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University Cultural Centre 50 Kent Ridge Crescent National University of Singapore Singapore 119279 T: (65) 6516 8817 E: OPENING HOURS: 10am - 7.30 pm (Tues - Sat) 10am - 6 pm (Sun) Closed on Monday and Public Holidays


NUS Museum a comprehensive museum for teaching and research. It focuses on Asian regional aart and culture, and seeks to create an enriching expeience through its collections and exhibitions. The Museum has over 7,000 artifacts and artworks divided across four collections and exhibitions. The Lee Kong Chian Collection consists of a wide representation of Chinese materials from ancient to contemporary art; the South and Southeast Asian Collection holds a range of workss from Indian classical sculptures o modern pieces; and the Ng Eng Teng Collection is a donation from the late Singapore sculptor and Culltural Medallion recipient of over 1,000 artworks. A fourth collection, the Straits Chinese Collection, is located at NUS’ Baba House at 157 Neil Road.

NUS MUSEUM encounterswithipoh

FAMILIAR SPACES UNTOLD STORIES foreword NUS Museum is pleased to collaborate with NUS Department of Architecture in presenting this exhibition. The UMNUS Joint Studio Programme started in 2005 and the first exhibition entitled ‘Re:Claiming Heritage’ was presented at NUS Museum in 2009. This was followed by ‘Tracing Taping’ (2010) and ‘Narrating Muar’ (2011). This year, the study focuses on shophouses in the old and new towns of Ipoh. Investigations into the architecture of the shophouse and its evolving contexts, its adaptive uses over time, its meanings to contemporary societies that sustain them, and the implications to and challenges of conservation, resonate with the research and programming interests of NUS Baba House. Our congratulations to the students and teaching staff of the two participating universities. We would also like to record our thanks to Dr Wong Yunn Chii, Head, NUS Department of Architecture for inviting NUS Museum to participate in this programme and for his support of various collaborative and learning initiatives between his department and the Museum. Ahmad Mashadi Head of NUS Museum National University of Singapore

Every year, over the past seven years, our road trip under the UM-NUS Joint Studio Program, together with our Malaysian counterpart, brings us new insights into working together as well as new understanding of the artifices and the towns our students study. The enterprise reaffirms the programs’ intent to retrace our common legacies in built structures, and the diversities of social-cultural lives that they support. We are not misguided by grand illusion that this short sojourn of twenty odd students, spending a little over ten days in Ipoh will stem the tides of change. However, we do believe that learning about four selected shophouses in the Old and New town area of Ipoh, carefully contextualizing and documenting them, provides a firm basis to mobilize public interests: drawing their eyes to the under-looked. Our previous undertakings in Muar (2011) and Taiping (2010) have borne positive receptions in resounding terms, sensitizing many local viewers in these towns towards the deeper meanings and stories of their respective built legacies. I would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following: Prof Yahaya Ahmed and Mr Lim Take Bane (Universiti Malaya); Mr Law Siak Hong (Perak Heritage Society); my colleagues, Mr Roland S Flores and Ho Weng Hin, and our visiting student-mentor Huang Yuzhe. Finally, to the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation for generously funding this joint UM-NUS Joint Studio and Mr Ahmad Mashadi of NUS Museum for hosting the exhibition of the students’ works. Assoc. Prof. (Dr) Wong Yunn Chii Head of Department of Architecture National University of Singapore This seventhcycle of the UMNUS Joint Studio on Heritage Studies takes us to the famed northerntin mining town of Ipoh. Its townsfolk have generously shared their personal storiesof the town and invited us into their homes and buildings to record them. We are grateful to the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation for their support of our effort tohighlight the priceless value of the urban built heritage of Malaysia. We thank themany individuals who rendered their time and assistance in our endeavour. We also thank UMNUS faculty members A/P Dr Yahaya Ahmad, Mr Lim Take Bane, Nur Mazidah Che Ghani, Mr Roland Sharpe Flores, Mr Ho Weng Hin and the participating students for realizing this exhibition. Associate Professor Ar. Saari Omar Acting Head, Department of Architecture Faculty of Built Environment University of Malaya contributors: (national university of singapore) alvin, huiling, wilson, caryn, joel, shaunice, huang, serene, daniel t, daniel l. (university of malaya) kirin, beego, huda, nikki, sahaq, toffee, zuhair, kristen, hazim, ali. (tutors) roland sharpe flores, ho weng hin, lim take bane, yahaya ahmad, nur mazidah che ghani.

