Category Archives: Buildings

Old Does Not Equal Heritage


By Jerry Francis

Recently, when I wrote about condemned and dilapidated buildings in the city centre being left to rot as “eyesores”, I drew some flak from readers. It shows there are a lot of people here who are enthusiastic about preserving heritage buildings and thought I was advocating that such buildings be demolished.


Condemned building at the junction of Jalan Sultan Idris Shah and Jalan Raja Musa Aziz



I had highlighted those “eyesores” with an intention to draw the attention of the city council to get the owners to do something as the buildings, which have been left abandoned and condemned for years, are posing a danger to motorists and pedestrians. If they could be restored well and good, but if not what do we do? Do we allow the buildings to rot and collapse on their own?

Many readers appear to be very emotional where heritage buildings are concerned and prefer that such buildings be left alone with the hope that they would be eventually restored. They do not seem to be concerned that those ruins along main streets are dangerous to motorists and passers-by.

An example was the building at the junction of Jalan Sultan Idris Shah and Jalan Raja Musa Aziz, which was left in a dilapidated condition after a fire damaged it some years ago. The building has since been demolished after I highlighted it a couple of times.

In a city such as Ipoh, that was built over a century ago, many of its buildings are bound to be old. Is just being old of heritage value?

Whenever some of these old buildings are torn down, there is much hue and cry that heritage is not being preserved; for example, the demolishing of a block of double-storey residences along Jalan Chung On and more recently, five pre-war shophouses at the corner of Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil and Jalan Lau Ek Ching for redevelopment. There also have been other old buildings in the city, which have faced the same fate.

We need to look from the point of view of the owners of such properties. What can they gain from preserving their buildings as heritage? Certainly they would prefer to redevelop their prime land for a greater economic return.

Of course, heritage needs to be preserved. In the case of our city, who is responsible for preserving heritage and to what extent are we willing to take it? There are not many owners of old buildings who can afford to restore their condemned and dilapidated buildings to their original forms.

Can they sustain, like the owner of the well-known FMS Bar & Restaurant, slowly restoring the building? Unless they have deep pockets, they will want to see their investments bear dividends quickly.

Therefore, if we are really serious about preserving heritage buildings in our city, we need to take stock of all the old buildings and decide which of them are of heritage value and gazette them as heritage sites, and what kind of enforcement will be in place before property owners are allowed to demolish their buildings. Also what financial incentives are there for the owners to restore the buildings to their original splendour?

The city council has taken the right step, though long overdue, by carrying out an extensive programme to identify old and heritage buildings around Ipoh and will ask the Heritage Department to gazette those heritage buildings. It has identified 120 buildings for the purpose.

Buildings which are of significant architecture and have stories to tell should be taken into consideration, not just because they are old. It is better to have a few heritage sites than not at all.

Otherwise, we can go on protesting and yet we will continue to see buildings which we consider as heritage being torn down periodically.

When even preserving a unique mining heritage – the only tin dredge, which I have been advocating for over two decades, has yet to be achieved, what chance do we have to preserve all the old buildings in the city?

And finally is the Heritage Department willing to put their money where their mouth is?

Kellie’s Castle to Be Upgraded


Kellie’s Castle located in Batu Gajah will be given a RM5 million upgrade under the 10th Malaysia Plan allocation. The upgrade plans include an integrated amphitheatre, an English tea garden and a maze.

“The whole upgrade will focus on the surrounding exterior and will not touch Kellie’s Castle”. The upgrade plan was announced by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Tourism Dato’ Dr. Ong Hong Peng when he visited Kellie’s Castle recently with officials from Batu Gajah District Office and the Economic Planning Unit.

Tenders will be called next month and work on the site is scheduled to start in August and expected to be completed between 15-18 months.

The number of visitors to Kellie’s Castle have reflected an increasing trend yearly of 48.4K (2008), 68.1K (2009) and 80K for 2010.

Ong also announced that his Ministry had allocated RM1.7 million for the Lata Kinjang Project and RM600K for Tasek Raban.



Preserving Old Town (Update)


In our March 1 issue of Ipoh Echo 116 under the title “Preserving Old Town” we reported on a group of individuals who purchased a prime heritage property in Old Town with the intention of preserving it for the next generation.

Well the group has already started with its upgrade beginning with the lane and the Dramatist Hostel.

The Dramatist Hostel is a 3-storey building. The ground floor houses Kong Heng while the 2nd and 3rd floors were used by the students of the hostel. Currently the 2nd floor is used for boarding by Kong Heng workers while the 3rd floor is an open floor which was presumably used for drama rehearsals. Behind Kong Heng was the hostel’s kitchen.

