Disk 53

It is indeed heartening to know that conservation is becoming popular in Malaysia. Since the founding of Badan Warisan Malaysia in 1984, numerous groups subscribing to belief in Conservation and Preservation has also come into being. Sahabat Warisan Malaysia 1985, Persatuan Warisan Pulau Pinang 1987, Melaka Chapter of Badan 1986 & Perak Chapter of Badan 1987. The recent ‘declaration’ granting Melaka the status of a ‘Historical City’ is a noble and commendable effort on the part of both the State & Federal Governments.

It demonstrates that both Governments realize the importance of preserving the rich tradition and heritage that exist within our Nation. Conserving and preserving our national heritage is vital for the long-term national survival and for instilling into future generation citizens a sense of belonging. Whence we all came from and henceforth. The precious few ancient monuments are our National treasures and National assets, worthy of preservation and maintenance at all cost for future reference. Once destroyed, they cannot be recovered or replaced. Yes, we may reproduce a replica, but it cannot be the same. Recently a renowned painting “Sunflower” by Vincent Van Gogh was auctioned off at Stg. L30 million by Sotheby’s to some Japanese buyer. Why one could reproduce a replica, a copy of that same painting and it could cost maybe only Stg. L2, 000. But it would not be the same.

Regrettably conservation has not achieved the level of appreciation, understanding, sympathy and sophistication it deserves. Ask 10 different people, you get 10 different answers on what conservation is all about. All 10 different persons will insist that their version of conservation is the correct one. If among architects, the authority on aesthetic, perceiver of good taste and custodian of the built environment we cannot agree on ways to approach conservation, how then do we expect the State who relies on the architectural profession to guide and advise them, to sensibly attempt to preserve and conserve the National heritage properly. Too many attempts at conservation currently in Malaysia ranges from remodeling, re-beautification, renovation, to re-housing a new usage. Accompanying these exercises should be the following: –

  • Sensitivity;
  • Sympathy; and
  • Sincerity.

Sensitivity concern and awareness of what was there before and being
responsive to the click here spirit of what the architecture/monument represents. Not to destroy that which stands out as being important.

Sympathy to act in a manner where a decision to restore, do not in anyway destroy an existing fabric, texture or spirit, but to act in harmony
and in a correlated manner with that which is there.

Sincerity a genuine and altruistic approach to conservation, where one’s
main concern is at preserving that which needs to be and not act
in a wanton manner for remunerative benefits.

It is, therefore, imperative that Architects embarking on conservation should practice the 3 –S’s. Too many projects lack the above three mentioned qualities and the consequential loss to the nation is too high a price to pay. Therefore by labeling cities or structures as ‘historical’ or ‘conservation projects’ do not elevate it to an exulted position of respectability. To attain International recognition for our conservation effort, we need to be more diligent and vigilante in our efforts.

Although there appear to be many conservation orientated Societies and Bodies in Malaysia, very few attempt in any serious manner to advise the Local authorities their considered opinion the authorities have embarked on their own way. A combination of both factors must be the real scenario in Malaysia. Conservation bodies and PAM need to take a stand. A stand which may offend some of the high authorities. But it is a stand that needs to be made. Unless we are vigilante and practice ‘Rukan Tetangga’ for conservation, we may lose all our nation heritage not from lack of love and care but from sheer apathy (on the part of those who know and should speak out but do not) and ignorance (from those who do not understand, therefore do the wrong thing and are too proud to ask for proper advice).

It is only correct for PAM having stretched out to assist the Melaka Government in preparing proposals for the preservation and conservation of Melaka that PAM should comment on where mis-guidance had occurred and arrest further deterioration of the ancient city. Other chapters of PAM should awaken themselves from slumber to sound the warning bells to ensure genuine attempts at conservation in these respective States and to prevent dilettantism.