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About a dozen, eight of which are from the latter group, have been replaced by other, bigger, higher density developments.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
ABOUT THE TALK
Located in Kampung Jawa, Masjid Diraja Sultan Suleiman was built in 1932-33 in the Royal Town of Klang, Selangor and has been gazetted as National Heritage under the National Heritage Act 2005 (Act 645). In November 2017, the mosque was reopened to the public following its restoration and refurbishment. This talk will cover the history of the building, the conservation and restoration work and the construction of new amenities to respond to the present day needs of the qariah.
Speakers will include members of the conservation team, architects Ar. Dr. Helena Aman Hashim and Mariana Isa from Badan Warisan Heritage Services Sdn Bhd, the consultant architect, Ar. Hafizi Tan Sri Mohamed from Linea Architect Sdn Bhd and Musrizal Mat Isa from Balai Seni Negara who was involved in the restoration of the bas-relief features in the mosque.
ABOUT THE TALK
The Pangkor Story is a work in progress developed by Faisal and his team working closely with the Northern Corridor Implementation Authority. Originally developed as a training programme for the local taxi drivers to be Pangkor Island Guides, Faisal found that there were many cultural and heritage firsts in Pangkor that had to be documented. This has become the Pangkor Story – the Cultural Heritage Map of Pangkor Island. Want to learn about Frank Sinatra’s connection with Pangkor or who are the Kwantong in Pangkor?
Come join us and meet the team behind the project!
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Faisal Abd Rahman is a sought after tourism and training expert and frequently gives talks on a variety of subjects. He has developed many modules for tourist guides, cultural heritage guides, and national service trainees. Currently, he is focusing on community-based tourism initiatives.
ABOUT THE TALK
Brickfields is a diverse neighbourhood with dozens of religious institutions, schools, associations as well as social and welfare organizations within a square mile, all with a history of more than a century. It is in serious threat of rapid change and is at odds with its own past and its future.
Brickfields: As Witness explores the changing image of this neighbourhood through Mano’s eyes. He fears that Brickfields will no longer reflect that colour and become just a giant communication “go-to/come-from place”.
This narrative will also uncover the stories he has experienced as an inmate of this colorful suburb.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
An actor, director, teacher and voice over artist, Mano Maniam is well known for his roles as Uncle Chan in the local TV series ‘Kopitiam’ and as Moonshee in Hollywood’s ‘Anna and the King’.
As a cultural anthropologist, he is curious on examining how cultures merge, collide and intertwine. Brickfields has become the center of his curiosity and observation.
Having lived in Brickfields for over 30 years, Mano has seen the land and peoplescape change, unsure of its destiny.
Colours of Asia
‘Colours of Asia’ was the first in a series of studies to examine the idea of ‘Asian-ness’ in the broad field of design—a particular way of thinking and doing, its cultural and spiritual affinities, profound philosophical and aesthetic concepts—that can give multiple meanings and depth to contemporary design.
The research on colours covered 13 Asian countries/regions, exploring significant dimensions of culture such as beliefs and rites of passage that define society, design and the built environment, crafts, food, language and literature, traversing from a rich cultural past to an equally relevant and exciting present day.
‘Colours of Asia’ was a project undertaken by The Design Alliance Asia in collaboration with Hong Kong Design Institute and Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (Lee Wei Lee), with generous funding from CreateHK, Hong Kong SAR Government.
‘Colours of Asia’ comprised an exhibition, student workshops, forum, seminar, research papers and a publication. It was presented during Hong Kong Year of Design 2012 and in 2014 won the prestigious Special Award for Culture at the Design for Asia Awards in Hong Kong.
Curators: Prof. Ahn Sang-soo (South Korea) and William Harald-Wong (Malaysia)
Research team for Malaysia: Ezrena Marwan, Suzy Sulaiman and William Harald-Wong
About the Speaker
William Harald-Wong is an urban identity designer, working at the intersection of brand, culture, city and community. William is also the Founder and Chairman of The Design Alliance Asia (tDA Asia), a collaborative network of prominent designers in 13 Asian countries / regions.
He won in the prestigious Design for Asia Awards in Hong Kong twice in a row—2015 Grand Award Finalist and Gold for Museum Sultan Abu Bakar (Malaysia) and 2014 Special Award for Culture for ‘Colours of Asia’.
He was awarded the International Design Achievement Award, China (2010), the Lifetime Achievement Award by DDEC Malaysia (2011), Designomics Leadership Award, India (2012), and Distinguished Chinese Award by Chinese Who’s Who Society, China (2013).
William served as Vice-President of Icograda from 2001 to 2013 and co-founded wREGA, the Graphic Design Association of Malaysia.
Statement from Elizabeth Cardosa, President, Badan Warisan Malaysia
It is the responsibility of building owners to ensure the maintenance, management and care of their properties so they are in good condition, safe, comfortable to use and habitable.
We have many laws and guidelines which regulate this and there are penalties which can be imposed if uninhabited buildings are left to ruin, potentially raising concerns of public safety.
In the case of buildings such as the former FMS Survey Office which has been gazetted as “heritage” on the National Heritage Register, there may be additional regulations which are imposed by Jabatan Warisan Negara who are custodians of this Register.
Section 42 of the National Heritage Act 2005 states that it is the duty of the owner of a heritage site to keep it in a state of good repair and that the National Heritage Commissioner can take steps to ensure that this is complied to, and in keeping with the heritage values of the building.
