Today marks 8th anniversary of my blog.


Happy 8th Anniversary to the blog!

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( Image above from http://www.kingsofmambo.com )

My blog here has just recently reached some great milestones; gained over 3 million views, attracted over 220 followers and produced over 1800 posts. And today is the day to top it off as the blog is celebrating its 8th birthday today!

It has been a wonderful 8 years since I created this blog. I believe I have been writing a lot of cool stuff as well as some nonsense ones in the past 8 years (and more to come). Well, this is my blog…I have whatever freedom I have to type anything I like as long as it did not violate, insult or breach any rules or parties. This is a great online platform for me to share and express my thoughts and feelings on certain issues I’m interested or involved in. This site is accessible to everyone across the world, unless you have no internet connection. So, you are welcomed to visit my blog here any time or any where you want. Your support and visit to my site is what inspired me to continue updating my blog here.

When I first started this blog, I never thought of coming to this far. For your information, before the birth of this blog, I have had actually created another blog earlier but I have dumped it off and focus on this one instead. Now I couldn’t even remember where my previous blog (that is my first ever attempt on blogging) is located at. But I think since it has been inactive for so many years (10 years or something), I guess it would have been automatically removed and I have no issue with that. From 2008 onward, this site is the only blog I’m attached to…and then time flies, and 8 years have gone. And I’m still here, constantly updating my blog.

Actually in my mind, I have some ideas to expand and roll out new features and improvements for this blog. I also have plan to upgrade my blog’s media storage capacity, purchase and set the blog’s web address to my own domain. I guess these are going to be done in stages soon, to give fresh new appearance to my blog that has been around with the same face and style for the past 8 years.

Alright. That’s it for my post today, created to mark this very special day for my blog here that is now 8 years old.

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( Gif image above from http://www.bestanimations.com )

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Urban design is fun.


Urban design is the first out of the three design studios I have to complete in my Master of Architecture course. It is generally defined as the process of giving form, shape, and character to groups of buildings, to whole neighborhoods, and the city. It is a framework that orders the elements into a network of streets, squares, and blocks. Urban design is also about making connections between people and places, movement and urban form, nature and the built fabric and the goal is usually to make the urban areas more functional, attractive and sustainable.

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Before I take on this design studio, I have had already some interest in urban design. I do like to see how and where the buildings were placed in relation to each other and their significance to the overall masterplan. I have been to many cities with unique urban planning before like Siem Reap (the ancient city of Angkor where the famous Angkor Wat temple is at the centre), Beijing (city spine or axis from Tiananmen Square to Forbidden City and then all the way up straight to Olympic Park, picture below), Paris (the streets and uniform building heights and patterns), Seoul (the Cheonggyecheon River and the public realm along it, picture below), etc. I like to research on the many urban case studies across the world from the ancient or historical city planning to the ones in the present. They are not only useful to my study in this particular studio but also beneficial for my extra knowledge on this field that involves a lot of parties (architect, urban planner, landscape architect, engineers, authority, etc).

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After this studio that I have completed, I do discovered many more useful information and knowledge behind a successful urban design. Here below are the top 10 urban design knowledge that I have learnt from my studio which can be seen as the basic principles or guidelines on creating a good urban planning:

(1) Be pedestrian-friendly. Pedestrian streets over vehicular roads.

Urban design is mostly about creating good environment for people to walk, to see, to play, to shop, to eat, etc. Having beautiful pedestrian streets or promenades gives a nice and safe ambience to people. Lesser attention to roads.

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(2) Activate ground level. 

Ground level is where all the things should be happening. Skywalks (those pedestrian bridges) are now very popular urban trend to link buildings away and above the roads. They may be useful but they are sometimes bad on preventing people to be on ground level. Try makes the public spaces on the ground to be interesting to draw people to that level.

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(3) Continue lines from existing urban or city grid. And create new ones too.

To start on your master planning, try as much as you can to link your newly proposed roads or streets to the existing ones outside your site boundary to create a continuity so that your masterplan isn’t in its ‘own world’. Linking to existing urban patterns (grids) is very important for a continuous uninterrupted flow around or within the urban area.

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(4) Have a driver or an overall concept.

It is preferred to have a main strategy before starting on the urban planning. A main concept or driver to your imagined urban development. For example, you can have your site to be transit-oriented (main focus on transportation links), or water-oriented (priority for water views or for various interaction or engagement with people from water). Have a look on some good examples of successful urban projects across the world. Research on them, make them as your precedent studies, and maybe you can find certain interesting elements to be incorporated in your urban design as well.

