices and techniques. Color hardener was used for these jobs because of the ability to achieve bright vibrant colors that flow together nicely.

In Penang, Malaysia you can find some of the world's best Chinese and Indian food in hawker stands, the Malaysian version of the New York hot dog stand. As you walk to your local hawker stand you would not be surprised to be walking on beautiful colored concrete.

While living and working here, I have learned that Malaysia has a flair for mixing it up, especially when it comes to colored concrete. As Americans, we can learn from these experienced craftsmen and not be afraid of color.

Author Brian Farnsworth, BGI Technical Services

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