The Penang House and the Straits Architect 1887–1941

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Jon Sun Hock Lim
2015. Areca Books
Hardcover. 24.6 cm x 24.9 cm, 208 pages
130+ colour photographs and architecture drawings
ISBN: 9789675719196


By Dr Jon Sun Hock Lim.
Foreword by Professor Miles Lewis AM.

50 Best Malaysian Titles for International Rights 2015

The mercantile communities of the Straits of Malacca were patrons of a distinctive architecture which flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Western advances in technology combined with Eastern tastes, craftsmanship and local ways of building to create distinctive habitats appropriate to the tropical climate. As the island’s wealth grew, the buildings constructed by military engineers for the British East India Company were surpassed in size and beauty by the grand homes of the colonial and local elite. European architects such as Henry Alfred Neubronner, James Stark, John McNeill, Charles Geoffrey Boutcher, David McLeod Craik and Joseph Charles Miller were pioneers in the practice of modern architecture in early twentieth-century Penang, laying the foundations for future generations of local architects.

The development of Straits architecture is succinctly expressed in the evolution of the Penang house. More than just a home, the house in this mercantile community was a statement of wealth, influence and cultural affiliations. With the inscription of George Town to the UNESCO World Heritage List, the heritage of the Penang house – noted for its architectural flair, inventiveness and stylistic diversity – is now world-renowned. This lavishly illustrated book is an important landmark study of a glorious chapter in Malaysia’s architectural history.

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 About The Author

Jon LimJon Sun Hock Lim BArch, MArch (Melb), PhD (NUS) was born in Malaya in 1942. He lectured in the National University of Singapore’s School of Architecture between 1972 and 2002. His primary research interest is the architects of Singapore and Penang (1786–1942). Lim has actively collected oral history relating to the architects of Penang, and has researched the origins of the island’s architectural practice. His previous publications include a monograph entitled The Shophouse Rafflesia: A diffusion of a Malayan prototype in Southeast Asia (1992), and ‘Architecture of Southeast Asia’, published in the centennial edition of Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture (1996). He also served as editor of Transforming Traditions, produced by the ASEAN Studies publication series (2001).


List of Illustrations





Part One  The architectural Profession

Chapter I: The Penang Milieu

Chapter II: The Foundation and the Engineering Fraternity

Chapter III: The Pre-War European Architects and their Partnerships

Chapter IV: Sibling Rivalry and the Architects Bill

Part Two  The Penang House

Chapter V: Precedents and Trendsetters

Chapter VI: Henry Alfred Neubronner, Master of the Tropical Bungalow

Chapter VII: James Stark and John McNeill, Evolving the Villa

Chapter VIII: Charles Geoffrey Boutcher, Transforming Historicism

Chapter IX: David McLeod Craik, The Highland Romanticist

Chapter X: Joseph Charles Miller, Expressing Georgian Scholarship

Chapter XI: Conclusion



Editorial reviews

The Penang House and the Straits Architectan exploratory work in the emerging fields of intercolonial and vernacular studies, is the first serious attempt to define the architectural identity of Penang, and one that will certainly give rise to more detailed studies by others in the future. – Miles Lewis

Media articles related to The Penang House

Sharing his love of charming colonial buildings The Star

Uncertain fate for Penang’s magnificent colonial mansions Sarawak Heritage Society

Weight 1150 g
Dimensions 24.6 × 24.9 × 1.8 cm


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