Heritage building of Penang | Old OCBC Building on Beach Street

Art Deco facade of the old building of OCBC Bank

The first ever OCBC Bank branch opened in Penang was in April 1920 at 24, Beach Street. It was then known as Oversea-Chinese Bank Ltd. Oversea-Chinese Bank was incorporated in Singapore in 1919 and the first Penang branch was opened a year later.

The OCBC Bank (in full Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation) that exists today is the result of a merger of 3 banks in 1932 namely  Chinese Commercial Bank, Ho Hong Bank and Oversea-Chinese Bank.

The newly merged entity was also headquartered in Singapore. In Jan 1933 it started trading and by 1934 the Penang branch was reopened from what was known as Oversea-Chinese Bank which was first opened in 1920 in Penang.

Beach Street in 1930s was the heart of Penang’s commercial and banking centre.  Notice the old OCBC Bank building at right. (Image was reproduced from Glimpses of Old Penang without permission but in accordance with the principle of fair use)

Originally in 1920 when the first Penang branch of Oversea-Chinese Bank, its predecessor, was opened it was located at 24 Beach Street. A year later it moved to the present site at 28-30 Beach Street. In 1938 the original 1880s façade was replaced with this elegant Art Deco styled façade. It was designed by Charles Geoffrey Boutcher. The dull grey finish to its façade is known as ‘Shanghai plaster’.  Take note of the stepped parapet, prominent vertical columns, concrete flagpole, tall and slim windows, and interlocking discs running from the top of the second floor to the bottom of the first floor as well as the grooves flowing across the building at the bottom of the first floor.  They are typical features of an Art Deco architectural style. Interestingly the original logo of OCBC Bank can still be seen in the central panel as shown in the photo below.

This building now houses Premier Banking section of OCBC Bank catering to the special affluent customers.

The early logo of OCBC Bank which is still there on this building.

The Art Deco structure is flanked by buildings on either side which also belong to OCBC Bank

OCBC Bank on Beach Street

Reference:

Langdon, M. (2010). George Town’s historic commercial and civic precincts. Retrieved June 27, 2015 from http://gtwhi.com.my/images/pdfs/HCCP.pdf

Heritage Building of Penang | Logan Heritage

Double-frontage Logan Heritage spans Beach Street and Union Street. Picture was taken early June this year.

Logan Building is a double-frontage historic building fronting on Beach Street (Lebuh Pantai) and Union Street. Beach Street was the busiest commercial and the banking centre of Penang in the old days.  It is located in the Core Zone of George Town UNESCO  World Heritage site.  The building was designed in Victorian architectural style and completed in 1883.  It was owned by a Chinese multi-millionaire from Perak, “Kapitan” Chung Keng Quee.

Upon completion, it was the first large-scale complex of shops and offices ever constructed in Penang.  It was commonly known as the Logan Buildings reflecting its association with Daniel Logan, the son of prominent lawyer James Richardson Logan. Daniel Logan was appointed Crown Prosecutor in 1865 and Solicitor General in 1867 by the British Government. He and Frederick Ross founded the legal firm of Logan and Ross in 1871 which subsequently operated from an office in the Union Street side of this building for many years.

One of the most charming and unique features of this building is its central archway that fronts on Beach Street. This archway serves as porte-cochere and inner courtyard for horse-drawn carriages. In its heyday auctions of property also were often held under the archway.  Throughout its long history many of Penang’s most prominent early firms were based here including Pritchard & Co., Robinson Piano Co. Ltd, the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, legal firms such as Presgrave & Matthews, A.A. Anthony & Co., Logan & Ross, auctioneers and general brokers Cunningham, Clark & Co. and various other retail and professional businesses. The Pinang Gazette newspaper, considered the oldest English language newspaper on the East of Suez,  was relocated here from the Whiteaways building next door after its offices and press were destroyed in the 1904 fire.

The central archway that fronts on Beach Street. Picture was taken early June this year.

Another interesting fact about this classic edifice is when it was completed circa 1883, it was originally 3-storey high and sported cast iron balconies on the Beach Street frontage.  See the picture from an old postcard below.

