Singapore 2018

Regular readers of my blog may remember that during my visit to Taiping in April 2017, I met a gentleman from Singapore, Dr Lee. We are both interested in (Taiping) heritage and kept contact by email. He suggested that we should visit Singapore, not only for its cultural heritage, but also for its nature, he could show us some interesting places.

So we booked a hotel in Singapore’s Chinatown for three nights and took the Aeroline bus to travel. Quite convenient

On my to-do list were a few of the recent modern buildings and one of them we passed already in the bus…:-). The Interlace (2013) , a 1000-unit apartment complex, which looks like numerous bricks irregularly stacked upon each other

From the bus terminal we took the MRT to Chinatown. The Keong Saik hotel was a good choice, the room was not big, but comfortable, and we had a view of another building on my architecture list, the Tanjong Pagar Centre (2016), the tallest skyscraper in Singapore. Although designed by world famous  Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, it did not look very special from our balcony. The Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar temple nextdoor was more interesting, but we had no time to visit it.

After a short rest, we met Dr Lee and walked with him through Chinatown.

Nicely restored houses and shoplots, many consisting of three storeys, unusual in Malaysia. Also here mural art. There are several works by Zacharevic, but we had no time to look for them. Next time…:-)

During our walk passed another modern building on my to-do list, the Pinnacles@Duxton (2009), a residential complex of 50 storeys high, dominating the three storeys shoplots of Chinatown. Initiative for this development came from Prime MInister Lee Kuan Yew, who was concerned about the exodus of residents from Singapore’s center.

We walked back via Keong Saik Road, beautifully restored houses. In the 1960’s this was the red-light district of Singapore! Dr Lee told us that in those days you could not pass the street without being addressed by the ladies of the night..:-)

For our dinner we went to the foodcourt in the Chinatown Complex , where we met a few of Dr Lee’s friends. Nice food, nice company.

The next morning Dr Lee picked us up from our hotel and brought us to the “best nasi lemak shop in town” for breakfast. He was formally dressed this time because he had to work in the hospital that day.

But first he dropped us at the Botanical Gardens, where we spent the next few hours. The gardens are 158 year old and, since 2015,  an Unesco World Heritage Site.

We started with the Rainforest, a small part of the gardens, actually older than the gardens themselves! Of course Malaysia has more rainforest, but Singapore is one of the few cities with a rainforest within its borders.

We walked around, beautiful views everywhere

On many places you can find sculptures, Here are two of them, Change Kuda (2011) by Chong Fah Cheong and Girl on a Bicycle (1987) by Sydney Harpley.

A few more pictures. To the right the Bandstand (1930), no longer used for musical performances, but still an iconic landmark of the gardens.

The bandstand was a good spot to take some rest

After our rest we had again enough energy to continue…:-)

Nice flowers.

Interesting leaves.

The gardens are free and open all day but for the famous National Orchid Garden you have to pay an entrance fee. After some hesitation we bought tickets and entered. Very worthwhile. Never in my life seen so many orchid species!

Here is a collage of orchids we have seen.

First we wanted to take a “wefi”, then a friendly visitor offered to take the picture. Even better..:-)

It would have been no problem to spend the whole day in these gardens, but we had decided to spend the afternoon in another beautiful garden, the Gardens by the Bay, created in 2006 on reclaimed land. The public transport in Singapore is well-organised, we took the MRT to the Bayfront station and walked via an underground corridor to the gardens.

This passage has a few remarkable works of art. Left in the upper picture is a painting by Sol Lewitt, Wall Drawing#915, Arcs, Circle and Irregular bands (1999). Further on both walls are covered with mirrors, which gives multiple reflections. Could not find the name of the artist

Perfect location to take a wefi..:-)  Can you find out who of us has taken this picture?

When you exit from the underground passage and look backwards, you see the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel towering above you. One of the most impressive buildings I have seen in my life. I have stayed once there, expensive but it was worth the money..:-).

Entering the gardens you pass three smaller gardens, Malay, Chinese and Indian, Singapore is proud to be a multi-racial country. Far away the surrealistic Supertree Grove, but first we had a simple lunch at a snack bar.

