Pudu Jail Conservation Statement
As part of her MSc thesis, architect Mariana Isa wrote a conservation statement on Pudu Jail. It outlines the historical and architectural significance of the buidling, reaffirming it’s importance in development of Kuala Lumpur. The paper also touches on issues of legislation and real estate value. If you’re looking for more in-depth information on the prison, it’s an invaluable document.
We’ve extracted a few relevant passages and captured some pages below. Download the full Conservation Statement here.
On the historical significance of Pudu Jail:
Pudu Jail is one of the few remaining symbols of old Kuala Lumpur’s Innovation Period (1880-1930) when the city’s built environment transformation took place and lawlessness was rampant. The prison represented order amidst all these.
It is important to realize that within 100 years of serving as a prison, Pudu Jail’s inmates were not solely convicts but also servicemen and nationalists who fought against the Japanese and British for Malaya’s liberation. The prison’s key significance is the role it played towards the emergence of Malaysia’s nationhood.
On the architecture of Pudu Jail:
A relic of the Victorian period, Pudu Jail’s architecture is strongly influenced by British colonial prison structure and design which emphasizes security and manual operation. The butterfly form of the Cell Block is the key architectural asset, hidden from the view of polite society for a century. The building’s bare design and minimal details strengthens its architectural impact as a prison.
Charles Edwin Spooner, then state engineer and director of Public Works Department, produced a prison design that was suitable to the local climate and culture, which was apparent in the use of courtyards, jack-roofs, large overhangs and the Moorish front gate.
On Malaysia’s existing legislation regarding historical buildings:
Malaysia’s present legislation on historic buildings is not sufficient and suitable to protect Pudu Jail from demolition. Presently, there are 4 acts and enactments showing aspects of building conservation, namely Antiquities Act (1976), Johore Enactment (1988), Malacca Enactment 1988 and Rent Control Act (1966, revised 1988).
The Antiquities Act 1976 states that a historic building or monument aged at least 100 years old can be listed or gazetted through the Museum Department. At the age of 107, there have been no attempts to list Pudu Jail as a protected building. The City Council is not pro of its survival, making the future of Pudu Jail rather bleak unless this matter is addressed right away.
On the real estate value of Pudu Jail:
The real estate value of Pudu Jail is estimated to be RM 300 million. This amount pressures the stakeholders for commercial development to gain profit. UDA Holdings Berhad’s proposal to develop the RM2 billion Bukit Bintang City Centre is due in 2006 and will be completed within 5 years. Hopefully, Pudu Jail’s listing for protection takes place before demolition begins.
Mariana Isa completed her MSc. Conservation of Historic Buildings in 2006 and was a US/ICOMOS Intern in 2007. She now works at a local architecture firm and is a saturday museum guide at the National Museum.
This article was first posted on the original Arteri site on 17 November 2009.