Friday, December 11, 2009

Art Noveau and Neoclassical Walk

There is so much more to Kuala Lumpur than the Petronas Twin Towers and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building! A walk through the older parts of downtown KL is a trip through history. The Art Noveau and Neoclassical buildings constructed in the pre-War years of 1900 – the 1930s have such charm and character, and tell of the glory days of Kuala Lumpur when it was a bustling hub for trade and commerce.

Unlike the largely utilitarian buildings of today, Art Noveau and Neoclassical shophouses, offices, banks and other buildings place as much importance on form and beauty as they did on function.

Art Noveau architecture generally has hyperbolas and parabolas in the windows, arches and doors, and decorative moldings inspired by nature and typically taking on the form of stylized plants, flowers, seashells, flames, insects and ribbons.

Neoclassical architecture, on the other hand, began in the mid-18th century and is principally derived from the architecture of classical Rome and Greece. Neoclassical buildings frequently make use of pillars and are evocative of ancient civilisations.

Muzium Telekom, a telecommunications museum, is housed in a Neoclassical building constructed in 1928 as a main telephone office. It is located in Jalan Raja Chulan, just down the hill from St. John’s Institution and St. John’s Church, and is open 7 days a week from 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. except on public holidays. Like most Neoclassical buildings, Muzium Telekom is symmetrical in form and has tall Grecian columns that rise to the full height of the building.

The Coliseum Cinema isn’t the only Art Deco building in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman! These Art Deco shophouses, constructed circa 1920, have incorporated ziggurats, crosses, geometrical shapes and horizontal and vertical banding into their design.

Neoclassical and Art Noveau buildings in various stages of decay line Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman. This Art Noveau beauty, constructed in 1915, could do with a facelift, especially since it is in such a conspicuous part of town.

Art Noveau shophouses in Lebuh Pudu and Medan Pasar are reminder of the decades when the area was the business and financial hub of Kuala Lumpur. These shophouses remain fully functional and now house various restaurants and textile shops. I hope they will be preserved for posterity, for what is a society that has forgotten or abjured its history?

The nature-inspired details on this Art Noveau shophouse in Lebuh Pudu are almost like something out of a storybook! If only the property owner would maintain and repair this work of art accordingly.

Jalan Tun HS Lee has Art Noveau shophouses with attractive decorative moldings. The contrasting pastel hues of each shophouse add to their charm and eclecticism.

This Art Noveau shophouse in Jalan Hang Kasturi, facing the side entrance of Central Market, juxtaposes the old and the new – It’s lower two floors houses a McDonalds restaurant!

What a difference a coat of paint makes! Art Deco shophouses adjoined to the Central Market Annexe are such a source of interest and artistic inspiration. If only all the heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur were this well-maintained!

Thank you for taking a walk down history lane with me, and I hope you will visit again soon!


louis said...

Thanks for the delightful heritage tour of KL. Unfortunately such architecture is often overlooked (here in the US as well). The mega-projects dazzle with the financial resources and the engineering prowess that went into their creation. Buildings such as those you illustrated and described hark back to a time when the human dimension was paramount: joy, exuberance, imagination, aesthetics, magnanimity of spirit.

iLiYamashita said...

oh. do you know what happen to the majestic hotel (it used to be an art gallery if im not mistaken) which is next to the ktm building?

Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

Great post, Ee Lynn! What treasures we have to preserve of the past to blend with our modern buildings. Definitely a spruce up and a coat of will make us look at them in a different light!

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Thank you for coming by, Louis! What a lovely surprise!
"Buildings such as those you illustrated and described hark back to a time when the human dimension was paramount: joy, exuberance, imagination, aesthetics, magnanimity of spirit." -- Yes, yes, my sentiments exactly, only I could never have summed it up as eloquently as you just did!

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

Hello Ili! I read a feature story in The Star that the former Majestic Hotel / National Art Gallery is now under the management of YTL. Am keeping my fingers crossed that it will be restored to its former grandeur!

Hi Keats! A coat of paint, and perhaps a bit of Arts-and-Crafts, Keats-Style! A bit of ribbon here and there, some decoupage, some covering up of paint defects and 'spots' with lovely reused items, and everyone wants a piece of it! Ha ha! Sorry, we haven't stopped talking about your pretty shoeboxes yet! Thank you for coming over to this blog to keep me company!

Patricia said...

I love it when you talk buildings! I get to see it all with new eyes!!!

I agree that most just need a coat of paint, and they'll be lovely again.

There's beauty in the past, as there is in the present. There is no need to choose one over the other, no?

~Covert_Operations'78~ said...

So good to have you here, Pat! Our heritage buildings just need a bit of sprucing up, and we KL-ites need to clean up our act and be more conscientious about food wastage and littering if we want to do something about vermin like rats, crows and pigeons. Once the 'vermin' population is under control, then everything will remain as lovely as when we first repainted them! Thank you for coming by, my friend!