Infrastructure and Housing in Malaysia

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The original intention of having architecture is due to the need of human beings. During ancient time, humans were dwelling in caves. However, people need food to survive. People need to go out to hunt hence a temporary shelter for hunting and gathering is needed to against sun or rain. This is the starting of something approaching architecture. Along with the improvements and changes of requirements of human for life, the development of architectures began. Instead of hunting, people started to settle down to the business of agriculture. Here come to the emerged of permanent settlements. Slowly, the functions of architectures increase together with the increase of requirements of human beings (Gascoigne, 2001). However, human beings are mostly visual creatures (Mary Rottman, 2013). They like to beautify all the things that they can. Hence, different period time of styles appear gradually. This influences the appearance of architecture as well as the houses at the same time. There is no exception for the development of architectures of Malaysia.

According to The Encyclopedia of Malaysia by Chen Voon Fee, the everyday dwellings of the local people can be referred by vernacular houses which ‘vernacular’ means ‘domestic’ or ‘indigenous’. Therefore, the local houses’ styles, how the houses are built and the type of materials that were used are mainly focused by this type of architecture. The homes of the Orang Asli—the first indigenous people of Peninsula as well as Sabah and Sarawak’s indigenous group and the Malays who are classified as the Austronesian group of people are included in Malaysia. Post-and-beam structures which are raised on stilts, with gabled roofs are the basic of Malaysia’s vernacular houses. The Encyclopedia of Malaysia further elaborates the following traditions:

A highly delicate architecture was developed by the Malays for their houses in 1511 which was the period that Melaka being conquered by the Portuguese which reflecting modern-day principles of standardization, prefabrication, site assembly and expansion. Timber and other jungle produce are the building material and pitched roofs, post-and-beam construction are its characteristic. The houses were extremely suited to the tropical region’s climates which are hot and wet. The occupants were all afforded with cozy ventilation and filtered light though the different lines on the east and west coasts of the Peninsula influenced the evolution of the roof forms. Palaces and mosque, longhouses and dwellings were applied with the same construction techniques and materials in order by the Malays, the indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak and the immigrant people at the moment.

The Portuguese and the Dutch introduced unknown building types such as forts and churches, and skills as well as altered in the scale of buildings and the materials that were used. Moreover, to arrange streets and allocate quarters of the town to different communities, town planning was used. Nevertheless, their different architectural styles had no enduring influence although they had occupied Melaka for over 300 years.

The Straits Settlements of Penang, Melaka and Singapore were set up via the British which led by the agreement between the Dutch and the British in 1826. Malaysia had a great transformation hundred years later. The way for modern and urban infrastructure was paved by the creation of colonial occupation and commercial interests in the town such as Melaka, Georgetown in Penang and Kuching in Sarawak. Tin mining then changed in scale and moved upriver and inland which initially a cottage industry along the bayou of the west coast. Peninsular west coast’s was effectively opened up followed by the large-scale planning of rubber which to the founding of tin-mining centres, Chinese and Indian settlers, to work the mines and plantations was brought in which makes their distinctive buildings enrich their new homeland in the early 1900s.

The infrastructure of roads, railways and ports was financed from the profits of the creation of world markets for Malaysia’s tin and rubber along with the rise of Western industrialization. The erection of imposing administrative and commercial buildings were enabled by prosperity and confidence mainly in the Western Neoclassical style and of other buildings which in a mixture of European styles. From 1896, the imported Mogul style which was replicate all over the country especially mosque was enjoyed a short but lasting period by Kuala Lumpur which is the capital of the Federated Malay States from 1896. The chilly avenues of Penang, Ipoh, Melaka and Kuala Lumpur were lined by tin and rubber wealth with spacious villas. The colonial influence in the northern and eastern parts of the Malays Peninsula was minimal. Therefore, the royal capitals of Alor Setar, Kota Bharu, Kuala Terengganu and Arau were the evolution of Malay urban centres from clusters of kampongs grouped around the ruler’s palaces and the main mosques.

Malaysia’s architecture embodied the leading trends from the West in the period between the two world wars. The transition from the traditional vernacular was marked by Art Deco while early Modernism and the International Style were transited from Western Neoclassical styles. A lot of professionally qualified architects, mostly expatriate, designed most of the buildings at the moment. Building plans within town limits were then required to summit by the introduction of building by-laws to ‘qualified persons’.

Along with the Merdeka, or Independence, in 1957, Malaysia has the greatest architectural transformation. The new nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, was then transformed from a colonial town. New and daring forms expressed the arrogant symbol of nationhood which mostly the work of overseas trained Malaysians. The first arose skyscraper was enabled with the changed of the scale of commercial buildings by innovative construction skills and industrialized components. The appeared of shopping arcades and mega malls replaced the shop houses and emerged of multifunction complexes was made way by townhouses. Then, suburban centres and townships were created by the replacement of bungalows and apartments to condominiums with centralized facilities and large-scale housing estates of repetitive single- and double-storey link houses.

The results which are not always compatible shows that vie with the International Style was formed by indigenous cultural which showed a Malaysian architectural identity in the ongoing search. Owing to the preference of anonymous, the sun shading facilities of the early skyscrapers had replaced by all-enveloping tinted and heat-resisting glass. Tropical elements such as elevated planting and new screening devices are introduced only once in a while.

The awareness of the need to preserve prewar buildings was being enhanced which coincided with the slowdown in the property market which because of the excessive building of the 1980s and then, the country’s first non-governmental organization for heritage preservation was born. On the contrary, the pace of building was boosted with the unceasing economic growth in the 1990s for almost a decade and a number of mega projects was develop ultimately. The mega projects include: one of the world’s tallest office towers, the Petronas Twin Towers; a state-of-the-art airport, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport which was located in a man-made forest; a design which placed Malaysia at the front line of chip and fibre optics technology, the Multimedia Super Corridor; and last but not least, the country’s 21st century seat of government, the Putrajaya.

Enormous challenges were faced by Malaysian architecture in a technological world at the starting point of the new millennium. To have a better quality of life in the 21st century, it is urgent to preserve Malaysia’s early buildings and depict from them valuable lessons on scale to improve the Malaysian live and work which more environmentally responsive solutions will be demanded by greater urbanization.