Malaysia straddles a fine line between its cultural roots and the more mainstream Western influence that has permeated its society.
Although its culture is predominantly Muslim, Malaysia's historical architecture calls back to the time when it was under European rule. Several of its states still embody the old Portuguese-designed buildings. Couple this with its multi-racial identity and the country is a unique blend of various styles over different times.
It is both respectful of its metropolitan and historical status while offering a glimpse of how the world looked like in South East Asia during simpler times.
As homage, we take a look at just five such unique buildings in Malaysia;
5. Christ Church, Malacca
When the Dutch was in control of much of Malaysia, many Roman Catholic churches were converted for Dutch Reformed use.
Deciding to commemorate the anniversary of their capture of Malacca from the Portuguese, the Dutch burgher community went on to build a new church in 1741.
The foundation stone was laid by Malacca born Captain of the Malacca Burghers; Abraham de Wind on behalf of his father, Claas de Wind.
The church was built in the Dutch colonial style and is a rectangle of 25 m by 13 m. The ceiling is 12 m high and supported by wooden beams carved from a single tree.
The roof is composed of Dutch tiles and the floors were paved with repurposed granite blocks that were once used as ballast for merchant ships.
The building was completed 12 years later in 1753 but it was only in 1911 that it was painted in its iconic red.
4. Khoo Kongsi, Penang
One of Penang's major historic attractions, the Khoo Kongsi clan house was a testament to the prevailing presence of the Chinese in Penang, Malaysia. It is a highly ornamented temple that has retained much of its original architecture.
The association building, traditional theatre and late 19th century row houses are still located within its grounds.
Located in the oldest part of George Town, Cannon Square, it is surrounded by pre-war houses in an area with an unmistakable sense of old world charm.
The original was built in 1851 but it was burnt down in 1894. The current complex was then rebuilt in 1906 when the Khoo clan was at the height of its wealth and prominence in Penang society.
3. Rumah Terbalik, Sabah
Rumah Terbalik literally means upside-down house and is one of five such houses in the world (three in Europe and one in Japan).
It was designed by Alexander Yee and while looking like a traditional home in Sabah is completely flipped on its head.
The 1,500 sq ft compound is widely considered to be South East Asia's first upside down house. The compound includes a parking lot with a car attached to the underside of the roof.
Sofas, TVs, books, beds, kitchen appliances and everything else in the house are all stuck to the ceiling. No one lives here of course, but it's fast becoming a popular tourist tour spot.
2. Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, Kuala Lumpur
Built in 1910 to replace a predecessor railway on the same site, the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station was the main railway hub for the Federated Malay States Railways and Malayan Railway before it was replaced by the Kuala Lumpur Sentral in 2001.
Yet this station is a historic icon thanks in large part to its fusion of Eastern and Western design.
Arthur Benison Hubback after serving in India undertook the task of designing the train station. He used his knowledge of Anglo-Asian architecture in the conceptualising of the station design.
A combination of the New-Moorish/Mughal/Indo-Saracenic/Neo-Saracenic style which was rather common during that period became the bedrock of the design.
Although it stands as a relic of its time now, the railway station is still a window into Malaysia's past.
1. Terengganu Museum, Terengganu
Built in 1996, this sprawling behemoth of a museum spans 75,000 square meters spread over four interconnected buildings.
It is Malaysia's largest museum and one of its most magnificent.
The design was inspired by ancient Terengganu palaces with walls made from concrete and massive sweeping roofs that seem to cover the sky.
The displays are arranged in nine galleries; Natural History, Textile, Royal, Craft, Petroleum, Islamic, Historical, Seafaring & Trade and Fisheries & Marine galleries.
These galleries are housed throughout the museum; which sits upon concrete stilts surrounded by landscaped gardens and ponds.
The Istana Tengku Long can also be found within the grounds.
Despite its sheer size, Malaysia has managed to modernize the country without compromising much of its cultural history and identity. In fact, it wears its historical identity on its sleeve making it easy for anyone to be absorbed in its culture.
With ties to almost every nation in South East Asia, Malaysia stands out as a fast growing metropolitan nation steeped deeply and stoically in its cultural and multi-racial roots; its erstwhile architecture bridging the gap between tradition and modernism.
Written by: Christopher Chitty
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