Also in these gardens you can spend easily a full day. We had only limited time and decided to visit one of the two domes in the Gardens, the Cloud Forest dome. Expensive but 100% worth it.

Inside the dome a “misty mountain” has been created, with a waterfall, and pathways leading up and round the structure. Amazing and fascinating, just look at the pictures.

Of course flowers, mosses, ferns everywhere. These are fuchsia flowers, a favourite of mine.

Look carefully, two pictures show real flowers, the other two are fake!

In between the Lego “artworks”, there are real pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants.

A lot of maintenance is needed, but the result makes it worthwhile.

Interesting artworks, made of tree roots.

There is a Secret Garden too

When we bought tickets for the Cloud Forest, we thought about combining them with tickets for the “canopy walk” at the Supertree Grove, but the friendly lady at the ticket counter advised us to wait, because there might be rain in the afternoon and then the walk is closed. Good advice, there was a downpour while we were inside the dome, when we came out we noticed that the canopy walk around the trees was empty.

We went back to our hotel and had some rest. Later Dr Lee picked us up and with two of his friends we went to the Kent Ridge Park, to have a view of the harbour. Nice surprise, his friends had brought pulut & mango for us. Delicious

Next we went to Labrador Park, where we walked a part of the boardwalk. Nice view of another building on my list: Reflections at Keppel Bay (2011), a luxury residential complex designed by Libeskind, another famous architect. Singapore knows how to choose…:-)

Here is the boardwalk

TIme for dinner. We went to the Alexandra Village Food Centre, where we had a tasty soup and claypot chicken rice from the well known Tai Liok restaurant . It really is an advantage to go out with Singaporeans, they know where to find the good food!

The next day, after breakfast in our hotel, we took a bus to the Southern Ridges for a long hike, from the Alexandra Arch bridge to the Henderson Wave. Surprising that Singapore has so many hiking and walking opportunities. On the map you can see also the location of the Labrador Park.

The bus passed two buildings I had seen before already, the Reflections and the Interlace

It was an interesting walkway. We met many student groups on a Learning Journey, as it is called.

We continued until the Henderson Wave, a pedestrian bridge with a unusual artistic design

From this bridge we had a nice view of the Singapore skyline. Dark clouds again, it was quite rainy during our visit

The Henderson Wave, as seen from below.

After this walk we took a bus to the city center, as we had planned to visit the National Gallery in the afternoon. There were still remnants of the Christmas celebration. Again we had a very simple lunch

We walked around and had a look at Singapore’s landmark, the Merlion.

View of the Theatres on the Bay, colloquially known as the big durians. Memories came back of a “concert” by MozART Madness, attended many years ago…:-)

Boat Quay, dwarfed by the skyscrapers

We walked around in what is called the Civic District. Here many of the heritage buildings are located. Left another “wefi”, right the St Andrews Cathedral (1861)

The Victoria Hall began as Town Hall in 1862, the Asian Civilisations Museum is housed in what originally were the Government Offices (1864). The Old Parliament House, possibly the oldest surviving building of Singapore was built in 1827 as a mansion for a Scottish merchant. The National Gallery occupies two more recent buildings, the Former Supreme Court and the City Hall, both built in the first half of the 20th century

We decided to keep the National Gallery for the next day, and walked a bit more along the padang in the direction of two conspicuous buildings. The left tower is part of the Raffles CIty (1986) designed by architect I.M. Pei who has been responsible for many of Singapore’s skyscrapers. The right building was new for me, and it was only after I came  back home that I found out that it is  the South Beach development.

Looking back from the padang, the skyline of Singapore, the National Gallery, the Victoria hall with in front of it the Singapore Cricket Club.

It was in this club , the oldest one of Singapore (1852), that Dr Lee invited us for our farewell dinner. The club has a dress code, fortunately we had brought long pants, shirts, shoes. We started with an aperitif and what could be a better choice than a Singapore Gin Sling?

After our dinner we walked to the Singapore river for a few night view pictures. The majestic look of the Fullerton hotel suggest that is one of the prestigious old hotels of Singapore like the Raffles. Not true, the building is from 1928 and for many years it has been the Post Office of Singapore. It was only in 2001 that it became a five-star hotel!