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(5) Emphasize on views, vantage points, visual axis or linkage. See at human scale.

View is important. When you are proposing a street here, try and imagine what would people see at the end of this particular street? It’s best that the planning is done to allow people to have certain intended view (for example, view of a river, view of a sculpture, view of an interesting roof, view of a major park, or view that directs people to another angle, etc). Always see from a human scale.

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(6) Have something as the centrepiece of the planning.

It’s always an ideal way to have something that stood out among the rest in your masterplan. It would be boring to have all proposed built forms in your masterplan to have uniform and similar strength, proportion, height or scale. Have one particularly large or tall building (a landmark) as the limelight of the overall masterplan. Or if you think that is unnecessary, have a main public square as the node of your planning. On the other hand, try to propose a few more civic or community buildings like library, aquarium, sports hall, shopping mall, museums, art gallery, etc to create a sense of place and to gives identity to the particular urban area or city.

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(7) More parks, plazas or squares. Public realm is the most important.

Create these spaces for people to walk, relax, interact, etc. Public space is the priority in an urban design. Have them designed in a way that it invites people, it engages people, it attracts people, at any time of the day if possible. It’s not about the quantity too as it’s about quality. Having a lot of parks or plazas may not be good as this approach will make people to go on separate ways since they have many choices to make (on which parks or plazas to go).

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(8) Connectivity and practicality in mind.

It would be cool to have the urban planning to feature extensive greenery, massive parks, huge waterways, etc. You can be daring in your design. However, kindly think of whether it is practical to have that. Will it interrupts flow of people? Can it be accessed by cars? Can the disabled go over there? Can goods or loading be done over here to cater for this building? Also think about the distance to reach a place from the office, from the mall, from the homes, from the hotel, etc. On the other hand, car park is an ugly building but it is very much needed even if you don’t like it. How are you going to have that in your masterplan while not being a waste of space or being an unpleasant sight? Avoid from having car park taking up ground level and preferably place it in basements or in a podium together with facility floors. You can even propose to treat the facade of the car park podium to be interesting. But let’s not get into detail of buildings as urban design is not about that.

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(9) Be green. 

Everything is about sustainability now in the architecture world. It’s good to bring the nature back into your masterplan by proposing parks with extensive landscaping (or even lakes, etc) as people love to enjoy the nature if it’s provided and it’s beautiful. Be green in this case also means having your masterplan to work in a way that you envisioned it to be energy efficient by having the future built forms in the site to have maximum exposure to natural daylight, making use of wind direction, sun orientation, etc.

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(10) Think about land use, setbacks and mass of buildings. 

This is where standard comes in. There is the setbacks to buildings that you have to provide when setting out your proposed location of new built forms. Each authority has their own set of guidelines on it, and it includes also on the mass of building (height, density limit, etc). As for the zoning, try to think over and over again why would you want to propose a hotel here instead of at the other places in your site. That’s one of the examples. If you can’t find good reason for it, then it’s not a good urban design decision. Work on it again.

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In conclusion, urban design is mostly about people and its about the spaces between buildings (roads, streets, parks, boulevards, lanes, plazas, walkways, etc). Social system goes above vehicular system. People over cars. A good urban design facilitates human interaction, activates dead spaces, ensures smooth flow and permeability, and caters to a demand-seeking future. A masterplan should be flexible, able to adapt to future changes or addition of new built forms if possible. It should be done to prepare the site to meet demands in the future especially when all the cities now are growing fast with increasing need for more residential, commercial, leisure or tourism developments. When you are designing a masterplan, imagine being in there yourself, what do you want to see, where do you want to go, what do you want to do once you are in that space? Have plenty of good reasoning to all the design making decisions you have make, and then you will have an excellent masterplan. There is no right or wrong but there is a point where we know whether it works or not. It requires a lot of thinking in macro-scale. That’s what differentiates urban design from architecture.

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(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

More details revealed for the mysterious KL118 Tower


After giving my attention on several supertall skyscrapers under construction in China in my previous blog post, it’s time to shift back the focus to one supertall also currently undergoing construction back in my home city, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It is the controversial KL118 Tower. Why I said it is controversial? Because the project is receiving much more criticism than praise from the citizens regarding the need of the city for another supertall building. People also questioned that the budget (over RM 5 billion) allocated for it may be of better use in other areas. It is also criticized for its location as the site of the project is in the vicinity of many heritage buildings (Petaling Street, Stadium Merdeka, Stadium Negara, Methodist Boys School, Victoria Institution, etc) and the tower and its surrounding proposed complex development will leaves huge impact and further heavy traffic to the area.

