Thursday, February 3, 2011


                             An exciting find while on a drive at Jeneri Kedah

AS WE hit the Chinese Year of the Rabbit today and while the Chinese friends take their time off for several days with most shops and establishments closed, I find it a good time to search my photo archive and bring about a fitting account of Malay homes especially seeing that recently the blog had had a good following with hits on the 'kampong' home.  
                        A window which opens at both levels with ballastrades

The Malay houses in the  'kampong' may have unexpectedly nestled in such a surrounding. Notice several homes partly hidden by coconut or large trees interspersed by padi fields. Naturally cooling enough even in the noon time hours when the sun is overhead. Being in the rice-field of  Malaysia, these houses nestled amongst the peaceful greenery and at times changing to gold when the rice stalks ripen.There is space in between.Neighbors don't feel hemmed in.

In earlier times, when roads were the waterways , houses tend to be sited near rivers.Lucky for the owner of this home, he seems to have progressed satisfactorily. He has a road built in front of his home and it too has taken a new and modern feature. Yet he continues to enjoy space and greenery around him. The porch is large enough to accommodate two cars at least; allowing convenience for the larger family that comes home.       

No this is not a long house but it was once a police barrack for the policemen and their families. Noticing the staircases, at least four families resided here at one time. Still it is located around greenery and even with a field right in front of the barrack. Sadly this airy and cool home near the former Alor Setar Airport has been demolished to make way for better accommodations.The large and extensive veranda  plus the high roofs surely allow for excellent ventilation while the veranda offer closer relationship and rapport between families. Yes it is of a wooden entity excepting some necessary parts.   

The above picture and the one below is one section of the Malay home which sadly but surely is disappearing. The carpenters or house makers do not have the skill to produce them or they have excuses of their own. Current architectural designs do not include such artistic portions as part of the house and further good quality timber for such pieces are hard to come by too. Those that are found sadly are on vacant homes, left to the severity of nature and yet the owners refused to be parted by such antiquity. I could only take photos though I would rather dismantle the pieces or even offer to buy the old home. Still the question of the right ownership hugs the issue. Maybe another day may come when the owner decides to part with his old home.   

While driving in Trengganu, I stopped to see this house being  rebuilt and the quantity of wood used as good as your guess and mine. Surely there are many intricate pieces and designs that make up this Trengganu home and to get the right timber and quantity now for such a house would be a disaster. Even the roofs are made from pieces of timber interlocking one with the other.  

The following are recent attempts to build a pavilion, two  homes and  a decorative portion of a super market. Hopefully and gainfully these approaches will help towards reestablishing good timber construction skills and a definitive comeback of the Malay traditional homes though with modern characteristics. 

Alas, though books and periodicals may give us clues, secrets and details of traditional Malay houses, nothing supersedes visitation to those houses still standing. But of course it has to take you on long trails, into out of the tracks zone and by accident you may come across one.There are no guides to available Malay traditional homes except for those at museums etc. For instance the quint pictures of a Malay house at the beginning frame of this article came into the scene when I was at a small town called Jeneri in Kedah. The owner and 'tukang kayu' himself is still alive and I marvelled at the hardworks and skill especially he has put in to build his home in 1957. Believe it or not he even carved the year '1957' which remained a lasting reminder of his passionate work which remained on top of one of his doors. Proud especially to be associated with that auspicuous year.

Perhaps we need to set up a 'Kumpulan Pencita Rumah-Rumah Melayu Tradisional' and those who discover one reports of its existence. You andI would have to scout through out Malaysia if I were to find several. Impossible.But if we have a referance point would'nt that be a starting point?


Azizi Ahmad Termizi: said...

What's nice about Malay houses architecture is that they vary from one state to another in their intricacies. Perak houses are as different from Melaka houses as they are from Negeri Sembilan homes.

Has anybody done a study on this? Complete with visual graphics?

KotaStar said...

Sdr Azizi,
thanks for yr update coming much faster than expected.True the houses are as varied as you may count which makes it an exciting survey. Much as there are some publications I believe there is a need to do a full study AND complete with photos and graphics. That was my intention too to bring out in this article.

Sabri said...


Tq for the article. A very good idea for 'Kumpulan Pencinta Rumah-Rumah Melayu Tradisional'. Put me on a waiting list.

After 25 years living in double storey brick terrace house, only recently I started to appreciate
old Malay house- craftmentship, functionality,carving etc.

hajar marberg said...

Salam, amazing to see your malay traditional house (collection).
We would love to visit next time when we are in A.Star.
Have you been to Langkawi recently? We have rebuild one traditional malay house from old house.
Have you build anything yet at your site in Langkawi?.
Pak Nol, you are welcome to have a look at our traditional house.
We would love to join "kumpulan pencinta rumah melayu tradisional". Good luck!! see you...

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