After the posh dinner in the club, we enjoyed at a stall coconut ice cream as a dessert…:-)

The next morning we visited the National Gallery. There was so much to see and admire that I decided to write a separate post about this impressive museum: National Gallery, Singapore

 

In the afternoon we took the bus back and arrived home around 11 pm, tired but very satisfied. There is much more to do in Singapore and we are looking forward to come back soon.

 

National Gallery, Singapore

On November 2015 a new museum was opened in Singapore, the National Gallery, with a collection of over 8000 artworks. It is housed in two national monuments, the Old Supreme Court Building and the City Hall. They are adjacent, facing the padang, City Hall was built from 1926 to 1929, the Supreme Court a decade later, both in neoclassical colonial style.

In 2005 it was decided to convert the two buildings into a new museum. An architectural design competition was launched and Studio Milou Singapore came out as the winner. In their design, the two buildings are connected by a curtain like canopy roof and two skybridges. The right picture shows an evening view from the Singapore Cricket Club

Here is a scale model of the National Gallery

On the last day of our recent trip to Singapore, before taking the bus back to KL, we decided to visit this museum. Here is a view from one of the skybridges. Left the City Hall, right the Former Supreme Court. Ticketing counter and entrance to the galleries are in the basement.

I like the design, the contrast between the old heritage buildings and the modern link. In the left picture you see the tree-like structure supporting the curtain roof, in the right picture the two skybridges. There were many (very disciplined!) groups of students.

We were lucky that there was a special exhibition going on, Century of Light, consisting of two parts, Colours of Impressionism, with masterpieces from the Paris Orsay Museum, and Between Worlds, dedicated to two 19th century Asian painters who were strongly influenced by European Art.

First we visited the Colours of Impressionism. The Musée d’Orsay, specialising in 19th century art, is one of my favourites, it was an interesting experience to view the artworks here in Singapore.

I don’t know why, but I am always happy when I see a painting of Caillebotte. On my own website I have a page, dedicated to him

Gustave Caillebotte, Vue de toits (Effet de neige) (1879)

Several paintings by Monet were exhibited. In 1886 he visited the Netherlands and of course he had to paint the tulip fields…:-)

Claude Monet, Champs de tulipes en Hollande (1886)

More paintings of Monet, Signac, Renoir, Sisley and others

The gallery design was quite attractive, nice colours, good lighting

We continued with the second exhibition. Raden Saleh was born in 1811 on  Java in the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia). He traveled in 1829 to the Netherlands, where he became a well-known painter. He returned in 1852 to the Dutch East Indies and died in 1880.

I had never before heard about him!  What a pleasant surprise. Here I am admiring his painting Boschbrand (Forest Fire), painted in 1849. A vivid depiction of wild animals trying to escape a forest fire.

Searching information about him,  I found that this painting until a few years ago belonged to the Dutch royal family. It was presented in 1850 to King William III, and in 2014 sold in “deplorable” condition by 14 grandchildren of former queen Juliana to the Singapore National Gallery! Read the curious story here: Experts critical after Royal Family makes millions from private art sales

He was 18 when he arrived in the Netherlands where he got most of his training. It is interesting to see how his style develops

The second painter in the Between Worlds exhibition is Juan Luna, born 1857 in the Philippines, a Spanish colony in those days. He died young, in 1899. He traveled to Spain when he was young and stayed many years in Europe.

I found this painting impressive and intriguing. It is called “Les Ignores” (“The Unknown Ones”) and he painted it in 1889-1890. It depicts a funeral of humble people. A real masterpiece.

Also here a variety of styles, compare the classical romantic “Death of Cleopatra” with the impressionist “Picnic in Normandy”, both painted around 1880!

Then it was time for lunch. We had a look at the top floor, where there is a roof “garden” and a restaurant, but we only wanted a simple sandwich, so we went down to the basement

From the top floor there is a nice view of the padang and the Singapore skyline.

