SULTAN ABDUL SAMAD BUILDING


1.0 History and Background



Photo: Sultan Abdul Samad building in 2010
Picture taken by Zamri Salleh (USM)


The Sultan Abdul Samad Building is one of the most significant, most well-known and the most beautiful heritage landmark in the city of Kuala Lumpur. It is located at 325, Jalan Raja, in front of the Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) and the Royal Selangor Club, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The magnificent edifice was named after the reigning sultan of Selangor at the time when construction began, Sultan Abdul Samad (1898-1804). Due to its immense architectural, historical and cultural significance, the building was listed as one of the National Heritage in 2007 by the National Heritage Department under the National Heritage Act 2005. In August 2009, the Federal Government had allocated an amount of RM2.37 million (USD 764,516) through the Department of National Heritage for the restoration of building façade at the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

It was stated that the land for this building was initially the settlement of Yap Ah Loy and was used as a vegetable garden where that time, the administration centre for Kuala Lumpur was at the east part of Klang River. During the year 1875 to 1978, the land was said to be a valley and was took over by the British under the development plan, Swettenham 1882. Yap Ah Loy had to accept the offer of $50 an acre.

The building that was named as the “New Government Office” which was later changed to “Federal Secretariat” and “Sultan Abdul Samad building” was initially designed to house the colonial State Government of Selangor but when it was completed, it housed the entire Federated Malay States (FMS) administration. The Public Works Department, District Offices, Mines Department, Lands, Audit, and Treasury were housed at the ground floor while on the first floor were the offices of the Secretariat, a State Council Room, a Sanitary Board Hall, rooms for the Resident and other officials and Chinese Secretariat. The Post Office and the Sanitary Board were also located in the same building during that period of time. When Selangor transferred its administrative offices to Shah Alam in 1974, the building was extensively renovated to house the nation's judiciary.

During the year 1978 until March 2007, the building housed the superior courts of the country: the Federal Court of Malaysia, the Court of Appeals and the High Court of Malaya. The Federal Court and the Court of Appeals had shifted to the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya during the early 2000s, while the High Court of Malaya shifted to the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex in 2007. This grand building has been left vacant until the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia (Malay: Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan Malaysia) took over in 2007.

This building had been the focal point of many historical events. The declaration of the independence of Malaysia was done in front of this building on August 31, 1957 where the lowering of the Union Jack Flag took place and replaced with the national flag of Malaysia. The building has since undergone several restoration works including its interior to meet modern office requirements. On 1st January 1982, the clock tower became the venue for another historic event when the time between West Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore were standardized.


2.0 The Architecture



Photo: Sultan Abdul Samad building in 2010
Picture taken by Zamri Salleh (USM)


The idea of building this edifice came up when Charles Edwin Spooner was transferred from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1892 to be state engineer at Public Work Department, Selangor and since then, there had been much improvement in Public Work Department (PWD). Spooner’s idea was to prepare plans for a general office building, with fire-proof rooms for the storage of documents, and a post office. His first attempt was to construct a building with a central quadrangle, which similar to “colonial buildings” but this idea was turned down as it was too expensive. The task was then passed to A.C Norman, the Selangor government architect who involved in restoration of municipal buildings and country houses in the west of England.

A. C Norman’s idea was in “Classic Renaissance” style with a pillared front. However, Spooner did not like the design and instructed R. A J Bidwell, assistant architect and assisted by Arthur Hubback who worked under C.E Spooner, to design a building to stand on Norman’s ground plan, but in the “Mahometan” style. The construction of the building was even more expensive which estimated to cost $152,000.00 Straits Dollar. Spooner however submitted Bidwell’s plan to William Maxwell, the resident of Selangor (1889-1892) and it was approved.




Photo:This building houses the Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture office
Picture taken by Zamri Salleh (USM)


The idea of building it in “Mahomaten” style was so much influenced by C.E Spooner who had working experience in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). It had been developed in India, the neighboring country of Ceylon as an eclectic mixture which includes gothic and Italian as well as Islamic elements. It is believed that Spooner travelled on ship to Bombay (Mumbai) to witness some of the 'Mohametan' architecture there, which also known as “Neo-Saracenic” style.