Whatever the criticisms are, the project is given the nod to proceed but not much details are publicized about the tower since then. The KL118 Tower makes up part of a complex of development known as Warisan Merdeka (Heritage Independence) development that also includes residential towers, shopping mall, etc. The tower itself has 118 floors, and will easily surpass Petronas Twin Towers (452 metres high) as the tallest building in Malaysia. There has been speculations till now over the final height of the tower. Previously, it is tipped to be slightly over 500 metres. Then, the height is revised to allow the building to go taller without adding more floors by amending the design of the spire, the finishing crown to the skyscraper.

So, what’s the height it would be? Based on the elevations or sections drawings available (leaked online), the building will be slightly over 600 metres. The height indicated from the ground floor is at about 75 metres till the top showing 715 metres. Hence, after the reduction, the building will reach full height of 640 metres. However, I think the structure / antenna above the spire will not be counted as the architectural height of the building. Hence, the final height of the tower would be about 610 metres. And there is a feeling in me that I think the tower will be of 615.7 metres (2020 feet high) in the end, to coincide with Wawasan (Vision) 2020; the year 2020 of which we targeted to achieve the high-income / developed nation status for Malaysia. It is also the year the tower would be opened to the public after its estimated completion in 2019.

Official renderings of KL118 Tower:

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3D works of KL118 Tower by other parties:

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 (Renderings by Atifnadzir, http://www.skyscrapercity.com

Scale comparison of KL118 Tower (third from left) with other built supertall skyscrapers in the world. Petronas Twin Towers are on the most right:

 

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Architectural drawings (plan, sections & elevations) of KL118 Tower. Here you can see quite clearly how the spire looks like, and the observation and viewing sky decks occupy four floors of the tower. And there’s a restaurant on level 113! :

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Current site condition ( 2014 – 2019, now still construction at foundation and base level, long way to go):

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When completed, it will be one of the top ten tallest buildings in the world (probably in 6th or 7th place). Now, after seeing more images / renderings of the tower, what is your thought on its design which is obviously based on diamond. KL118 Tower (I think the name will change later on when it is opened) is designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects, an Australian architectural firm. It’s a nice, sleek and futuristic design, but I hope that they can do more on its elevations and its top part which is a bit boring. It is not as appealing or as impressive if compared to Petronas Twin Towers besides than its height. Still, KL118 Tower would be a good addition to the skyline of KL.

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

R.I.P. MH17


‘Before writing further, I would first like to express my heartfelt and deepest condolences to the families, relatives and friends of all the 298 victims on board the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on 17th July 2014. And my sincere thoughts and prayers to the deceased. Rest in peace, and may God be with you.’

The world is currently overwhelmed with news of a Malaysian plane found to have crashed at Ukraine, near Russian border yesterday. What’s further shocking from that saddening statement is that the plane went down not because of any technical failure or accident but is now believed to be shot down by military. This has been widely called as an act of cruelty and terrorism. While the Ukrainian and Russian governments are now blaming on each other for the crash in this time when there has been dispute and war at the borders between these two nations, an international investigation has been called on by United Nations to find out the exact truth behind this.

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The plane is a Boeing 777, and carried 283 passengers and 15 crew members (over 10 nationalities). It was believed to be shot down when it was cruising at about 30 000 ft altitude. Some local people witnessed and even captured videos showing moment when the plane crashed onto the ground with thick plume of smoke coming off seen far away on a field. I was deeply saddened and traumatized after seeing some of the images and watching some of the clips showing the crash site. Highly disturbing. If it is indeed confirmed that the plane was shot down, the perpetrators should be brought to justice without any question. All involved or affected nations (Russia, Ukraine, Malaysia, United States, Netherlands, United Kingdom) should cooperate to get to the bottom on this matter.

This is the second aviation tragedy for the Malaysia Airlines in this year alone, as this crash came not long after an incident on March 8 this year when another Malaysia Airlines plane MH370 flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared. The plane was presumed to have crashed on the Indian Ocean,but till now, no wreckage or any sign of the plane has been found yet, and everything remains a mystery. I hope the truth will be revealed very soon to both MH370 and this recent MH17 tragedies as the world needs the answer, particularly the next-of-kin of the passengers on board the two doomed flights. Malaysia Airlines is in very deep trouble this year.