While we may want to know who is responsible, or how this sad state of affairs has come about, it is more pressing to have an urgent action plan to bring the relevant parties together to stop further deterioration and put the building back in good repair. It would be timely for the responsible authorities to work with heritage NGOs and other stakeholders to initiate a management regime to prevent this from happening to other heritage buildings, especially public/government owned buildings.
Statement by Badan Warisan Malaysia on the Revocation of Heritage Site status of MaTIC by Jabatan Warisan Malaysia
The notification in the NST on 28 December 2016 from Jabatan Warisan Negara (JWN) to revoke the designation of the “Old Building of Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTIC)” as a heritage site raises many concerns and issues.
Law does not Provide for Revocation of Heritage Site Status
First, the section 31 (2) of the National Heritage Act 2005 (Act 645) which was cited in the Notice describes the process for designation of a heritage site. It does not deal with revocation of a gazetted site. And we understand that this site which comprises Lots 45 and 139 (Section 58) and part of Lot 158 (Section 57) was gazetted (Gazette Number P.U. (B) 290) as “Warisan” on the National Heritage Register on 16 June 2016. The criteria for listing specified in documents from JWN refers to its historical importance as well as its architectural and aesthetic character.
The National Heritage Act (NHA) does not have any provision for revocation of gazettal of a heritage site. Therefore, it would appear that unless the NHA is amended to allow for this, it is questionable if the Commissioner has the power to revoke a site which has already been gazetted; i.e. is this revocation ultra vires the Act?
Significance of the Heritage Site
So what can we find on Lots 45, 139 and the part of 158 which is identified in the Notice as MaTIC?
Lot 45 is used as a car park which services the tourism centre.
There is a modern five storey building housing the KL Tourism Office on the part of Lot 158 which has been gazetted.
Lot 139 is by far the largest lot. There are several other buildings on this lot, including the house of wealthy business tycoon Eu Tong Sen and the Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman. In keeping with the social standing of the owner Eu, many social activities were held in this house from the time it was built (1935) until the start of World War II. During WWII, it was used by the British, and then the Japanese army as a war office. In 1956, it was acquired and renovated by the government of Malaya, and in 1957, the installation of the first Agong was held there. In 1958 a conference hall, the first air conditioned hall in Kuala Lumpur, was added at the rear of the building.
In 1959, the first meeting of Parliament of the independent Malaya was held there. Following the building of the new Parliament House, by the early 1970s the original house and hall were converted to house the National Art Gallery for the next decade or so. In the 1980s and 1990s several new blocks were added; these include Saloma Bistro and retail stores serving visitors and tourists. In the mid 1980s, the conference hall was converted into a theatre. This ensemble of buildings that has served as the Tourist Information Centre for over 20 years is now known as MaTIC.
NHA and New Development Initiatives on a Heritage Site
Then there is the issue of new development on a heritage site. It is important to note that there is nothing in the NHA which precludes new development. As in the case of all applications for planning permission, owners will have to comply with guidelines and conditions imposed by the local authority – in this instance it will be Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL). When it comes to gazetted heritage sites however, there will be additional guidelines and conditions imposed by JWN in line with provisions found in paragraphs 40, 41 and 42 of the NHA, all of which could potentially affect the scale and nature of the proposed development. This would include the provision of a 200 meter “buffer” from the site boundaries for any new development to mitigate against any (negative) impact on the heritage values of the gazetted building and/or site.
One could speculate that this revocation is to redress the fact there are no heritage buildings on Lots 45 and 158, and therefore the gazettal should not have covered these two lots, only Lot 139 which has heritage properties. If this were the case, it would also beg the question why the Gazette in June 1026 included all three lots.
One would definitely expect a high level of rigour as well as resources in all endeavours to undertake the gazettal of any heritage site. The NHA provides for the process to include notification to the owner/s, an objection period, hearing and eventually, the decision to, or not to, designate a heritage site; and all along the way, there are clear steps to ensure the public are notified of these decisions in the printed press. This process takes time, and it has been our past experience that JWN does not take this responsibility lightly.
Badan Warisan Malaysia believes it is critical to understand the implications and legal ramifications of this Notice to revoke the designation as heritage of MaTIC.
Due process of the law has to be followed for the future protection of heritage sites in Malaysia.
Badan Warisan Malaysia
30 December 2016
Save My Heritage Initiative (#SMHI) is a platform created by Badan Warisan Malaysia to extend our message of heritage appreciation and conservation and to promote the significance and value the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Malaysia.
Working with cultural practitioners, heritage professionals and educators, #SMHI will introduce a varied programme with opportunities for people of all ages from school children, students, academics, professionals and the general public to participate in, and enhance their understanding and knowledge of our heritage. Activities will include talks and lectures, walks and visits to heritage places, training workshops, seminars and events for a wide audience to better understand and be involved in caring for their heritage.
Badan Warisan Malaysia has been championing our nation’s built and cultural heritage since 1982. Our role has been that of a civic trust, building preservation advocate, heritage consultancy and charitable institution with the mission to Educate, Engage and Empower our fellow Malaysians.
To complement and amplify our objectives we will soon launch a new website called SAVEMYHERITAGE.ORG which is an informative and interactive platform where the public can identify heritage assets under threat and generate support for them.