INTRODUCTION Ipoh is an amazing set of contradictions - traditional yet modern; industrious yet leisurely; old yet new; formal yet quotidian; idiosyncratic yet omnipresent. This year, twenty students from University of Malaya and the National University of Singapore embarked on a two week-long learning journey to understand Ipoh’s contradictions. They caringly conducted an in-depth study of the city’s heritage and assessed its current state of development. Physical traces from Ipoh’s zenith as the ‘Tin Capital of the World’ during the prosperous tin mining era are still visible today. The era ended with the collapse of the tin mining industry in the 1970’s leaving many of Ipoh’s historic buildings intact. The buildings along with Ipoh’s citizenry comprise an intricate narrative fabric woven from the untold stories and familiar spaces of Old Town and New Town. The fabric defines a cultural richness that appears to resist the test of time.

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The richness of Ipoh’s heritage necessitates the telling of its stories and the presentation of its spaces; so that a new generation can appreciate it. It is a challenging task since much of the lustre from Ipoh’s past has dimmed. Luckily, beneath layers of dust and newer development are brilliant signposts to Ipoh’s past. Old and abandoned shophouses enlighten the story of Old Town. Forsaken and adapted cinemas provide a small glint of the entertainment hubs that once shined in New Town. Ipoh, like other cities succumbs to the flux of change. But with a rigorous study of the urban issues concerning its current state and an understanding of the perspectives of the people who call it home, Ipoh’s historical essence can be appreciated. It is an essence exemplified in a trader’s shophouse, a couple’s Sinhalese bar, a charcoal vendor’s shop and a seamstress’ modern shophouse.



The students from University of Malaya and the National University of Singapore invite you to share with them Ipoh’s essence as familiar spaces and untold stories.



trade house

sinhalese bar

modern shophouse





From the exterior, the trade house resembles any other shop house along Jalan Othman Talib. The shophouse actually comprises two shophouses, end to end, and spans the width of an Old Town city block. This unique feature creates a progression of light wells within the shophouse that punctuate the interior. Bright red Chinese doors kept ajar grant entry into one of the light wells. It is almost sacred in its serenity. It is inhabited by lush plantings bathed by sunlight, creating a small quiet sanctuary. It is the trader’s sanctuary where, resting in his reclining chair, he reminisces.

The bar located at the corner of Market Street has many stories to tell – stories of work and stories of play. Since its humble beginnings in 1931, the Sinhalese bar has become a hub for the Indian community of Old Town. The bar is distinguished from the rest of the shophouses in the vicinity by a luscious bougainvillea growing along its facade. A pair of ‘cowboy’ doors at the entrance and distinctive roof line further set it apart from the other shophouses. Inside, a Chinese wooden screen and walls bedecked with memorabilia promise a captivating tale of their own.

charcoal house


3 Tucked in the middle of a row of conspicuous neo classical shophouses in New Town, along Jalan Dato Onn Jaafar – is a shophouse that is shared by a seamstress and a knife smith. As work begins, the low rumble of street traffic gives way to a riotous orchestra of high pitched steel resonance timed by the clatter of the sewing machines. These mechanical voices subside as one explores further into the house through the paraphernalia-cluttered corridors. A contrast emerges with the quiet of the rear yard. The contrast of sounds perhaps echoes the differing stories that the owners are reluctant to share.

4 At first glance, one can be forgiven for not noticing what goes on in the charcoal store. The century-old shophouse along Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri in New Town has a modest facade of tripartite windows and full-length steel accordion doors that appear common enough. But inside thick layers of charcoal soot obscure the simple yet evocative interiors. Despite its grim and mirthless impression, the main shop space provides a warm reception with assortment of chairs beckoning one to take a seat. This is where the owners, an elderly couple, share long afternoons in the company of old friends. The owners are the last charcoal vendors in Ipoh but are the first to share a story.

UMNUS Ipoh exhibition brochure  

Part of the joint studio expedition of Universti Malaya and...