Logan Building – Image was reproduced from “George Town’s Historic Commercial and Civic Precincts” by Marcus Langdon, without permission but in accordance with the principles of fair use

However after more than 50 years of existence, with the hot and humid tropical weather and being very near to the sea, the building suffered some structural damage and was in dilapidated condition. The owners, the Chung Keng Quee Estate, brought in the architect Lim Soo Loon to renovate the building in 1930s. In an effort to salvage the building and to renovate it the upper floor was totally removed as it was badly damaged besides compromising the whole structure. The parapet wall was then redesigned in the Art Deco style which was fashionable in the 1930’s. This explained the existence of the Art Deco stepped parapet at the centre of the building where the building name was put up.

As a result Logan Building became a 2-storey building with the hybrid of Victorian and Art Deco architectural style! It used to house upmarket shops and prominent European companies.  One of the last occupants in one corner of it was Barkath Stores before the building was closed for the latest restoration.

Logan Building before the latest restoration – Photo by Leonard Kong Photography reproduced from http://wilsonbeh.com/?tag=unesco-heritage, without permission but with the principles of fair use.

The latest restoration project costing RM6.8 million was financed by its new owner OCBC Bank which forked out RM5 million and Tec Century, a property management company that manages this building, footed the remaining RM1.8 million. The restoration work was entrusted to y Architects Sdn Bhd which won a Mention in the PAM (Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia) Awards 2010 in the Conservation Buildings category.

After restoration, its new owner officially changed the name of this building to Logan Heritage. It was believed to be one of the first heritage landmarks in Penang to be restored through a fully private sector initiative.  It was reopened to the public in December 2010 after a year of intensive restoration.

It now houses a variety of food and beverages outlets, a foreign currency exchange facility, a gadgets’ shop, a convenience store besides other trendy commercial outlets.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng who visited the building during its official opening praised the efforts of the bank and the property management company in meeting the heritage guidelines of the Penang Municipal Council.

I photographed most of the pictures here on the third and last day of my brief holiday to Penang early this month. I was lucky on that day when the weather was very fine resulting in flattering and quality lighting while two days before the weather was gloomy and overcast.  As you can see here the Logan Heritage looks majestic when bathed in the low-angled, early morning light. Comments are welcomed :)

Logan Heritage is now occupied by trendy stores and cafes to cater for tourists and banks’ employees around the area – Picture was taken in early June this year.

Logan Heritage – picture was taken in 2012

References:

Beh, W. (2011, July 17). Georgetown is alive again – UNESCO Heritage Status 3rd Year Anniversary [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://wilsonbeh.com/?p=300

Filmer, A. (2012, August 15). A downright classic. The Star Online. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com.my/Story/?file=%2F2012%2F8%2F15%2Fnorth%2F11840203&

Langdon, M. (2010). George Town’s historic commercial and civic precincts. Retrieved June 8, 2015 from http://gtwhi.com.my/images/pdfs/George%20Towns%20Historic%20Commercial%20and%20Civic%20Precincts.pdf

Tye, T. (2010, November 23). Logan Heritage Building, George Town [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.penang-traveltips.com/lgn-building.htm

Yeoh, W. (2010, November 13). Heritage site to reopen. The Star Online. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com.my/story/?file=%2F2010%2F11%2F23%2Fnorth%2F7480908&sec=north

Heritage building of Kuala Lumpur | Old OCBC Building

The Old OCBC Building

Medan Pasar or in English it is known as the Old Market Square was the Kuala Lumpur’s banking and shopping hub in the olden day. It was where major international banks and various shops were centred. The Old Market Square was a bustling commercial area full of activities in its heyday.

It’s little wonder the Old Market Square became the location of choice when the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation Limited (OCBC) decided to build its Malaysian headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. This old OCBC Building was designed by Arthur Oakley Coltman (AO Coltman) of Booty Edwards & Partners. It was built in 1937 and completed in 1938. This handsome building is a masterpiece of the Art Deco architectural style. The design of this building was innovative for its time as it provided basement storage for bicycles, which were usually parked haphazardly on the pavement.