I couldn’t believe this happened. Another tragic aviation-related news in this already tragic year for Malaysia. This is horrifying and shocking. Now, unfortunately, Malaysia is becoming the headlines of all major news organizations around the world for the second time this year alone for something this devastating again. This Friday and weekend is no longer happy for all of us. We felt the pain, we felt the sadness, we felt the tragedy. Now, we share a moment of silence for MH17.

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Rest in peace, MH17. 

(Information and images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

 

Facebook is now 10 years old! Happy 10th anniversary to Facebook!


Happy Birthday to Facebook! This social networking site which first started in a humble manner is now one of the world’s most famous websites on the internet. It is also the second most popular website in the world, just behind Google, the search engine. I believed everyone that read my blog here would have his or her own Facebook account. Some may even have two or more just for fun. This post is in dedication to celebrate the amazing 10th anniversary of Facebook. Let us look back into a bit of history on the founding of Facebook.

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Facebook was founded on February 4, 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg with his college roommates and fellow Harvard University students; Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The founders had initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students, but due to extreme popularity and support it gained, it later expanded to colleges, high schools and finally to everyone with access to internet across the world except than in few countries where it is banned. Luckily, in Malaysia, we can use it.

Thanks to their innovative ideas and creation, we have now had a brilliant medium to share and connect with the online social community. We can simply do so many things; updating our status, sharing our feelings, uploading photos, albums or videos, playing games with friends, tagging friends, liking friend’s posts, sending messages, creating groups, events or pages, online chatting, adjusting our own profile, discussing latest news, etc. It is just so convenient. It breaks border and boundary. Facebook must be the first website you open once a day starts. Right? In current days, it is like we couldn’t live without Facebook.

Having over 1 billion monthly active users, we couldn’t question the impact that Facebook has generated to the present society across the world. In fact, I have read Mark Zuckerberg’s post on his feeling to Facebook’s 10th anniversary and I’m quite touched by his message. You can read it here: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101250930776491 .  The CEO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, clarified “He (Mark) always said Facebook was started not just to be a company, but to fulfill a vision of connecting the world”. And he, now a billionaire, made it. Facebook page has changed over the years, but its objective remains solid and clear.

In conjunction with Facebook’s 10th birthday, everyone of us (Facebook users) got to see our personal look-back clip and we may choose whether to share it or keep it to ourself. Nice work but I wish the video to be slightly longer (now it’s only taking 1 minute and 2 second). The clip reminded me that I joined Facebook in 2008. So, I have been in the site for 6 years. Not bad. Coincidentally, 2008 was also the year I started out this blog. Anyway, Happy Birthday once again to Facebook! Congratulations for what it has become and achieve today!

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Happy 10th Anniversary, Facebook!

(Images in this post are from various sources throughout the world wide web)

Galaxy Soho: Breathtaking design but does not responds to site.


Galaxy Soho is a huge complex comprising of retail, office and entertainment spaces under four domed structures, which are fused together by bridges and platforms around a series of public courtyards and a large central “canyon”. The massive 330 000 square metre complex is opened last month in Beijing, China and is designed by Zaha Hadid. She had designed many impressive masterpiece like Bergisel Ski Jump (Austria), BMW Central Building (Germany), Bridge Pavilion (Spain), Guangzhou Opera House (China), London Aquatics Centre (UK), Riverside Museum (UK), etc which cemented her position as one of the world’s most famous architects in the present.

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Galaxy Soho’s design is quite fascinating. It has the futuristic look, and its fluidity is very much apparent on its form and circulation. Things are smooth and soft, which stays away from her usual fascination with sharp corners or forms. From what I can see from the images, I believe visitors would have the impression of walking into another much advanced world, which is actually only a few steps away from the Beijing’s ‘hutongs’, narrow alleyways of the densely populated surrounding traditional neighbourhoods.  ‘Hutongs’ have been typical of Beijing’s urban fabric for hundreds of years, but have been in decline as the city’s development continues to increase.

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The architect claims that the buildings respond to and are respectful of China’s historic building typologies, with courtyards and “fluid movement” between spaces. “The design responds to the varied contextual relationships and dynamic conditions of Beijing,” said Hadid at the time of the opening. “We have created a variety of public spaces that directly engage with the city, reinterpreting the traditional urban fabric and contemporary living patterns into a seamless urban landscape inspired by nature.” What a fantastic description provided by Zaha Hadid.

