Memories of Malaysian buildings
THANK you Wong Li Za and Daryl Goh for such stimulating stories in Wednesday’s print edition of Star2: “Green by example” (tinyurl.com/ star2-spaces) and “From the ground up” (search for “modernist architecture” at Star2.com).
In Wong’s story, Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia’s (PAM) new centre does indeed deserve plaudits for showing the way forward – but did you know, Sir Nigel Grimshaw once grumbled (in Futurarc magazine) that architects and engineers were leaders of teams that consumed half the world’s resources, so that “green building” seems ironic, or words to that effect?
Goh’s story (on modernist post-Merdeka architecture featured in the Manifest: Modernism Of Merdeka exhibition) brought back memories of Kuala Lumpur.
Masjid Negara was a Public Works Department (now Jabatan Kerja Raya) project in that post-Merdeka era. With its umbrellashaped pleated concrete roof, wide covered terraces, and reflecting pools, it seemed to epitomise a local response to tropical conditions, creating talk of what Malayan/ Malaysian architecture might be.
But from what I can see, this enterprising spirit did not flourish, and clients now seem to favour glass curtain walls with their high heat gain and, thus, high power requirements to cool interiors.
Not to mention the ubiquitous onion-shaped domes that ape the Middle Eastern model, itself a development based on Roman structures.
And then there was Universiti Malaya’s Great Hall (now Dewan Tunku Canselor) that was a project by BEP Architects, successor to English firm Booty, Edwards & Partners. With unplastered finishes in vogue globally in the 1960s, the hall’s builders went to great lengths to install conduits for concealed wiring before concrete was poured.
This expensive way of building did not flourish either but if you’re in Ipoh, you can visit another example of the style, the Perak Turf Club grandstand, which was the international competition winner by an Australian firm back in 1964.
Not mentioned in Goh’s story: Stadium Negara, with its unusual tensile roof structure looking somewhat like a giant bicycle wheel with spokes.
The Pekeliling Flats by Danish engineers was such a clever interlocking system that it seems a shame no more mass housing was built in that style (perhaps because of the cost of erection).
Thanks again to you both for a great read!