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Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

Jalan Ampang (Selangor state route B31) is known as a major road in Kuala Lumpur. It is one of the oldest and busiest roads in the Klang Valley region, and home of many known historical and modern landmarks of the city. It is named Jalan Ampang as it connects Kuala Lumpur to Ampang town. The road generally runs in an east-west direction, starting from the junction of Leboh Ampang and Jalan Gereja in the Masjid Jamek area. The road runs eastward past the Petronas Twin Towers and the embassy row, until it reaches the eastern part of Ampang. Our research to cover and focus on portion of Jalan Ampang from intersection with Jalan Sultan Ismail to Jalan Tun Razak.

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

History The city of Kuala Lumpur had its roots in the tin mining boom of the early 19th century. It began at the confluence of what is today the Gombak and Klang rivers, where Chinese tin-miners would be brought into the city to mine. This development, together with the tin-mining boom in Ipoh, Perak contributed to making Malaya the number one producer of tin in the whole universe during the mid 20th Century. As the city grew and the demand for tin rises, tin miners began looking for new mining locations to expand their mining production. Ampang was opened as a new mining area for Klang Valley. In fact, the name “Ampang” was derived from the Malay word “Empangan” which is translated literally as dam or a mining area. A community subsequently grew around the mining area which rapidly evolved into the busy township it is today. In order to connect the two major tin mining areas in Klang Valley, a road was constructed to transport raw tin between Kuala Lumpur and Ampang. The road evolved throughout the years into one of the major spines for Klang Valley, which attracted wealthy families and international businesses to set up their homes and offices along the road. Kuala Lumpur, which Ampang is a part of, was made the capital of Selangor in 1880, as well as the capital of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. This results in several embassies to be located along the busy and prominent road. The embassies were originally meant to be temporary while awaiting for the development of Jalan Duta, which was a purpose-built area for embassies in Kuala Lumpur. However, since the development took longer than expected, the embassies set up on Jalan Ampang as well as Jalan Tun Razak stayed on. When the Malaysian government relocated its administrative centre to the newly completed Putrajaya, the embassies chose to remain at their home along Jalan Ampang as it has only shown to be ever more expanding and of great importance.

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

Jalan Ampang was also home to Malaya’s first Parliamentary sitting, held soon after the country gained independence, inside a converted old mansion which is today the headquarters of the Malaysian Tourism Centre (MaTic).

The area was historically the leisure hub of Kuala Lumpur, as it was where the Selangor Turf Club used to be. However, in the early 1990’s, the construction of the now Petronas Twin Towers begun in its place. The towers were completed in 1996, and was declared as the world’s tallest building at the time. This resulted in the shift of the Kuala Lumpur city centre from the Dataran Merdeka vicinity to Petronas Twin Towers at Jalan Ampang.

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

Sociocultural Conditions Ampang Road developed into one of the main arteries of Kuala Lumpur, together with Batu Road, Padoh Road and Petaling Road which all led to mining settlements. The road was widened in 1888 under the supervision of Engineer G.T Tickell, later known as Chairman of the KL Sanitary Board. Due to frequent floods, the whole stretch passing through the city centre was raised to a higher elevation. As the road grew to become a residential strip for the city’s rich and famous, so did the land value. It was often dubbed until today, as Kuala Lumpur’s “Golden mile”. The street was home to mansions owned by rich mine owners and Kuala Lumpur’s Chinese kapitans as it connects two tin-mining towns. Part of the original millionaires row, Bok House was probably one of the most visible yet least remembered relic of early KL. It was built in 1926 and completed in 1929 for a local millionaire, Chua Cheng Bok. It is widely believed that Chua built the mansion to impress a rich man so that he could marry the man’s daughter but it is unclear if he ultimately succeeded in his goal. In 1958, Bok House was converted into a fine dining French restaurant, Le Coq d’Or. Chua and his family chose to live in the rear portion of the mansion for over 20 years. The rear portion was then demolished in 1999 with the approval of the authorities. Bok House was completely demolished in 2006 after being abandoned by the operator of Le Coq d’Or for 5 years.

Bok House on Jalan Ampang (before and after demolished) Source:

Not only being the street of mansions, Jalan Ampang is also a home to several embassies

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

such as, United Kingdom, France, China, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Ireland and Thailand. Known as Embassy Row, or Jalan Ampang Hilir, as it is officially named, had attracted foreign visitors from as early as 1857 when Raja Abdullah, a representative of the Selangor Sultanate opened up the Klang Valley for tin prospectors. A thriving industry was established and soon Ampang was made capital of Selangor in 1880 and the capital of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Since then, the draw and the distinction of this location have grown to a point that Jalan Ampang today is home to more than 80 foreign embassies, despite the Government’s call for embassies to relocate to Putrajaya. Initially embassy row was set to be along Jalan Duta, but the construction took longer than expected, thus the ambassadors started to reside permanently along Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak. Today, the Embassy Row is one enormous melting pot of cultures, languages, and ethnicities; creating a unique community made up of a wide range of taste, sounds and colours.