As at the beginning of May the lane shared by coffee shops Kong Heng and Thean Chun has been resurfaced with a brick pavement and its drains covered except at intermittent intervals all the way from Jalan Sultan Yussuf (Belfield Street) to Jalan Bandar Timah (Leech Street)

Behind Kong Heng a 2-storey building has been built over the old kitchen which is an extension for the 2-storey hostel. The original kitchen has been preserved and still retains its façade.

Ipoh Echo met with one of the owners of the property, Ng Sek San over lunch at Kong Heng.

Sek San, a landscape architect based in KL, explained that he planned to green the lane with suitable trees and wall creeping plants.

As for the 2-storey extension at the back, he indicated that the 1st floor could be used as a multi-purpose hostel while the top floor as a single suite but quickly added “nothing is firm just yet”.

The renovation work is scheduled to take six months. Hence when I requested to view his plans he promptly replied “no point, it keeps changing”.

Undoubtedly it is most assuring to note that there are people passionate enough to walk the heritage talk.

Sek San has a website highlighting his work which can be viewed at



140 Buildings for Preservation


The city council has identified 140 buildings throughout Ipoh to be preserved as heritage buildings and has indicated them in the Ipoh 2020 Draft Plan. Of these, 120 of the buildings have been listed in the National Heritage Act 2005 to be gazetted for preservation.

This was disclosed at the council’s full board meeting on June 3.  Among the buildings are the theatre, railway station and post-office in Chemor, police station in Lahat and St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Ipoh.

Regarding old buildings where owners have requested to rebuild, the city council will approve. However, the rebuilt building must bear a neo-classical appearance to align the image and identity with the neighbouring buildings adjoining it.

Mayor Datuk Roshidi with new Councillor Chan Soo Yip

On tourism, the city council has proposed three Heritage Trails for the Old Town Sector. They are the 2.5-km Tin Trail, 4-km Old Town Train and 14-km Tin City Tour.

The proposal was indicated in the Ipoh 2020 Local Draft Plan and has been forwarded to the

State Planning Committee for approval and implementation.

At a press conference after the meeting Mayor Datuk Roshidi Hashim announced that the city council has purchased a bus which will be emblazoned with the words “Visit Perak Year 2012”. The bus is to be used for the council’s road-show to create awareness of the year-long event next year.

Roshidi also announced that two new hotels, MH Tower and Ipoh Riverfront Hotel, would be opened before the end of the year ahead of ‘Visit Perak Year 2012’. “Overall Ipoh City Council is ready for next year.”

A new councillor, Chan Soon Yip was appointed for Zone 1 (Kanthan/ Chemor/ Klebang). Chan takes over from Cheng Wee Meng who resigned from his post in April. Chan, 27, is a graduate in Economic Management from USM Penang, and is a member of MCA Tanah Hitam branch.


Preservation NOT Demolition


Zambry pointing to the many heritage buildings on the Heritage Trail map

Perak Menteri Besar Dato’ Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir has clarified that the 60 buildings, reported earlier, which had been short listed for demolition by Ipoh City Council was incorrect stating, “the buildings are actually meant for preservation” and asked that reporters present to correct the earlier statement.

Zambry spoke to reporters after the weekly Wednesday state exco meeting on June 1. A day earlier State Exco for Tourism Dato Hamidah Osman had expressed her “disappointment” about Ipoh Mayor Dato Roshidi Hashim’s statement regarding “60 buildings on MBI’s blacklist meant for demolition” saying it contradicted the states tourism tagline “Nature and History” which meant “we should be preserving as much of our old buildings as possible”.

At the state exco meeting Ipoh Mayor Dato Roshidi together with representatives from two heritage NGO’s were called in for a special discussion regarding the preservation of heritage sites. Ipoh has a lot of old and heritage buildings and these have become a ‘new attraction’. MBI has conducted an extensive program to identify old and heritage buildings around Ipoh and in March this year held a workshop together with the Heritage Department in KL on the topic “How to conserve heritage buildings”. The state government will ask the Heritage Department to gazette these heritage buildings once they have been identified.

Zambry also highlighted that the Heritage Trail held every Saturday starting from the railway station was popular, indicating an interest in Ipoh’s heritage identity and reiterated the state government’s plan to restore Panglima Lane,better known as Concubine Lane.


Obituary: 5 Pre-War Shophouses



Ipoh Echo has learnt with great sadness that these 5 pre-war shophouses Nos. 8/10/12/14/16 corner Jalan Sultan Abdul Jalil and Jalan Lau Ek Ching are currently being demolished. The MBI Building Department advised that the owner HAS been granted demolition consent.