Situated at the junction of Jalan Hang Kasturi and Leboh Pasar Besar, it has the advantage of double frontage. The three-storey building follows the curve of the road. Unlike other Art Deco facades, the corner of the building is not accentuated due to the recessed entrance and the regularly spaced windows that flow across the facade. Windows if you notice are tall and slim compared with the entire surface of the building. This is because slim windows are one of the key characteristics of Art Deco style. At one end is a tapering stepped pylon with a flagpole on top. Flagpole is another must-have features of an Art Deco building.

The groove pattern made with Shanghai plaster between the second and the third floor

A muted mosaic panel runs up the centre of the pylon. Whereas a continuous groove with geometric pattern normally made with Shanghai plaster runs across the building façade between the second and the third floor. Internally, an interesting feature is an old elevator with brass and wood fittings and an over-sized round window.  This old OCBC Building has recently been painted white all over that has made it look pristine compared with its previous coat of paint which was beige in colour.

The architect AO Coltman was a seasoned architect practising in then Malaya for 37 years until his retirement in 1957, the year Malaya (now Malaysia) achieved its independence. He was instrumental in designing several prominent Art Deco structures in Kuala Lumpur including the Oriental Building and the Anglo-Oriental Building (Wisma Ekran) that I have blogged before.

The old OCBC Building at the Old Market Square

The old OCBC Building

Masjid Ulul Albab revisited

The Ulul Albab Mosque

The sight of this mosque situated at the intersection of the main Kuala Terengganu – Kota Bharu road and Kuala Besut road is conspicuous enough you can hardly miss it.  This elegant timber mosque was said to have been designed according to the old Malay mosque architectural style with its pyramidal roof called Perabung Lima.  Its architecture was inspired by the Kampung Laut Mosque of Kelantan which is now located in Nilam Puri, Kelantan.

The location of the Ulul Albab Mosque as shown in the Google Map

The Masjid Kampung Laut

Image of the Masjid Kampung Laut above was lifted from kelantan.attractionsinmalaysia.com website.

The Ulul Albab Mosque or Masjid Ulul Albab in Malay was built between 2009 and 2011. It was originally named Masjid Kayu Seberang Jerteh as it is located in Kampung Seberang Jerteh, a village across the Besut River from Jerteh town.  Kampung Seberang Jerteh also happens to be my hometown where I grew up.

I first blogged about this mosque in September 2011 when it was just completed.

The Masjid Kayu Seberang Jerteh was renamed The Ulul Albab Mosque and it was officially declared by none other than His Royal Highness The Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni Almarhum Sultan Mahmud Almuktafi Billah Shah when the Sultan officially opened the mosque on 24 February 2012.

All pictures of the Ulul Albab Mosque showcased here were taken on 4 May 2015 when I went back to my hometown for holiday last week.  Although weather at that time was extremely hot in daytime, in the early morning I was normally blessed with beautiful deep blue sky and flattering lighting that I found it utterly hard to resist going out with my camera and taking whatever pictures that tickled my fancy.

Hope you enjoy all the pictures. More pictures of the Ulul Albab Mosque are available here.

The Ulul Albab Mosque

The Ulul Albab Mosque

The Ulul Albab Mosque

The Ulul Albab Mosque

The Ulul Albab Mosque

The Ulul Albab Mosque

The Ulul Albab Mosque

Heritage building of Kuala Lumpur | Wisma Ekran

Anglo-Oriental Building later known as Wisma Ekran

A British architect named Arthur Oakley Coltman (AO Coltman) was a prolific architect during his career in then Malaya.  He was instrumental in designing the buildings well known for their Art Deco architectural style in Kuala Lumpur besides bringing modernism to Kuala Lumpur. He worked as manager for the architecture firm Booty, Edwards & Partners practising architecture for 32 years in Malaya. He arrived in Malaya in 1925 and retired in 1957.

The Art Deco buildings in Kuala Lumpur designed by him included Oriental Building (built in 1931), the Odeon Cinema (built in 1936), the old OCBC building (built in 1937), the Clock Tower at the Old Market Square to commemorate the coronation of England’s King George VI in 1937, the Rubber Research Institute of Malaya (R.R.I.M) Building (built in 1936), the Lee Rubber Building (built in the early 1930s) and Wisma Ekran (built in 1937).

