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In The News

Date:Thursday, May 3, 2001

Old BBGS should not be torn down

LAST Tuesday, my wife and I attended the grand opening of Louis Vuitton's new global store at the Starhill Shopping Complex.

What I thought was an inspired move was halfway through the proceedings, to transfer the party over to the old BBGS (Bukit Bintang Girls School) buildings across Jalan Bukit Bintang.

With a crowd of more than 2,000 guests, the grounds of the old school and the buildings were definitely better suited to accommodate the various activities and shows planned for the night.

The now redundant two-storey front school building (office block) was built in the 1930s.

This fine piece of Kuala Lumpurs architectural heritage was marvellously transformed into a superb venue with former classrooms refurbished into rooms for dining, drinks and music, including a double-height discotheque with a stage for performances (achieved by simply removing the wooden floor boards and beams on the 1st floor.)

It was indeed a fine example of adaptive re-use of an old heritage building and certainly showed the wonderful potential of such heritage buildings worthy of conservation.

The guests were treated to a brilliant venue with a fine architectural ambience lent immediately by real (not fake!) masonry columns which made up the collonaded verandahs on both floors, lofty former classrooms and a garden setting of the front driveway, lined with the original mature royal palm (roystonia regis) trees.

This ambience is certainly unmatched elsewhere in the city and is a great feature and unique attraction of Bukit Bintang (Starhill).

It certainly is a fine complement to the other side of the road, Bintang Walk, with its tighter space constraints.

The building also proved versatile in its very adaptable rooms and spaces.

But alas, all this is facing the wrecking ball very soon!

There are plans afoot to demolish all the school buildings and replace them with a new comprehensive urban development.

This letter is my last minute appeal to the powers-that-be, i.e. the owners and the developers, that the front two blocks of the old school be conserved and incorporated into the proposed new development.

The rest of the new development could proceed accordingly. In this way, the best of both worlds is obtained with the benefits of the new development enhanced by the heritage value of the fine architectural buildings which are imbued with so much history (Incidentally, the school is 105 years old this year and was relocated recently to Cheras) and which evoke lovely memories for residents of KL, not to mention former pupils, teachers, etc

A win-win situation for all! I believe that the value of conservation of true heritage buildings cannot be overstated.

All over the world people are realising the importance and immense value of preserving their cultural and architectural heritage.

This is especially true now that tourism is acknowledged to be the top money earning industry. Foreign examples of successful commercial conservation projects include Covent Garden in London, the Chijmes development and Clark Quay in Singapore. Our own local success story of the KL Central Market which just celebrated its 15th anniversary recently bear testimony to the fact that conservation can also be a commercial success.

The old English saying: Do not throw out the baby with the dirty bath water is relevant here.

By all means throw out what is of no heritage merit i.e. the later additions of the school hall, etc. which are of no outstanding architectural value. But please pause and consider the beauty of the front blocks of neo-classical design with its beautifully proportioned and stately, rhythmic, collonaded walkways and verandahs, high-ceilinged rooms, overhanging eaves etc.

This is a fine example of European architecture adapted to a tropical setting. Surely, this baby is worth keeping and should not be thrown out with the rest of the school buildings.

As a KL resident, born and bred here, I will be eternally grateful that dear old KL will not become a soulless new metropolis with little history.

Please reconsider and act quickly to stay the demolition works.

Kuala Lumpur.
(via e-mail)

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