We shall mourn their passing as will our children, their children and all of posterity in Ipoh.

Preserving Old Town


Over the last year there has been a lot of talk about keeping Old Town preserved as a heritage enclave. However till today, there are little concrete initiatives seen to ensure that heritage preservation becomes a reality.

Nevertheless, a group of individuals have taken the initiative by purchasing a prime heritage property in Old Town no less, for the sole purpose of preserving it.

The property, consisting of six shop lots, of which only three are currently occupied (Star Barber, Star Optical and Choon & Co.), is bordered by Jalan Sultan Yussuf (Belfield Street) on the West, Jalan Bandar Timah (Leech Street) on the East (currently occupied by Kong Heng, Dramatist Hostel and a former furniture store), Panglima Street on the North and the lane shared by Thean Chun and Kong Heng on the South.

When asked the reason for purchasing the property, one of the group of co-owners, who requested anonymity, said “Ipoh was a good place to grow up and felt that it should be preserved for the next generation”.

At this present time the group has no specific plan for the area other than to upgrade the structures of the property and clean up the area to make it more presentable. “We want to keep the atmosphere of the place the way it is except that we want to upgrade it to be neat and tidy, for people to appreciate it as is.”

The group has informed the food stall operators at Kong Heng of their intentions and has extended the offer to the business premises on Jalan Sultan Yussuf. The property will undergo six months of upgrading work.

Again, the goal of maintaining the existing operators is to keep that heritage feel of a fading trade like the barber shop, with its existing interior decor capturing a bygone era. Unfortunately, despite the ‘favourable terms’ for continuing to operate, only Mr Thirunavukarasu, 71, a barber for over 50 years is considering continuing. The optician will be shifting permanently while the picture frame operator ‘might’ come back.

Incidentally, Star Barber has a long social history. One of the property owners was a Michaelian who used to be “hauled into the barber shop by St Michael’s School’s discipline master” for keeping long hair which fortunately has left an impression on him to preserve the premises.

Whatever the outcome of the upgrading work, Ipohites can be assured that part of their history will be around for another generation.


Ipoh’s “Hidden” Old Architectural Buildings


By Jerry Francis

Just like any other century-old city, Ipoh has its share of old architectural buildings constructed according to various era and cultures.

Some of these buildings may be near where we are staying or where we would pass daily on our way to the markets or work. But, most of us are taking them for granted and fail to notice them.

It is not until some owners decided to demolish their buildings that we begin to realise and appreciate them and make an outcry over their demolition.

Despite many being demolished to make way for redevelopment, there are still over 100 of such beautiful buildings in the city,” said Ang Heng Swan, who has compiled a collection of photographs of the old architectural buildings.

Apart from Railway Station, Town Hall, Hongkong & Shanghai Bank and High Court, which are well-known landmarks of the city, there are other notable architectural buildings. Among them are mosques, churches, temples, schools, commercial buildings, mansions and residential houses.

They include Straits Trading Building, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, Darul Ridzuan Museum, Dato Panglima Kinta Mosque, Old Fire Station, Old State Secretariat Building, Perak River Hydro Building, Perak Chinese Mining Association, Foong Seong Building and shops and residential houses along Jalan Bijih Timah, Jalan Dato Cheang Lee, Jalan Raja Ekram and Jalan Lau Ek Ching.

Ang feels that such buildings need to be highlighted and to get the authorities and owners interested in preserving them.

“They are our heritage and need to be spruced up as part of the beautification of the city,” he added.

In an effort to get the residents of Ipoh to be aware of such buildings, the Ipoh Barat MCA Youth together with Gerakan Belia Malaysia and Pertubuhan Foto Imej Perak is organising “1Malaysia Perak Heritage Buildings 2010” photography competition.

“We feel the best way to get Ipoh residents to notice these beautiful buildings in their midst is to publicise them, perhaps even publish the photographs in a book,” added Ang, a committee member of the competition.

The closing date of the competition is on August 14 and prize-giving and exhibition will be held at Glamour Square in Bercham on August 31.

Closing date is August 14. Entries to be sent to: Poon Foto, 26 Jalan Laxamana. Tel: 05-2559491.

Heritage: Where have all the buildings gone?



Sung to the Tune of ‘Where have all the flowers gone’

(Apologies to Pete Seeger for music and lyrics)

Where have all the buildings gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the buildings gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the buildings gone?
Guys have downed them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Ipoh Echo mourns the passing of many of its old buildings.

Art Déco buildings?


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.