Does Ipoh have Art Décor buildings? Most certainly.
The architectural style that is the Lido and Cathay cinemas along Cockman Street are fine examples; the others being the Ruby theatre on Anderson Road and the Odeon cinema along Brewster Road.
Then there is the huge ‘complex’ that was the Grand Cinema owned by Shaw Brothers at the junction of Brewster and Cowan Street which featured a tall signboard advertising the movies being shown by the various Shaw cinemas in town. The ‘complex’ also housed the Jubilee Cabaret, a popular dance spot and the Jubilee Park which offered amusement items from games of chance and a merry-go-round to regular boxing matches.
Along Laksamana Road is the Lam Loo King building which housed the Celestial Hall (remember Perak Emporium?) which was also a dance hall.
Then there were the row of shop houses at Fair Park that was recently demolished with tragic results.
All of these buildings were designed by the same Danish architect B.M. Iversen who came to Malaya in 1928. Iversen initially worked in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore but subsequently settled in Batu Gajah and maintained an office in Ipoh.
Recently his daughter Ruth, on one of her regular return visits, was invited by the Perak Heritage Society to deliver a talk about her father’s life and his work.
Ruth described her father as one who was passionate about his work. “He loved to draw and would do so after work while listening to classical music.”
Her talk included slides of her father’s diary which featured drawn images of their life then. Viewing that graphic diary one could feel the joy with which it was penned.
Berthold Iversen, during his forty years in Malaysia, designed many landmark buildings from Singapore to Ipoh. The Federal House in KL, designed by Iversen, was the winning selection as part of an architectural competition in 1951. Federal House was so named as it housed the government offices of the federated administration as well as the Post Office Savings Bank and the then Radio Malaya.
Iversen had done so much work in Ipoh from cinemas to houses that his designs are still around despite many having been destroyed or torn down to make way for new developments. The Ipoh Swimming Club, MCA building along Brewster Road and the Geological Survey Department building along Tiger Lane are still around.
All of his later works are a huge contrast from his earlier art déco designs: probably a reflection of his maturing process. Leaving behind such a wonderful legacy, is it any wonder then that Ruth calls Ipoh her second home.