Decolonisation (1957-1966)/ Agong’s List of 8 National Projects

kl map 1957 scan
Map of Kuala Lumpur © 1957, Malaya Survey Department

The Federation of Malay declared independence on 31 August in 1957 after 83 years under the British rule. To energise the Malay claim as an independent nation, the most urgent task was to build iconic monuments around the country, especially in Kuala Lumpur to establish it as a capital city. Right after Malay gained independence, the division between colonial towns and Malay area was still obvious. Hence, as a process of decolonization, there was a need for new national projects to penetrate the colonial space in order to signify the formal departure of the British. To create sense of national identity and community, the Prime Minister Yang di-Pertuan Agong announced a list of eight national projects including various built and proposed projects in 1963. These buildings have symbolic meanings and represent different national values such as faith in democracy and freedom of worship.

National projects suggested in the Agong’s 1963 list

  1. The Parliament Building as a monument to faith in the parliament democracy.
  2. The National Mosque as a monument to freedom of worship.
  3. The University Colleges and institutions of learning as faith in education and enlightenment of the people
  4. The Stadiums Merdeka and Negara as symbols of a healthy mind through a healthy body.
  5. The National Monument as it stood for the spirit of sacrifice in defense of the nation.
  6. The Language and Literature Agency as symbol of the rich heritage and special position of the National Language.
  7. The National Museum as a focal point for the development of national culture.
petaling hill_
Development of Petaling Hill area © 2007, Lai Chee Kien

Zooming in to the Petaling Hill Area in whom Merdeka Stadium, Negara Stadium and Merdeka Park situated, it can be noticed that location of the projects was also crucial to the process of decolonisation. Before the construction of the stadiums, the area can be described as an educational zone with schools including Victoria Institution, Chinese Free School and Methodist Boys’ School. Victoria Institution in particular was a renowned high school established by the British. It is believed that the choice of this site for building these important monuments was a gesture of penetrating the colonial area. The three national projects have transformed the Petaling Hill Area into a new civic zone.

 

Reference

Chee Kien, Lai. Building Merdeka: Independence Architecture in Kuala Lumpur, 1957-1966. Kuala Lumpur: Petronas, 2007.

King, Ross. Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya: Negotiating Urban Space in Malaysia. Singapore: NUS Press, 2008.

 

4 Comments on “Decolonisation (1957-1966)/ Agong’s List of 8 National Projects

  1. Decolonisation was carried out by placing the new civic projects. Other than the strategic locations of these projects, were there other political or social agendas behind the architectural designs?

  2. Malaysia is reaching its 58th year of independence in this year (2015). With the list of national projects that were suggested in 1963, what have been the changes throughout these 52 years on the buildings? What are the roles that they are playing at current times and the differences of programs throughout this time period? Are they still relevant as national symbols as stated in 1963 and in 2015?

  3. Malaysia is reaching its 58th year of independence in this year (2015). With the list of national projects that were suggested in 1963, what have been the changes throughout these 52 years on the buildings? What are the roles that they are playing at current times and the differences of programs throughout this time period? Is the national symbol idealogy still relevant in 2015?

  4. Architecture is not only about the physical volume and space or simply a shelter but even more powerful spiritually. In this case, architecture as monument was the one of the approaches of the independent government to create their own identity of the places. It is true that people will think of the landmarks and monuments of the city at first, which are mostly architectures. Representing the city, architecture as monument has a strong representational power thus identity. Further elaboration can be developed to show how does it work in Kuala Lumpur. How the identity of the city being built up through the projects? How the citizens look at these projects? Construction of identity is not a single event but a long term process. It would be nice to see how the projects started this amazing process.

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