The construction of the building began on the 3rd September 1894 and completed within 3 years, in April 1897. Apart from costing great deal of money to build this ‘new office’ in Kuala Lumpur, there had been lacking of the quantities of building materials that passed beyond the capacity of local suppliers to produce, and of a quality superior to their products. When the construction of the building was completed, it was said that the building contains of 4 million of bricks, 50 tons of fabricated steel and iron, 30,000 cubic feet of timber, 2,500 barrels of cement, 18,000 pikuls of lime and 4,000 cubic yards of sand. Due to lack of supply for the building materials, Spooner established a PWD factory equipped with a 40hp engine, with a 10 ton flywheel, to drive a sawmill and metal fabricating machine. The factory also made bricks and tiles.





Sultan Abdul Samad Building has a front façade stretching 137.2 metres (450 feet) along Jalan Raja, making it the largest building of its day. The building has a shiny cooper dome with its immense 41.2 metre (135 feet) clock tower that was first heard during Queen Victoria's birthday parade in 1897, central porch, three copper domes topped with a copper chatris; and different forms of arches (key hole, ogee, pointed and horseshoe). It was constructed of red bricks and has a 2 metre wide verandah around both floors.

The red bricks are exposed and have white plaster lined arches and striped which have become known as blood and bandages style. This building has 3 towers namely the tallest Central Clock Tower and 2 shorter circulation towers. All the towers have onion shaped domes with copper coverings. Two circular towers, housing stairways leading to the upper floor, flank the central tower. This two-level building occupies a ground area of 4,208.5 square metres (45,300 square feet) with an F-shaped floor plan.

 



Photo: Sultan Abdul Samad Building has a front façade stretching 137.2 metres (450 feet) along Jalan Raja
Picture taken by Zamri Salleh (USM)




Photo: Sultan Abdul Samad surrounded by skyscrapers
Picture taken by Zamri Salleh (USM)

Despite its old ages, this magnificent edifice still standing proudly in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city. This heritage landmark will still sustain an impressive presence in the metropolitan city despite being sunk by modernism and skyscrapers.

3.0 Timeline


Year

Event

3rd September 1894

Construction of the building began.

6th October 1894

The foundation stone was laid by H.E Sir Charles B.H Mitchell, the Governor of the Federated Malay State (FMS).

4th April 1897

The construction of the building was completed and officiated by Sir Frank Swettenham, the General Resident. It was also in 1897, the clock chimed for the first time to coincide with Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee parade.

1897 – 1978

The building housed the entire Federated Malay States (FMS) administrations which were the Public Works Department, General Post Office, Secretary Office, District Offices, Mines Department, Lands, Audit, and Treasury.

1971

Kuala Lumpur was hit by flash flood after a heavy rainfall and Sultan Abdul Samad building was heavily damaged.

1974

Selangor State Administrative offices shifted to Shah Alam.

1978 - 1984

In 1978, major renovation and restoration were undertaken to house the nation's Apex Courts which took six years to complete with a total cost of RM 17.2 million.

1978 – Mac 2007

The building was used to house the superior courts of the country: the Federal Court of Malaysia, the Court of Appeals and the High Court of Malaya.

2007

Building left vacant when the Federal Courts and the Courts of Appeal shifted to Putrajaya, this followed with the moving of the High Court to the new Court complex.

August 2009

Federal Government had allocated an amount of RM2.37 million (USD 764,516) through the Department of National Heritage for the restoration of building façade at the building. The restoration works were carried out through the Design and Build procurement method over a period of eight months from the 17th of August 2009 until the 16th of April 2010.

2007 – present

The building houses the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture of Malaysia (Malay: Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan Malaysia).

4.0 References

[Website]

1. Larry Lam’s Guide Note, Kuala Lumpur.
Available at: http:www.lamjo.tripod.com/sasb.html  

2. Virtual Malaysia.
Available at: http://www.virtualmalaysia.com/destination/Sultan%20Abdul%20Samad%20Building.html

3. The Malaysia Explorer.
Available at: http://www.malaysian-explorer.com/sultanAbdulSamadBuilding.html

4. Malaysia Vacation Guide.
Available at: http://www.malaysiavacationguide.com/sultanabdulsamadbuilding.html


[Articles]


1. Professor Dr. A. Ghafar Ahmad, “Chronological Biography of Arthur Charles Alfred Norman” Article published in the Journal of Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. LXX Part 1, June 1997 pg. 21-2

2. Professor Dr. A. Ghafar Ahmad, “Restoration of Building Façade of Sultan Abdul Samad Building”, ACCU Nara International Correspondent, The Eight Regular Report. Pg 17 – 19.

3. Gullick, John. “In the Mahometan Style Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad”. The Heritage magazine, April – June 2009 issue, pg 9 – 13.

4. “Senarai Daftar Warisan Kebangsaan”, Jabatan Warisan Negara, Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan (KPKK)