One of the interior courtyards and the food we had in the cafetaria

After our lunch we walked over to the Former Supreme Court. Here the large UOB Southeast Asia collection is housed in fifteen galleries. We could only get an impression in the limited time we had.

The interior of the building itself is very impressive.

From Wikipedia:  “the UOB Southeast Asia Gallery will present the history of Southeast Asian art through artistic impulses shared across the region. Starting in the 19th century, the history of Southeast Asian art is characterised by negotiations between the region’s traditions and modernity. ”

Here a collection of pictures, to show the variety of art styles and nationalities. Hidalgo was Filipino and a contemporary of Juan Luna, Mori Kinsen was Japanese (1888-1959), Inguimberty was French but worked in Vietnam (1896-1971), Chua Mia Tee is Singaporean (1931 – ), Jose Tence Ruiz is Filipino. Just to name a few.

Many of the artworks have social/political connotations. An interesting collection

When I will visit Singapore again, I will plan at least a full day for this museum.

More museums in Den Haag

In my last blog post I visited the MORE museum in Gorssel , where MORE stands for MOdern REalism. In this post I visit more museums in Den Haag, where more stands for two…:-). I went there with my soulmate Inez, who suggested to visit the Gemeentemuseum and the Mauritshuis

The Gemeentemuseum is a masterpiece of the Dutch architect  Berlage. Built in Art-Deco style, 1931-1935. It is a spectacular building, both from the outside and the inside

We visited the exhibition Tumult in the City, one day before it closed!

In the 1880’s a group of young artists  no longer painted the countryside, like the Hague School, but became interested in city life. George Hendrik Breitner, Isaac Israels, Willem Witsen and others explored the city, especially Amsterdam, so they are sometimes called the Amsterdam impressionists

Here are a few examples of their style. They painted the everyday life of the city, street action, fashion ladies, entertainment, labourers, construction sites.

And more paintings

We had our lunch in the museum restaurant

There is a lot more to see in the Gemeentemuseum, for example the world-famous collection of Mondriaan paintings, but we left that for another visit and went to the Mauritshuis. This magnificent building was built as a home between 1636 and 1641 by Jacobus van Campen (his masterpiece was the Townhall of Amsterdam)

It now houses the Royal Cabinet of Paintings which consists of 841 objects, mostly Dutch Golden Age paintings

A visit to this museum is really a joy of recognition. Rembrandt, Vermeer, Avercamp, the famous bull of Paulus Potter…:-)

Here are more paintings

In 2007 the museum announced that it needed to expand. The architect Hans van Heeswijk designed the expansion, the project started in 2010 and the museum was reopened in 2014. This is the same architect who designed the MORE museum in Gorssel!

Here a few pictures of the expansion. Nice combination of new and old

It was an interesting museum excursion

MORE Museum in Gorssel

Five years ago, in 2012, business tycoon and art collector Hans Melchers bought more than 1200  artworks from the bankrupt DSB bank. He owned already a large number of paintings by Carel Willink and wanted to create a museum for his collection. He found a suitable location in Gorssel, a village south of Deventer in the province of Gelderland. The MORE museum was opened in 2015 and is now the largest museum  for Dutch Modern Realism.

When I am back in the Netherlands, I always try to meet Nellie, my friend of more than 55 (!) years. We both like art and this time we decided to visit this new museum. She traveled from Friesland where she is living, I took the train from Amsterdam, we met in Deventer, took the bus to Gorssel, and started with coffee in a nice cafe opposite the museum

The museum is housed in the former town hall of Gorssel and a new extension. A very successful combination of old and new.

A few months ago Melchers opened a second museum in nearby Ruurlo, specially dedicated to Carel Willink, the most famous Dutch “magic realist” painter. We decided to keep this museum for a next visit, fortunately quite a few of Willink’s masterpieces were still on view in this museum.

Carel Willink (1900-1983)

Zeppelin (1933)

Terrace with Pergola (1951)

City Square (1958)

Towards the Future (1965) and Landing on Mars (1969)

Willink’s Imaginary Realism is easily recognisable, it was a surprise for me to see that he has been experimenting with other styles when he was young. This is also Willink, when he was 24 year old!