Anglo-Oriental Building

Wisma Ekran now was originally the Anglo-Oriental Building when it was completed in 1937.  It was the direct result of one of the two key exports from British Malaya, that is tin besides rubber.  The Anglo-Oriental Building was occupied by Anglo-Oriental (Malaya) Ltd., a subsidiary of the Anglo-Oriental Mining Corporation (later to become known as the London Tin Corporation), the general managers for a large number of tin mines in Malaya.

It was constructed at the junction of Barrack Road (now Jalan Tangsi) and Club Road (now Jalan Parlimen) in Kuala Lumpur.  According to The Straits Times dated 17 June 1937, the location where the Anglo-Oriental Building stands now was the site of the former Empire Flats which had been home for many Europeans for years.

The Straits Times, 17 June 1937, Page 12

This Art Deco building is a three-storey building with a basement floor and has an area of approximately 1,473 square metres (0.364 acres). The building is an excellent example of Art Deco construction with extensive use of Art Deco elements and ornamentation, characteristic of the style. Situated on the corner of Jalan Tangsi (formerly Barrack Road) and Jalan Parlimen (formerly Club Road), it has a double frontage of two asymmetrical wings. The curved corner of the building houses the main entrance. Two prominent pylons with flagpoles on top flank the entry. Projecting from these pylons is a concrete canopy shading the entrance. Observe the decorative grooved pattern around the perimeter belt between the colonnade and windows. The groove and the surface finishing of this building, like other Art Deco buildings in Malaya and in Asia generally, was made with Shanghai plaster.  If you would like to know more about Shanghai plaster in Art Deco finishing, I suggest you check out my fellow Malaysian’s blog which describes Shanghai plaster in details here.

The Straits Times dated 1 October 1937 reported that the main entrance doors of this elegant building would be panelled with hammered pewter – a white alloy resembling tin in appearance – which would be secured with “stay-brite” strips.  The company’s name would also be executed in hammered pewter, and tin would be the motif of the treatment details.  After all Anglo-Oriental (Malaya) Ltd. was the manager for a large number of tin mines in Malaya. Malaya was at that time the world’s largest exporter of tin. This also signifies the theatrical opulence which Art Deco is always associated with.

Apart from the opulence in style the Straits Times also reported that the architect had even designed a motor car garage on the ground floor to enable the office workers to park their cars inside the building to prevent parking congestion in the street! It also well means the Malaya’s economy was strong and resilient enough when the west part of the world was suffering the Great Depression at that time.

The Straits Times, 2 October 1937, Page 12

The Straits Times, 2 October 1937, Page 12

In 1988, a Malaysian renowned architect Chen Voon Fee later renovated the building for use by Mahkota College. During renovation, the internal lower roof was replaced by a reinforced concrete floor. This created a usable space in the core of the building. A ring of corridors, which wrap around the three-storey atrium, links the internal rooms.

The building was subsequently acquired by Ekran Berhad in 1995, the property developer and it was renamed Wisma Ekran. However Ekran Berhad has sold off this building in 2005 when it relocated its headquarters to Kuching, Sarawak. The building is now left vacant.

The slim and narrow windows, the groove and the stepped ziggurat shape are part of the traits of Art Deco architecture

The facade above the main entrance

Row of windows of the Wisma Ekran

Heritage building of Kuala Lumpur | The Oriental Building

The Oriental Building, Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur taken in 2015

I have blogged before about a couple of heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur which were designed in Indo-Saracenic architectural style which is a hybrid of Mughal and European Neo-Classical and Victorian architectural style.  After the popularity of Indo-Saracenic architectural style waned at the end of the second decade of the 20th century, Art Deco started to gain popularity and became the preferred choice of architectural style by the building owners in then Malaya (now Malaysia) especially in major towns like Kuala Lumpur.

Art Deco architecture started to be popular worldwide since 1925 after the World War I until early 1940s when its popularity declined after the World War II.  It is also referred to as the interwar period. One of the largest Art Deco buildings in Kuala Lumpur besides the Central Market is the Oriental Building. According to a report by The Straits Times newspaper dated 26 November 1931 entitled “Big building for Kuala Lumpur” the construction work for a five-storey building would commence soon.  The building, once completed, would stand at 82ft tall and would be the tallest building in Kuala Lumpur.  It would also change the skyline of Kuala Lumpur and would add the welcome liveliness to the commercial centre which seemed to be stagnant at that time perhaps partly because of the Great Depression when its effect was felt worldwide.

