Curtain closes on Odeon, permanently

  • Metro News
  • Monday, 23 Sep 2019

The cinema, once run by Kumpulan Pawagam Iswaria Sdn Bhd, used to feature Malay and Tamil movies. — Filepic

ODEON Cinema, one of the few remaining Art Deco-style buildings in Kuala Lumpur, will soon make way for a multi-storey retail and service apartment project.

It is learned that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has approved in principle for the project to go ahead and that the development order is in the process of being issued.

However, Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan said a portion of the building’s facade would be integrated into the development.

“There was a request that part of the building’s facade with the architectural features be maintained in the new design.

“We cannot stop the development as it is a private building, ” he said.

According to developer’s website, the proposed project will consist of two towers of serviced apartments and retail units.

The freehold Odeon project will have a built-up area of 450sq ft to 850sq ft, with an indicative price of RM450,000 upwards.

It is being marketed as a transit-oriented development and will comprise a dual-key concept enabling city living with the opportunity of earning income.

When contacted, a company representative via its corporate communications unit said the company did not have much to disclose at the moment as they were currently at the planning stage.

Architecturally notable

Odeon Cinema located at the intersection of Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Dang Wangi, was designed by A.O. Coltman, an architect with Booty and Edwards (now BEP Arkitek), and engineer Steen Sehested.

The Art Deco style is characterised by its smooth lines, geometric shapes and streamlined form.

Coltman also designed several other distinctive buildings in Kuala Lumpur with strong Art Deco elements such as the Rubber Research Institute in Jalan Ampang, the Anglo Oriental Building (now known as Wisma Ekran) in Jalan Tangsi, the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation in Lebuh Pasar Besar, the former Harrisons and Crossfields building at the corner of Jalan Ampang and Jalan Dang Wangi (formerly known as Campbell Road) and the Oriental Building KL in Jalan Melaka.

Odeon Cinema was opened by Cathay Organisation Holdings Ltd in 1936 and ceased operations a couple of times before its curtain finally came down for good in 2015.

Badan Warisan Malaysia president Elizabeth Cardosa said any new development should retain the character of the original building.

She said that while conservationists were not against development, their view was that development should be done sympathetically and in a sensibly planned manner.

Badan Warisan Malaysia president Elizabeth Cardosa Badan Warisan Malaysia president Elizabeth Cardosa

“The Odeon Cinema building is one of seven known buildings designed by the same architect during the time he was in Malaya.

“The main building of the Rubber Research Institute has been gazetted.

“Any new development should keep its heritage value, in this case architecturally.

“If the value is in terms of monetary gains, then you are not capturing the integrity and authenticity of the heritage itself, ” she said.

Cardosa said a redesign should be within context with an awareness of what was happening around the area.

“Even if there is a need to demolish and rebuild because a building has become dilapidated, the feeling and character of the old building need to be translated into the new design and it should be able to tell us something about what was once here, ” she added.

On arguments that the Odeon Cinema building was privately-owned and was therefore not up to public scrutiny, Cardosa said the right was only given by the local government.

“Do we as Kuala Lumpur citizens have no right to our city’s environment?

“Anyone has the right to develop but with certain constraints set by the city authorities.

“And if the authorities are neglectful of that, then they are not being mindful. There has to be checks and balances, ” she added.

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