This lesser known but equally majestic heritage building is currently occupied by Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTM) headquarters. This building is said to be the last of many Mughal-style buildings erected in Kuala Lumpur. Located along Jalan Hishamuddin, it blends in nicely with the appearance of its more famous counterpart, the Old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station across the road.
Like many Mughal-style buildings in Malaysia its architecture was also designed by AB Hubback. It was completed in 1917, after works were halted during World War One. It incorporates the Mughal style of architecture, just like its counterpart across the road, the Old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station. The building suffered bombing in its North Wing during the Second World War, and in 1968, the second floor was gutted by fire. In 1983, the building was gazetted as a heritage site.
One of the essential elements in Mughal architecture is onion-shaped dome. KTM heaquarters is no exception and it has so many of them. The main dome has a cupola, or a smaller dome that crowns the bigger dome, which sits on top of a small pavillion. The word ‘cupola’ is derived, via Italian, from the lower Latin cupula or small cup, indicating a vault resembling an upside down cup. The other smaller domes are surrounded by thin long minarets.
Other than dome, arch is another typical characteristics of Mughal architecture as shown in the picture above. On the ground floor it is pointed horseshoe arches while on the first and second floor there are repetitive pattern of key-hole arches. Besides its ornamental function the arches provide holes to the passageway or corridor for the ventilation purpose considering hot and humid climate Malaysia is in.
At the corners of the builing you will see an overhanging balcony. You can recognize it from its criss-cross pattern as shown in the picture above. This is the ‘jharoka’, which is a balcony jutting forward from the wall plane. This adds to the architectural beauty, but it also has a functional purpose. It allows for people from the inside to look out, without being seen themselves
Let’s hope KTM and the Malaysian government will do everything necessary to preserve this beautiful architectural masterpiece and put it to good use even after KTM moves out to the new building some day. It would be a great loss to the nation’s history and its heritage if the classic and vintage buildings of this kind are not preserved or worse still are replaced by featureless glass and concrete edifice.