Post Independence Architecture in Malaysia
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1. The background of Malaysian architecture
During the pre-colonial and early colonial era, buildings in Malaysia had a local constant touch, though varying according to the regions in their roofing plan. Housing in traditional Malaysia owes little or nothing to a person’s conscious design. They were designed and created by the users themselves. The housing blended with the natural environment and reflected their culture and their way of life (Wan & Wan 2005, 11). The traditional houses are very flexible and are easily dismantled and rebuild again so as to meet the new needs of the users. Therefore, this has contributed largely to the dynamism of the Malay houses (Mohammad Tajuddin Haji Mohammad Rasdi, 62). The architecture in this country has undergone several phases. The changes tend to be slow and natural, and blend with the local environment (Wan & Wan 2005, pp1). The Dutch and the Portuguese introduced structures such as churches and forts which were built using new materials, different techniques and with a different scale (Wan & Wan 2005, pp7). The British introduced the Palladian style in the 19th century.
This style is evident even today, since most of the administrative and government buildings are in this style. The British architectures were entirely involved in designing these structures even after some years of independence. The Malaysian modern way of building can therefore, be said to be ‘forced architecture’, since the estates are arranged in a manner that does not blend with the environment. This type of architecture is said to be doing away with humanistic values. The new mankind unfavorable estates are said to as a result of insensitivity of the government and employed agencies (Mohammad & Hajji 2005, pp7). In the 1960s, local architectures started sprouting and they had a hand in influencing the designs to blend with the Malaysian ones. However, they were unable to create a long standing influence. They are said to be breaking their so called hypocritical oath; to be the diplomats between the user, the client, the immediate public, and the ecology (Mohammad & Hajji 2005, pp111).
2. The history of Kuala Lumpur tower
At a hilly site, of Kuala Lumpur is the mighty shaft; Kuala Lumpur tower formally called Menara Kuala Lumpur. It has been designed to attain a generally glass arranged in the customary Islamic appearance of the "Muqarnas". As the Muqarnas pattern re-occurs in the Tower Shaft design, the architectural plan of the Tower Head and the roofing of the Base Buildings, the whole facade becomes one tuneful body reflecting the revitalization of the Islamic architectural tradition. It stands for the symbol of Kuala Lumpur. The major purpose for the tower construction was to improve telecommunication and broadcasting transmissions. Under this, there was the aim to disseminate information through television and Fm broadcasting, to provide telecommunication services for police, fire brigade, the ambulance services and the city administration (Mobile Reference, 2007).A restaurant is also one of the premises here. The tower also acts as the Islamic observatory site to observe the crescent moon which marks the beginning of Muslim month of Ramadhan, Syawal, and Zulhijjah, to celebrate fasting month of Ramadhan, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Aidiladha.
3. The History of Petronas Twin Towers
In the 20th century, Malaysia experienced a great economic growth. This was depicted by the high demand for residential and commercial buildings. Prevailing trends of the west were reflected in the Malaysian architecture (Wan & Wan2005, pp8). Some of these trends can be seen with the construction of the gigantic Petronas Twin towers .The skyline of Kuala Lumpur is dominated by them, which on completion in 1998 became the world tallest buildings at 452 meters and 88 storey’s (Julie 2001, 29). They have since been knocked back to position three. It was part of a large burst of construction that marked the country's 1990s economic boom,
The towers were constructed by contractors of two very competitive countries. After much competition, the Korean company completed the tower one month ahead of the Japanese company. It has adopted on Islamic geometric forms and customs. From a bird eye's view, the two co-joined squares makes up an eight-pointed star and superimposing 8 globular arcs in interior angles of the star, therefore, creating a 16-branched figure. Because of the great depth of the bedrock, the buildings were constructed on the world's deepest foundations. There was also lack of steel and carbon fiber bombshells and therefore, more concrete was used. The towers were designed by an Argentine American architect called Cesar Pelli.
4. Contrast and comparison between the KL Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers
The Kuala Lumpur tower is 421 meters above the street, but because of its hilly and elevated construction site, it appears taller that the Petronas Twin towers that are 452 meters above the street. The Petronas twin towers were built with an aim of creating a business techno-complex (Mark 2002, 20). The first tower was built to occupy the government petroleum company; Petronas. The second tower holds various multimedia companies which are either Malaysian firms or multinational companies (Edgar 1999, pp39) as opposed to KL towers whose purpose was largely for telecommunication services boost. For KL tower most of the part beneath consists of a staircase and four elevators to reach the upper area, where the head only, has space for the revolving restaurant and the antennae for communication purposes. The Petronas towers have mega spaces in them.
The government wanted to build a ‘city in a city’, hence, their more resourceful nature. The Petronas towers were constructed under a competition. Japanese and Korean firms were given the tenders and made to compete against each other (Leonard 2002, pp32). This made the construction of the towers more efficient and faster. This is evident where the Japanese firm had to rectify their 25 millimeter sway from vertical. On the other hand, the KL tower was built by one constructor and these does not guarantee as much efficiency as there was in the creation of the Pretonas twin Towers. The KL tower is also a sports center where stair way races are organized every year. The Twin towers are entirely a business center.
Despite several differences, the two buildings have several characteristics in common. The Petronas twin towers were designed to reflect the Islamic motifs in their art. Just like the Petronas twin towers, the KL tower was built in a way that reflects the Islamic heritage. The materials used in the customary Islamic setting were the main building materials. Islamic patterns were used to shape the top of the shaft. Also, the base buildings bear the Islamic roofing. The KL tower is west-Islamic hybrid structure, bearing two architectural ideas. The western trend of building mega structures which tend to dominate the skyline is evident (Leonard 2002, pp32). The scale of the tower is very distinct from that of other urban structures built with absolute traditional influence. The two buildings were also built with a motive of improving the city’s economy by creating a better environment for production and inconveniencies control (Mark 2002, pp20). The functions of these towers will remain very influential in the Malaysian economy, considering that oil and telecommunication are some of the basic items required for a stable economic growth (Mark 2002, pp20).
The past dynamism of the Malaysian house building will still affect the way buildings are created in Malaysia. The influence of the colonial era will still remain effective mostly because Malaysian government buildings are created with the western design (Mohammad & Hajji 2005, pp7). Globalization will also aid in the dynamism of their building. When new architecture is developed in a different part of the world, the designs are distributed all over the world. Competition from various architects in making better structures will also contribute to the varying nature of future buildings in Malaysia.
According to evidence from the two towers, traditional art will also give a hand in determining building designs, materials and methods employed in building. Malaysian people and the government are seen to conform very easily to upcoming trends in building, and therefore more foreign designs will still be adopted, either from the east or west.
Over the years, Malaysia has become home for people of many countries with each group of people introducing their building design (Mohammad & Hajji 2005, pp61). There is a variety of constructions e.g. Chinese temples, English buildings, Japanese buildings, Indian buildings etc.
All in all, the oath of architects should still be obeyed in whichever situation. Attractive buildings can be built, but as long as they do not respect the users’ rights they will remain unacceptable (Mohammad & Hajji, 2005).
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