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Kuala Lumpur’s Architectural Gems
Malaysian architecture is influenced by its history, climate and culture. Although the remains of Portuguese and Dutch architecture are rare except in Malacca, British colonial architecture with its pillars, columns and corridors can still be seen in former colonial centers such as Georgetown, Taiping, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur, Klang and Kuching.
The British also introduced the Neo-Moorish style to the country, of which the former Kuala Lumpur Railway Station is the best example. However, after independence, the practice of Malaysian architects has been integrating traditional and modern building techniques, which are often impressive originals. These buildings have given major areas of the country a new look.
Kuala Lumpur, being the capital of the country, has a skyline that has an amazing landscape of skyscrapers that are designed in an amazing way. A pioneer in combining modernity with Islamic elements was Hijas Kasturi who designed the Tabung Haji Building located in Jalan Tun Razak. The building is the headquarters of the Pilgrim Board Management Fund which oversees the financing of the pilgrimage of Malaysian Muslims to Mecca. The building’s five white pillars recall Islamic principles, and its hourglass shape is very unique. Hijas Kasturi also designed Menara Maybank which casts its shadow on Jalan Tun Perak. With 50 stories, it shows the theme of verticality, and there is no difference from bottom to bottom.
At Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, the Dayabumi Complex is another example of the fusion of Islamic architecture and modernity. Architecture Datuk Nik Mohammed designed a white mosaic style based on Islamic architecture which is complemented by a doorway with lancet arches. At night, the Dayabumi Complex is lit up and filled with Malaysian architecture.
Cultural heritage has also been an inspiration, and in Jalan Razak near Titiwangsa Lake, there are three interesting buildings that are worth a closer look. It is the National Library, the National Art Gallery and the Istana Budaya (National Theatre).
The National Library consists of three low-rise blocks with blue roofs that each resemble a “tengkolok”, a traditional Malawian head. The roofs made of “tengkolok” come together around the open-air playground to show the unity of the country and the three goals of the National Library; it is to provide education, to satisfy the desire for knowledge, and to encourage the habit of reading. It also shows the unity of the three main ethnic groups – Malay, Chinese, Indian – in the country
Inside the rooms that make up the atrium, there are large standing areas. Skylight provides a ceiling contrast and unlimited views. The visibility of the borderless area increases the awareness of the visitors as they step inside the reception area. Sheets of blue roof in three shades allow to create musical textile designs.
The Istana Budaya (or National Theatre) is the cultural center of the country. Architect Muhammad Kamaar Ya’akub has also adopted the design of a Malawian building at Istana Budaya. In a traditional Malay house, there is always a long balcony called “serambi.” The next part is the “rumah ibu” (literally meaning “mother’s house”) which has the main living area, followed by the “dapur” (kitchen) in the last part of the house. In Istana Budaya, the lobby, hall and main stage are connected to “serambi”, “rumah ibu” and “dapur” respectively.
Outside the building, the staircase leading to the ground floor is an enlarged version of the Malaccan staircase. The main entrance is set up by the “balairiong seni” (royal hall) found in old Malawian palaces. The roof of the house resembles “sirih junjung”, a flower of betel vine leaves, which is used as decoration in Malaysian weddings.
As an institution tasked with the preservation and promotion of Malaysian art, the National Art Gallery showcases its work through its unique architecture. The building is on an area of 13,500 square meters, and combines traditional Malawian architecture with modern lines, and resembles a kampung house with a tarp roof. Aluminum composite panels, transparent glass and stone are the materials used in its exterior. The main room on the ground floor is taken up by permanent exhibitions. Four other buildings house exhibitions of local and foreign artists.
Kuala Lumpur’s most famous tower, the PETRONAS Twin Towers, has the best level of Islamic architecture. It was designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates who used the geometry of two intersecting circles to create an eight-pointed star on the base plates. On the eight-pointed star, semi-circles were placed on top to soften the inner corners. The floor designs of the main entrance rooms are reminiscent of “pandan” weaving (the weaving of pandanus leaves), while the “bertam” designs on the palm fronds on the walls are reminiscent of the handicrafts of East Coast villages. In the large empty spaces above, stainless steel fixtures and displays seem to float in space.
Standing 421 meters above Bukit Nanas, Menara Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur Tower) is the fourth tallest tower in the world and the tallest in Southeast Asia. Kumpulan Senireka Sdn Bhd has combined Eastern architecture with Western technology to create an impressive tower that is a major tourist attraction in the city. The head of the tower has a circular dining area and observation deck. The soffit of the head of the tower is decorated with vertical ribs on the outer surface where they depict Islam. This design can be seen from the pedestrian mall.
The dome-shaped walls of each upper entrance are decorated with glass that shines like a large diamond while the space is arranged according to the Islamic culture “Muqarnas”. This design from Esfahan, Iran, creates large, glowing colors on the floor to represent the seven spheres of the sky.
In the southwestern part of Bukit Kiara, the Securities Commission Building and the National Science Center have a vision of the future in them. The National Science Center resembles a green cone with a geodesic dome. There are nine rooms with more than a thousand exhibits, including an aquarium where visitors can see the deep from up close. Sitting in a green valley opposite the National Science Center, the Securities Commission Building was founded with the idea of transparency. Its exterior glass walls allow ample sunlight inside. The canal is running
The growing awareness of the importance of environmental protection among Malaysians has led to the construction of Menara Telekom with bamboo shoots. Standing 310 meters tall and has 55 stories, it was rated as a six-star smart building by Kuala Lumpur City Hall, and is distinguished by its appearance. Menara Telekom is strategically located along the Federal Highway and Jalan Pantai Baru, and is served by the Kerinchi LRT commuter station.
As buildings reflect the power and progress of a country, Kuala Lumpur’s beautifully designed buildings are symbols of where the country is headed. Likewise, they create beautiful backdrops for visitors to take pictures.
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