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In The News

Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2001

BBGS alumni and conservationists shocked

THE alumni of the former Bukit Bintang Girls School (BBGS) Kuala Lumpur, architects and conservationists are shocked that destruction of the old school has begun on the main building which they have been fighting to preserve.

The balustrades on the second floor have been knocked down while the wooden doors of the rooms were removed from the historic building. Tiles on the distinctive arched roof on the porch were also destroyed.

What was once an elegant, 1930 neo-classical building is now derelict with broken roof tiles and concrete strewn over the verandahs and lawns. A Chinese altar has been freshly constructed at a corner of the front lawn. Several “jaga kereta” boys were also seen in the abandoned buildings.

“I’m sad that the landowner and developer have taken action on the very part of the building we are trying to preserve,” said BBGS Old Girls Association president Chew Mei Lee.

“It seems that our efforts and appeals have fallen on deaf ears,” she said.

Another alumna, Sandra Sodhy said two men reportedly entered the school on Monday evening and destroyed the balustrades and doors with sledgehammers.

“Why are they purposely destroying the most historic part of the building in spite of public sentiment against it?” said Sodhy. “We never asked for the entire school building to be preserved, just the front building.

“They are destroying a part of our history. The building is in perfectly good condition and could easily stand for another 100 years”.

“It’s a shame the owners have started the demolition and ignored the public’s call for its preservation.

“But even at this stage, it is not too late to salvage the remaining parts of the building,’’ said architect and conservationist Lim Take Bane.

The alumni and conservationists have protested against the destruction of the building since 1997.

They have appealed for the school's front block to be used for commercial gatherings, citing examples of heritage buildings adapted for commercial use such as London’s Covent Garden, Chijmes in Singapore and KL's Central Market.

This was exemplified on April 24 when luxury brand Louis Vuitton used the building and lawn for a gala party for 2,000 guests during the launch of its global store in Starhill Shopping Centre.

BBGS is the oldest girls’school in Kuala Lumpur and second oldest in Malaysia. It was built in 1893 by English missionaries and has produced well-known alumni.

The BBGS Old Girls Association has collected more than 4,000 signatures in a public petition to protest against the school’s imminent destruction to make way for a shopping mall.

BBGS is located on land deemed as a “gold mine” as part of a RM1.2 billion plan to develop the 3.12ha site along Jalan Bukit Bintang, comprising the mall, high-rise apartments and a five-star hotel.

Sodhy said the alumni was presenting copies of the petition to the Prime Minister, City Hall and relevant authorities.

“We have collected signatures from old girls all over the world, their families and the public. The signatures are still coming in through the e-mail. “Our built heritage is on the line and we are determined to stand up for it and be counted,” said Sodhy.

President of the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) Dr Ken Yeang has previously called for the two oldest blocks and lawn to be preserved.

“The design of these blocks is unique and constitutes a fine example of colonial Eu-ropean architecture well adapted to a tropical setting,” he said.

“These historic buildings cannot be replicated nor recreated. Are we prepared to wait another 100 years for today’s buildings to have value?” said PAM chairman Lilian Tay.

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