12 October 2018
Over the Malaysia Day holidays in mid-September 2018, the Ampang Park Shopping Complex in Kuala Lumpur was demolished. When we came back to work after the holidays, all we saw where the building had once stood were several earth movers shifting rubble.
Over the past couple of years, following the news that this complex was going to make way for the MRT (no doubt, part of the city’s sorely needed transportation infrastructure development), there were many expressions of regret and a lot of nostalgia making the rounds both in social media as well as main stream media. It was obvious that Ampang Park Shopping Complex held great memories for many who grew up in KL in the 1970s, 80s. And, if one were to go by the comments on the demolition, it even holds a place in the hearts and minds of those who have lived in KL in the 1990s and early 2000s.
This overwhelming sentiment demonstrates that this building was so much a part of the heritage of our city. It certainly validates the inclusion of this shopping complex in Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia’s (PAM) publication, “Guide to Kuala Lumpur Notable Buildings” (1976) which listed 71 structures built between the 1880s and 1974 which PAM deemed to be of architectural merit and historical importance.
A quick survey of the list shows that over half the structures listed were built by the late 1930s and would for most part be considered to be “heritage”; credit must be given to the forward-looking authors, that the remaining 32 are modern buildings, constructed in the two decades post-Merdeka.
About a dozen, eight of which are from the latter group, have been replaced by other, bigger, higher density developments. Some, such as the AIA Building on Jalan Ampang with its original distinctive diamond-shaped sunscreen of iodised aluminium, have been substantially changed to be unrecognisable. A few are vacant and their futures unknown to us while several others have had major developments in their immediate vicinity with later-day high-rise blocks substantially extending their floor space.
For the most part, religious and education-related buildings have remained extant, although there have been a couple which have been demolished and new, larger, grander structures built to replace them. Some others, like the old hospital at Tanglin, were demolished and replicas built, looking almost alike, but using new materials; which begs the question why they were demolished in the first place.
Many of those from the list which remain have in one way or another been changed, upgraded, updated, refurbished to meet new uses and current building standards and accessibility, some for the better, with the jury still out for others.
It is, however, a sad testament to KL’s architectural history that today, the buildings considered by PAM as iconic, deserving to be preserved as part of the architectural heritage of Kuala Lumpur, and which contributed to our national architectural identity, are no longer with us.
As we come towards the end of 2018, perhaps it is time to take another look at this list of notable buildings of Kuala Lumpur, to hopefully take stock of what remains, and to extend this list to include others built since the mid-1970s. With a more comprehensive inventory of notable buildings for the city, Badan Warisan Malaysia would hope that these will in the future be acknowledged and “protected” by the owners, statutory authorities and KLites, as an integral part of the architectural, historical and cultural character of our city.
President of Badan Warisan Malaysia