(Royal Thai Embassy) Source:

Surrounded by high-rise buildings, Lai Meng Girls’ School was one of the last remaining examples of old architecture in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Founded in 1929, it was a primary school which started with just three classes in Kampung Baru. To accommodate

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

more students, the school was moved to a bungalow at 136 Jalan Ampang in 1951. In 1971, the school was redesigned by architect Huang Zhan Ming pro bono after it was destroyed in the racial riots of 1969. Due to traffic congestion, air pollution and the prime location, the land was finally sold in 2009 to developer Magna Prima Berhad, which is planning a multi-billion ringgit twin tower project. Since then, the building has been sitting quietly on Jalan Ampang, currently serving as a car park area.

(Lai Meng Girls’ School during the glorious days) Source:

Traditional Trades Being one of the earliest roads of Kuala Lumpur, Ampang Road has seen the settlement’s eventual growth into the global city it is today. The road was also important to Kuala Lumpur’s progress, as it became a connection between it and another tin mining village nearby, Ampang. Due to its connection, Ampang Road became a strategic point for tin trade between the two settlements since the 1860s until mid-20 th century. It could be assumed that Kuala Lumpur’s and Ampang’s main source of income in tin mining influenced Ampang Road’s early traditional trade - the tin mines in Kuala Lumpur had attracted merchants who traded basic provisions in return for some of the excavated tin. Ampang Road’s proximity to Klang River also made it easier to which supplies could conveniently be brought by boat, which made it easier for trading to occur.

At the turn of the 20th century, small businesses, such as Borneo Motors Ltd and South Engineers Ltd started to thrive along Ampang Road as a result of Kuala Lumpur growth from a small tin settlement to a full-fledged town. Another effect of the city’s growth is the migration of people from faraway lands into the ever-expanding area. As a result, various

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

foreign cultures and trades were assimilated into the local landscape. One example would be the rise of Minangkabau people and their trade of textile and craft. Ampang Road’s prominence as Kuala Lumpur’s leisure hub in the mid-20 th century meant that its trade also extended to gambling activities, with much of it occurring at the old Selangor Turf Club in the form of horserace betting.

Ampang Park in the early days

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

Significant Architecture Kuala Lumpur is the cultural, financial and economic centre of Malaysia and this is reflected in its architecture which is a blend of old colonial influences, Asian traditions, Malay-Islamic influences, modern as well as post modern. Developed around the first quarter of the 19th century, a time where colonial architecture was prevailing, most of the buildings have Mughal, Tudor, Neo-Gothic or Grecian Spanish architecture or style, and some of them have been slightly modified to adapt to the local climate and construction materials and methods. Nowadays only a few of them remain, among them being Wisma MaTic, High Commission of Pakistan, and the Eng Choon Assembly Hall. Both Wisma MaTic and the High Commission of Pakistan are Mughal style buildings, which is essentially colonial architecture with middle-eastern or asian influences, and was introduced to Malaysia by the British Colony in the late 19th century, when it was at its peak period. The two buildings were constructed by wealthy tin traders to serve as mansions, but then taken over by the British colony and used as military bases. As Malaysia was moving towards its independence, Wisma MaTic became home to the Federal Military Office, then later on the first parliament until it became what it is now, the Malaysia Tourism Centre, while the other mansion serves as the High Commission of Pakistan. The Eng Choon Assembly Hall, on Jalan Ampang was built in 1930, alongside four other similarly built three storey pre-war buildings but due to the lack of clear guidelines for architectural conservation in the city, unregulated alterations of lesser known pre-war buildings are common. The design of these shophouses were inspired by Straits Chinese and European traditions, although the building layout remains the same with their long and narrow units, middle courtyards and five foot walkways (kaki lima). As Jalan Ampang became more prosperous, so did the style of the shophouses. The columns were then heavily inspired by the Neo Classical style of the 1910’s - the greek order of columns, the introduction of pediments and decorated window frames; Dutch Patrician style of the 1920’s with Dutch inspired gables; and the geometric Art Deco style of the 1930’s.