Well, I have to agree that architect has to be very good on his or her English proficiency to describe things in a much beautiful way to impress the clients. But be reminded, what you are saying should truly conveys the clarity of design intent and the honesty of outcome, No bullshitting. And so, I would like to say sorry to Zaha Hadid that what she said are all just fantasy in her mind. The building is now criticized for lack of acknowledging the surrounding context or built environment.  It would be nice if it is placed in the modern part of the city. But now, it’s at the historical heritage areas which makes the state-of-the-art complex looks awkward.

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She had the idea, quite a brilliant one. But she had been driven too much in contemporary approach until forgetting the roots, to a level that people outside of architecture profession will find it hard or even impossible to get it. This is what left people guessing now on how that massive complex relates or corresponds to the site. And yes, that is one very important aspect in design process for every architects that Zaha didn’t pull through for this building. A lesson to learn for all architects including myself. Nevertheless, Galaxy Soho is still an awesome-looking structure. 

(Information and images in this post are from the following source: http://www.dezeen.com/2012/11/15/galaxy-soho-by-zaha-hadid-architects-photographed-by-hufton-crow/)

KL voted by CNN as 4th best shopping city in the world


Not long after gaining a very impressive standing as the second best shopping city in Asia (behind Hong Kong) at Global Shopper Index announced not long ago, my capital, Kuala Lumpur is making another breakthrough. Recently, KL is voted as 4th best shopping city in the world (not only in Asia) by CNN, the famous US news channel and network. And this time on this list, KL is ahead of Hong Kong, but still second best in Asia (Tokyo is leading). Well, KL at least beats off Bangkok, Manila and even Singapore (sorry) to get to the top of this ranking in South East Asia region.

Congratulation to my lovely city of KL! Eventhough I have to admit that KL is still far behind from becoming a truly developed city with high quality of living, but the city is now making a good progress to achieve that goal. With construction of the new MRT in and around the city (the on-going construction is contributing quite a mess to the city currently), recent completion and opening of air-conditioned pedestrian bridge connecting major places in Bukit Bintang and KLCC as well as the establishment of BBKLCC (Bukit Bintang Kuala Lumpur City Centre) as the premier shopping destination in the capital, KL is certainly doing great with visible development to attract more tourists and to gain further international fame and recognition. And this ranking the most recent proof to what KL had achieved so far.

 

(Image source: http://www.kosmo.com.my/kosmo/pix/2012/0910/Kosmo/Urban/ur_01.2.jpg)

It is no doubt that KL offers wonderful shopping experience to visitors. There is already over 10 shopping malls in BBKLCC region alone, and not mention some other famous malls not that far away too. The most distinguished malls would be Pavilion KL (very modern with beautiful decoration during festive season), Berjaya Times Square (huge mall with an indoor theme park), Suria KLCC (right below the iconic Petronas Twin Towers), Starhill Gallery (a very high class and distinctive mall from its outside to interior as well). Public transportation is good in that area with high number of tourists and locals too eventhough their service can be quite bad sometimes. Furthermore, the variety of delicious food offered here would treats well to the shoppers when they are hungry in the middle of shopping spree.

I realize there is quite a huge criticism over that list and some said its quite inaccurate. Well, different people offers different opinions. However, I believe that those people who made up the list from CNN must be in professional capability and had did out thorough observations in many categories to sort out the ranking. And I’m quite surprised also to see the list where KL gets such a high spot. Hmm…KL is really improving, and I do hope that the city would excels in other categories too. After writing for so much, I realized only now that I have not even list down that particular ranking provided by CNN. Here it is:

1 – New York, United States of America.

2 – Tokyo, Japan.

3 – London, United Kingdom.

4 – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

5 – Paris, France.

6 – Hong Kong, China.

7 – Buenos Aires, Argentina.

8 – Vienna, Austria.

9 – Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

10 – Madrid, Spain.

Well, you can check out the analysis of how these cities are being selected in few categories with points allocated. Here is the source: http://travel.cnn.com/worlds-10-best-shopping-cities-193776. Well, you may give your comment over the list at here too. Hmm…KL can still improves on this ranking, and let’s see whether it can goes up to top 3 soon. I think more decorations (especially during festive seasons like Christmas and Chinese New Year) should be provided not only in malls but also along shopping streets and roads to enhance the atmosphere. Public facilities is of course a priority too. Some kind of public street art would be a great addition to ‘wow’ visitors too. KL has the potential to offer the most convenient and best shopping style and experience to locals and tourists around the world. BBKLCC rocks!

(Image source: http://www.bbklccmalaysia.com/uploadfiles/image/Others/About/about-bbklcc.jpg)