Collective memories of a place are greatly impaired by the absence of the actual building or other landmark. Indeed, it has been said that without old buildings a city is like a man without a memory. It follows that Kuala Lumpur and the country as a whole are much the poorer as landmarks of the past are razed to the ground in the name of progress.—Lim Take Bane
In this book, renowned artist Chin Kon Yit captures in his vivid watercolours and delicate pencil sketches the architectural treasures and natural wonders of the entire country. His enchanting paintings reveal the timeless allure of both much-visited sites and little-known locations nationwide.
The heritage of each of Malaysia’s 13 states and three Federal Territories are lovingly captured in turn, every one introduced with a concise historical summary. The sketches themselves are accompanied by descriptions, leading the reader around the sights depicted and providing insights into their architecture and history. Kon Yit’s paintings, created over a period of more than 15 years, highlight and celebrate beautiful and varied scenes of Malaysia.
Malaysia is endowed with a marvellous array of landmarks. There are beautiful natural landscapes ranging from the limestone karsts of Perak’s Kinta Valley to the sandy beaches of the east coast islands, from the ancient rainforest of Taman Negara in Pahang to the pinnacles of Sarawak’s Gunung Mulu and the soaring peak of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah. These wonders of nature are complemented by hundreds of architectural landmarks from the traditional vernacular to the colonial and on to the modern and postmodern. The composition of Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sabah and Sarawak cultures, and its experience of European colonialism, have resulted in a diverse array of grand public buildings, humble shophouses, mansions, hotels, vernacular houses, palaces, mosques, temples, forts and monuments. They range from the quotidian wooden Malay house to the monumental Petronas Twin Towers, designed by Cesar Pelli and once the tallest building in the world, its distinctive silhouette now synonymous with Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur.
Places of worship—where Malaysians fulﬁl their religious needs and obligations, celebrate the institution of marriage and perform other sacred rituals—often satisfy all three criteria. They include the National Mosque, St Iohn’s Cathedral and Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur, Melaka’s Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang, the Crystal Mosque in Terengganu, the Kampung Laut Mosque in Kelantan and Saint Michael’s Church in Sandakan, Sabah are just some depicted in the pages of this book.
Historical monuments, some of which have fallen. Among them the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the Kuala Lumpur International Airport by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. These also capture the spirit of the age of travel in which they were built. Yet not all such landmarks have survived: Subang International Airport by Datuk Kington Loo was once a proud testament to the nation’s modernity, but was demolished 40 years after its completion in 1965 when it should have been conserved and adaptively revised.
Landmarks of Malaysia serves as a valuable visual archive of Malaysia’s built heritage. For indeed much has already been lost. In 2006, despite strong lobbying from architectural conservationists, Kuala Lumpur tragically lost Bok House, one of its grandest neo-classical buildings. And in 2010, Kuala Lumpur’s old Pudu Gaol was demolished after 115 years to make way for new development. Yet another landmark which had shaped the capital city’s character and history disappeared forever; just its entrance portal remains.
About the author of Landmarks of Malaysia
CHIN KON YIT is one of Malaysia’s most eminent watercolour artists. Largely self-taught, he worked in a leading advertising agency for 15 years before becoming a full-time artist in 1991. His work has been shown in several solo exhibitions and many joint exhibitions. Kon Yit’s paintings have previously appeared in Kuala Lumpur: A Sketchbook, Penang Sketchbook, Malacca Sketchbook, Landmarks of Selangor and Landmarks of Perak as well as in Malaysia Notebook, Kuala Lumpur Notebook, Penang Notebook and Melaka Notebook, all published by Editions Didier Millet.
LIM TAKE BANE, who wrote the Introduction, is a practising architect, was imbued with a love of heritage architecture while studying architecture in Canterbury, England. He is a strong advocate for heritage conservation.