Malayan Classicism

Soon-Tzu Speechley

Published : 2021


Along the length of the Malay Peninsula and the neighbouring islands of Penang and Singapore, tens of thousands of historic buildings bear ornamental vocabulary drawn from Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Composite capitals, dentillated cornices, and rusticated quoins adorn the façades of heritage buildings throughout modern-day Malaysia and Singapore. As the late Lee Kip Lin noted in his history of Singapore’s residential architecture, ‘with few exceptions, all buildings were in the classical style until the arrival of the Modern Movement in the 1930s.’ How did the classical style become so ubiquitous in Malaya?