Sarawak Series 4

Organized by Badan Warisan Malaysia

Live Webinar Details
Date: Thursday, 9 June 2022
Time: 5:00 PM (Kuala Lumpur, GMT+8)
Topic: The Forts Of Sarawak
Speaker: Dr. John Ting
Moderator: Ar. Mike Boon
Venue: Virtual – Zoom Webinar
Free Admission

About The Talk

The Brooke Government’s Forts in Sarawak, 1844-1938
The design and construction of the Brooke government’s whitewashed timber forts by three successive Rajahs in Sarawak represented modern approaches, and they appeared to contrast with vernacular and indigenous typologies. Their primary structure was often prefabricated in the capital, Kuching, before being shipped out with government carpenters for erection. While defensive, they also introduced modern institutions to newly acquired areas, such as courts, revenue, shipping and post offices, and dispensaries. However, the vernacular materials and construction of the forts clearly show the involvement of regional migrant and indigenous carpenters, suppliers and labour.

While prefabrication and remote manufacture can be considered modern, the mobility of the large primary structure of some indigenous longhouses was employed for spiritual and agricultural purposes for centuries before the arrival of Europeans in Northwest Borneo. The regional carpentry traditions adopted for the forts were demountable and therefore appropriate for remote reconstruction. Unlike colonial jurisdictions in Southeast Asia, Sarawak’s government relied on the dynamic maintenance of political relationships with locals, and negotiations and collaborations with indigenous, regional migrant and colonial groups in order to maintain authority.

Its governance was a hybrid of vernacular and modern systems, and its ethnically European leaders indigenised their rule. This hybridity and indigenisation extended to fort architecture. Second-generation British colonial buildings in Southeast Asia emulated metropolitan designs while masking local involvement. This also happened in Kuching from the 1870s, but elsewhere in Sarawak, the government’s particular form of governance and influence affected outstations’ institutional architecture, producing a unique hybrid architectural type, where local involvement was celebrated in the building’s visible carpentry details.

About The Speaker

John Ting is an architect, researcher and educator. He teaches in the architecture and construction programs at the University of Canberra, with a PhD from the University of Melbourne and a professional degree in architecture from RMIT University. His present research investigates Sarawak’s architectural history, the vernacular architecture of Malaysia, and mobile and prefabricated timber buildings in nineteenth century colonial Southeast Asia and Australia. He is the author of The History of Architecture in Sarawak before Malaysia, published in 2018.

About The Moderator

Ar. Mike Boon graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture (Hons) degree from the University of Western Australia in 1989. After working briefly in Australia, he continues to practice in his hometown Kuching, Sarawak since 1990.  

His appreciation of local culture is interpreted through reimagining local crafts, materials and building traditions in his contemporary design. He strives to promote good design and awareness of local cultural heritage through various media and conduct community engagement programmes. Being the founding member and the Past President of Sarawak Heritage Society, he is regularly consulted on heritage matters in Sarawak. 

He is often invited to give lectures to professional bodies and universities on design and heritage conservation subjects, and as juror for architecture awards.