STANDING on the second floor verandah of the old Supreme Court building in Jalan Raja overlooking Sungai Gombak, a Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) department head envisions a bright future for one of the city’s oldest landmarks.
Project Implementation and Building Maintenance Department director Norzaini Noordin made a promise that the verandah would be teeming with people sipping drinks as they enjoy the cool breeze and view of the river.
“It will be beautiful and romantic just the way Hubback wanted it, ” Norzaini said.
She was referring to AB Hubback, a British architect renowned for his buildings and their trademark colonnaded verandahs and domes.
His designs bring back memories of a bygone era, and Norzaini, an architect herself, wants to recapture that vibe which makes Jalan Raja’s heritage buildings a popular place for tourists and locals alike.
Norzaini and her team of architects and engineers have been given the task of rejuvenating these buildings which are more than a century old.
This was made possible after the buildings were handed over to DBKL to manage.
Although the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad Building is still under the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry, DBKL is reponsible for maintaining its facade.
However, the remaining buildings, namely Panggung Bandaraya, the old Supreme Court and the office of the former Sanitary Board and Federated Malay States (FMS) Survey Department headquarters, are now under DBKL’s purview.
Last September, StarMetro reported that Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad said the ministry wrote to the Federal Lands Commissioner requesting custodianship of the buildings, and said it would nominate DBKL to manage the buildings.
Khalid said the buildings were decaying rapidly and required urgent maintenance, adding that DBKL had the financial means to carry out preservation, restoration and conservation work.
DBKL has allocated RM120mil for the work to be used in staggered amounts per year.
Since taking control of the buildings, Norzaini said they received an allocation of RM6mil this year to carry out upgrading and refurbishment work.
“The sum of RM120mil, an investment by DBKL, is for reactivation and to be used until the project is completed, but we hope to top up the coffers from time to time by monetising these places.
“Once some of the work is completed, we hope to utilise the old Supreme Court space like the colonnade verandah and the hall downstairs for cafes and restaurants, ” Norzaini added.
She said the idea was to make the buildings self-sustaining so businesses could cover any future cost for upkeep.
“We want to put Kuala Lumpur on the global map as a preferred destination for tourists from all over the world, ” she added.
Norzaini said they would work in stages to restore the old Supreme Court building.
It would include cleaning up the courtyard so that the public can walk through it to access Masjid Jamek.
“The entrance of the building has a lovely space in the centre and we want to open the rooftop to allow the sun and rain in.
“We want to retain the old charm as much as possible and tell a story, ” she added.
The old Supreme Court building was completed in 1915. The two-storey arcade facade boasts arches that link four corner towers.
The main entrance faces Sungai Gombak and leads to an enclosed courtyard where there is a concrete staircase leading up to the floors.
In 1984, the Supreme Court and most of the high courts were moved to the newly refurbished Sultan Abdul Samad building.
After a fire in 1992, the building was renovated to accommodate the Sessions and Magistrate’s courts.
The Panggung Bandaraya building is still in good condition, said Norzaini.
“We need to replace the air-conditioning system which was vandalised.
“The sound and PA system needs upgrading too and the termite problem needs urgent attention. Other than that, the furniture is still good, ” she said.
DBKL hopes to get things running by April and hopefully launch several cultural shows to bring life back into the Jalan Raja stretch.
Panggung Bandaraya was built in 1902 and was originally the headquarters of the Kuala Lumpur Municipal Council and the office of the second mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Yaakob Latiff. It boasts a black Moghul-inspired dome.
The building was handed over to a company staging the musical MUD - The Story of Kuala Lumpur in June 2014.
The musical ended on April 30,2017, and the theatre was handed back to DBKL which later returned it to the National Heritage Department.
As for the other buildings, the conditions are much worse and more work is needed, but that would have to be put on hold.
In 2017, StarMetro reported that these buildings, which were once the pride of the federal capital, were in a sorry state and slowly falling apart.
The FMS survey building even lost one of its spiral domes in late 2016, raising warning flags of its fragile condition.
The buildings are gazetted as national heritage under Category One of the National Heritage Act 2005.
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