Historic places with strong contrast in Malaysian building architecture

Malaysia has come a long way as a nation since its independence. We can just look at the differences in Malaysian building architecture that serves up both by heritage sites and majestic skyscrapers from a single vantage point.

Here is a list of six sites within Klang Valley where you can marvel at the strong contrast in building architecture and see a piece of history as well as futuristic buildings in the same place.

1. 19th-century buildings along Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur

Street view of Jalan Sultan in KL
Image credit: Google Street View

Walk along Jalan Sultan in Kuala Lumpur and you’ll get a chance to see a mixture of modern and old architecture in the heart of the city centre. Dreary old buildings from the 19th century on one side and modern architecture such as the newly built MRT Pasar Seni and the ongoing Merdeka 118 on the other side are the perfect examples of this view. 

While these old buildings are home to some of the oldest businesses established by the Chinese community when they settled in Kuala Lumpur, the rising Merdeka 118 on the other side, with its shiny facade and geometrical architecture, represents the metropolitan part of our city. When it is completed, Merdeka 118 will not only be the tallest building in the country, it will be surrounded by a number of historic buildings too.

2. Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur

Royal Selangor Club view in KL
Image credit: Royal Selangor Club

Founded in 1884 by the British who ruled Malaya, the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur is located right next to the Merdeka Square where Malaysia’s independence was declared by the late Tunku Abdul Rahman. The 137-year-old social club is still functioning today.

From this 19th-century building, which has survived fires and floors, you will be able to see a number of skyscrapers within the Kuala Lumpur city centre such as the new Public Works Department (JKR) Headquarters in Jalan Sultan Salahuddin. The modern twist of the JKR tower and the Tudor-styled royal club can be an amazing experience for tourists.

3. Kuala Lumpur railway station from 1910

Old KL railway station from 1900s
Image credit: Master AS

Kuala Lumpur city centre is home to many iconic buildings both modern and old-fashioned. Take a look at this KL railway station from the 1900s. What better place is there to get a glimpse of the difference in Malaysian architecture than this? It gives you vibes of the old, colonial Malaya, while the numerous new high-rise buildings in the background attest to the rapid modernisation the city has and is continuing to see. 

The KL railway station on Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin was built to replace an older train station from the 1800s – the first train station in the country built by the British colonial government. The white and ivory coloured building can be mistaken for a mosque due to the multiple domes located on top.

4. National Textiles Museum in Kuala Lumpur

Architecture of National Textiles Museum in KL
Image credit: Wikipedia

Located along Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, the National Textiles Museum is a 19-century heritage building in Kuala Lumpur. It was completed in 1896 and was previously occupied by the various departments and institutions. Now a historic site in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, the beautiful museum offers different exhibitions for visitors’ viewing pleasure.

This building mimics the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur. The textile museum is located on the corner of a T-junction offering a great street view. Right behind this building, you will find two tall and modern bank towers.

5. Klang Komuter Station at Jalan Raya Timur, Klang

Along buildings near Klang Komuter Station
Image credit: Google Street View

Apart from Kuala Lumpur, the royal town of Klang is also a good place where you can see buildings from very different eras just strolling along the street. If you happen to pass by Jalan Raya Timur in Klang, you’ll be able to see both old and new buildings on each side of the road. 

On one side, you’ll see a newly built KTM car park in all its glory. But on the other side, there are some really old shoplots from the last century. These buildings exhibit many of the characteristics of some of the earliest townships in Klang Valley and you can easily find many of such structures within Klang. Many are still functioning shops while there are also others that are abandoned.

6. Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur

Architecture of old Jamek Mosque in KL
Image credit: Sara You

The Jamek Mosque, famously known as Masjid Jamek and situated at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak river was built in the 1900s. It’s designed by English architect Arthur Benison Hubback and is one of the oldest mosques in Kuala Lumpur.

Standing at the boardwalk at the V-junction of the rivers, you can see that the Jamek Mosque is surrounded by modern towers labelled with various bank logos.  

Strong contrast in Malaysian building architecture

It is really a privilege that we still get to witness the beauty of old buildings along with new ones in modern Malaysia. We hope this list will inspire you to visit more places like these in the country to enjoy the historic background of Malaysian building architecture. Let us know if you know any other places with similar traits in your own state. 

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Cover image adapted from: Sara You and Royal Selangor Club

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