The report also stated that Oriental Building was built for the Oriental Government Security Life Assurance Company. The company responsible for its construction was said to be Gammon (Malaya) Ltd. while its architect was Messrs. Booty and Edwards. There was also a consulting reinforced concrete specialist by the name of Mr. Steen Sehested entrusted to oversee the concrete work.  Later I learnt that the architect of this handsome building was Arthur Oakley Coltman or more popularly known as AO Coltman who worked for Messrs. Booty & Edwards based in Kuala Lumpur.  The Oriental Building is located at the intersection of Java Street (renamed Mountbatten Road before it was later renamed Jalan Tun Perak) and Malacca Street (now Jalan Melaka).

The Oriental Building taken in 2015

Upon its completion, The Straits Times came up with its report titled “Tallest building in Kuala Lumpur – Insurance company’s new headquarters” dated 26 December 1932 stating that The Oriental Building was ready for use and would be officially opened the next day on 27 December 1932 by the British Resident of Selangor, Mr. T.S. Adams.

It was reported that The Oriental Building which housed the new Malayan headquarters of the Oriental Life Assurance Company Ltd. standing in the centre of Kuala Lumpur and finished in white and grey tone was an impressive symbol of the commercial life of this city.  From its roof, 85 feet above the pavement the building commanded a majestic view and was crowned the tallest building in Kuala Lumpur. Triangular in shape it covered an area of 5,000 square feet with a curved facade of 123 feet in length. The building was five storeys in height while the offices of the Oriental Life Assurance Company Ltd were situated on the entire third floor over an area of 3,310 square feet.

The Oriental Building upon its completion in 1932. Photo by OY Kok. Reproduced from The Straits Times archive.

The building is of reinforced concrete frame with brick panelling from the design of Mr. Steen Sehested.  It was finished in two kinds of external plaster, grey and white, which was executed by hand from local small tones and cement and was unique in that no was sand was used. It was reported in the The Straits Times that its ground floor which included a shop, godown, basement and the usual conveniences was self-contained. The basement itself was rat-proof and in case of floods doors could be fitted into specially constructed grooves over the basement windows to prevent water from entering the building. Tiles made in England decorated the staircases and passages while office floors were covered with Italian tiles.

The Oriental Building from an old postcard. The postcard was published by A.S.M.K & Co, Singapore. Year not stated but it is believed to be in 1950s.

In The Straits Times report nowhere it was mentioned that the building was designed in Art Deco style because this architectural style was given its name as Art Deco only in 1966 by the renowned architect Le Corbusier, who penned a series of articles in his journal L’Esprit nouveau under the headline “1925 Expo: Arts Déco”.

However the building was designed obviously in Art Deco style judging by the ubiquitous Art Deco characteristics it possesses.  In fact this is a fine example of an Art Deco architecture which was popular during the interwar period beginning in 1925 and the popularity declined after the World War II.  One of the most prominent traits of Art Deco building is its flag pole at the top of its building.  Besides, its tall and slim windows are another Art Deco significant identity. Art Deco also frequently utilises contrasting materials to emphasize differences in colour and texture. The white frieze with a bas-relief of interlocking coins/disc frames the entire panel on its exterior which is flanked by two tower-like pylons. The projecting panels of walls in between the slim windows are stepped, creating the illusion of depth. Stepped pillasters begin at the 3rd floor, flanking the windows. The sharp, clean lines that beam out from the archway suggest a sunburst motif. These are the significant characteristics of Art Deco architecture which can be found all over the world.

Although the building is currently left vacant it is learnt that the building is still leased to a local bank and perhaps it is waiting to be renovated before being occupied again. Let’s hope it is well taken care of no matter who the owner is. This elegant edifice deserves to be safeguarded and preserved as it is one of the national precious heritage.

If you are interested in heritage buildings you may like to check out my earlier blog entries on other heritage buildings as follows:

The Oriental Building in its present day taken this year, 2015.

The Oriental Building taken this year

Rusticated arches of the ground floor arcade follow the original curve of the road

The Oriental Building

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