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

After the Independence, and the rapid economic growth in the late 20th century, more local and islamic influences were integrated into the designs of buildings, and mostly in the central districts of the city, like Jalan Ampang. This also occurred during the rise of modern architecture and led to buildings like Ampang Park, which was actually the first shopping mall to be built in Malaysia, but is now dwarfed in comparison to its surrounding neighbours. Buildings of this era adopted the “International style�, and looked toward western design and philosophy. Late Modernist and Post Modernist style architecture began to appear in the late 20th and early 21st century. The city skyline changed to house skyscrapers and buildings with an all glass exterior as well as brutalist buildings.

Wisma Equity: Brutalist Influenced Design.

Petronas Twin Towers: Symbol of Modernism.

An example of such buildings are the Wisma Equity. It is primarily an office block with many banking facilities and food outlets. The Wisma Equity building is one that stands out from the rest, and even more so when it was first completed. It is architecturally unique with its form being that of an inverse pyramid. It is a clear example of brutalistic influenced architecture







Another example is the Petronas Twin Towers which have become a national icon in Malaysia, even once being the tallest towers in the world for 6 years, and still remaining the tallest twin towers in the world. The Twin towers houses 560,000 meters office. Designed by CĂŠsar Pelli, this structure borrows elements from islamic architecture as from an aerial view, its floor plan resembles the Islamic geometric patterns and motifs. In contrast to that, from below, the steel and glass facade of the building give the building a modern


Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

Buildings of such massive scale have since become the norm in this modern day and age, and due to poor planning and conservation efforts many, if not most pre-war buildings have been demolished.

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

Important Events First Parliament Session The first parliamentary session of the Federation of Malaya was held on 11th September 1959 at the Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall. It was an important event for the country as it was the first time the Parliament of Federation of Malaya had a meeting with all of its members, was officiated by His Majesty The King, Tuanku Abdul Rahman Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Muhammad. In the present day, the meeting hall is now known as the Malaysian Tourism and Information Centre (Wisma MaTic). It was built in 1935 and situated at Jalan Ampang. The building was originally the residence of Mr Eu Tong Sen who was known to be a famous and wealthy miner and estate owner in Kuala Lumpur. It was then specially renovated and converted into the meeting hall for the Senate and House of Representatives.

Parliament Session on 11th September 1959

1975 AIA Building Hostage Crisis

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

The AIA Building hostage crisis took place on 5th August 1975. The building used to house several embassies, including the United States and Sweden. On that eventful day, the Japanese Red Army, a communist militant organization devoted to eliminate the Japanese government and monarchy, stormed the building and took over 50 employees hostage on the 9th floor for four days. The JRA demanded several of their imprisoned leaders in Japan to be released and to be sent to Libya, if conditions were not met, the hostage’s life would be at stake. The then Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak and Ministers were heavily involved in the negotiations, which resulted in the Japanese government’s relented agreement to release the five imprisoned JRA leaders to Libya in exchange for the hostages to be unharmed.

News report of the 1975 AIA Building Hostage Crisis at Jalan Ampang

Embassy workers taken hostage during the 1975 AIA Building Hostage Crisis

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

Officiating of the Petronas Twin Towers The Selangor Turf Club was founded in the late 19th century and originally located on Jalan Ampang. The site was then relocated and later cleared for the construction of the Petronas Twin Towers, as well as the Kuala Lumpur City Centre megaproject. The Petronas Twin Towers project was led by the renowned architect Cesar Pelli, along with Deejay Cerico, J. C. Guinto, and Dominic Saibo in January 1992 and was completed in June 1996. The Prime Minister at the time, Tun Dr Mahathir, officiated the opening of the new Kuala Lumpur landmark amidst the Asian Economic Crises, which has spread across all major Asian developing Nations including Malaysia.

Construction of the Petronas Twin Towers

Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed officiating the Petronas Twin Towers in 1996

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City

Conclusion In closing, from our research we can see that Jalan Ampang has undergone various dramatic transformations and changes in many aspects. From the early days of being a developing tin-mining community, to becoming a bustling prime city centre, we can see that the community, architecture, and the status of the area has slowly evolved to what it is today. With development, usually comes the abandonment of the past, but hopefully, as we move forward as a country we can appreciate and conserve the historical elements of areas like Jalan Ampang.

Asian Architecture | Project One: Case Study of a Historic Street in an Asian City



A. (2015, August 06). The 1975 AIA Building Hostage Crisis in Kuala Lumpur. Retrieved from Merchant, C. (2016, February 19). The history and construction of the Petronas Twin Towers. Retrieved from

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Jalan ampang case study essay  


Jalan ampang case study essay