Sharing his love of charming colonial buildings

Magnificent heritage: Dr Lim (left) showing off his book on Penang’s grand houses at the launch.

Magnificent heritage: Dr Lim (left) showing off his book on Penang’s grand houses at the launch.

PENANG’S colonial buildings have been immortalised in a book titled ‘The Penang House and the Straits Architect 1887-1941’ by author Dr Lim Sun Hock.

The book traces the work of the state’s European architects who created the magnificent and classic architectural structures on Penang island during the colonial age.

“My passion for these magnificent buildings started with Heah Hall at 65, Rangoon Road. My uncle Heah Joo Seang, a leader of the Straits Chinese, built it in 1928. In my youth, I would often peep inside the reception hall and enjoy its grandeur. The architectural form of Heah Hall is crystalline with three stacked attic roofs but the soul of the house is Peranakan,” Dr Lim said at the recent book launch at E&O Hotel in Penang.

Dr Lim said he realised then that he had to write about the buildings.

Encouraged by his PhD supervisor at the National University of Singapore to document the architecture, Dr Lim said he was even more inspired to do so when Tunku Abdul Rahman opened doors for him to explore the research archives in Britain.

In 1984, Dr Lim started his research and studied the numerous buildings.

He learned about the features and styles from various eras that had been incorporated into the designs.

“My research for my book lasted 30 years,” he said.

“Penang’s grand houses are special because of the state’s historic links with India, Myanmar and Thailand.

“The British architects who came here found Penang island romantic and exotic with rugged natural beauty and on this rich canvas, they painted their ornate architectural fantasies.

“The island became a fertile ground for experimentation and this resulted in a golden age of architecture in the 1920s.

“My desire is that this book will further foster appreciation for architecture as an important legacy,” he said.

Also present at the launching party was Judy Cheng-Hopkins, the United Nations secretary-general’s special adviser on the University for Peace.

The book priced at RM110 was sponsored by Think City and published by Areca Books.

This article first appeared on 18 March 2015 in The Star