The Silver Wedding (1924)

The ground floor of the museum houses (part of)  the  permanent collection. Well-designed exhibition halls

Here are  a few examples of Dutch “modern realist” artists. Still-lifes are a popular genre. Click on the links for Wikipedia info.

Raoul Hynckes (1893-1973)

Jan van Tongeren (1897-1991)

Wim Schuhmacher (1894-1986)

Portraits are also common

Philip Akkerman (1957- )   He painted thousands of self-portraits!

Charley Toorop  (1891-1955) Easily recognisable style…:-)

Pyke Koch  (1901-1991) Another favourite of mine..:-)

Resting Somnambulist (1930)

The Signal  (1975)


Herman Gordijn (1932 – 2017)

And of course various other subjects

Co Westerik (1924 -)

Jan Mankes  (1889-1920)

One hall is dedicated to photography. Not my main interest

But I am a fan of Erwin Olaf…:-)

Erwin Olaf (1959 – )

We had lunch in the museum cafe and continued with the first floor of the museum.

 

The first floor is for temporary exhibitions. We were lucky, a retrospective of the versatile artist Herman Berserik had just opened.

Herman Berserik (1921 – 2002)

When we left, the weather had become clouded, I could not really take pictures from the outside. I have to come back, it is really a very interesting museum, worth a second visit.

Summer in October!

When I decided to come back to  the Netherlands in October, I knew the weather could be unpredictable, hesitating between autumn and winter. In old times October was called the aarselmaand    (hesitation month)

So it was an unexpected, but very pleasant surprise that my first weekend was warm and sunny, even breaking records!

Here is a report about three summer days in October. Click on a picture to enlarge it

Saturday 14 October

With my brother Ruud I visited the Spaardammerbuurt, famous for its Amsterdamse School architecture. First we had coffee and cake in the Buurtboerderij Ons Genoegen. This “farm within the city” dates back to 1880, was almost demolished around 2001, but just in time saved by a group of concerned citizens. More about this interesting story can be read here (in Dutch). It is amazing that such a rural enclave exists, sandwiched between two railway lines.

We walked from the Buurtboerderij to Het Schip following this route. Not the shortest one, but worthwhile, you don’t realise that you are surrounded by development

When we arrived in the Spaarndammerbuurt, we were a bit disappointed to see that Het Schip, the famous creation of architect de Klerk, was being renovated, so I took only a few pictures. You can find more  in an  earlier blog Amsterdam Architecture

During my last visit the Schip museum was closed, fortunately it was was open now.  It is housed in a former school building and worth visiting.

We ended our trip at the Central Station. Beautiful weather and the forecast for the next day was  even better…:-)

Sunday 15 October

The second day I went with my friend Yolanda to the Utrecht Hill Ridge, a  forested ridge of low sandhills, created 150.000 years ago as a moraine during one of the glacial periods. We followed a marked hiking trail of 12 km, indicated on the Google Earth map below.

It was a pleasant, easy walk.

Our hike took us to the Beerschoten and Houdringe estates and to the Pan forest. Stately lanes, beech and oak forest

Many  trees had beautiful autumn colours.

Mushrooms all over the place.

Hard to imagine that in winter this nice lake will become a skating rink.

The former coach house of the Beerschoten Estate now houses  an information center

It was a Sunday and with the sunny weather there were many visitors. There is also a sculpture garden

Monday 16 October

The third day I walked on my own in the region of Alphen, my birthplace. A polder walk of about 10 km. Green in the map below. Also indicated (in red) is one of the numerous Dutch polders . A polder is is a low-lying tract of land enclosed by dikes. This polder was created around 1785. Because they are low-lying, the rainwater must be pumped out by windmills into a river, in this case the river RIjn.

I took a bus to Aarlanderveen, where I started my walk. Nowadays Aarlanderveen has no shops and only one cafe. The cafe was officially closed, but the friendly owner was willing to serve coffee  with apple pie. A good start of the day.

The landscape can not be more Dutch…:-) Meadows, cattle, windmills.

You walk on narrow trails through the meadows, sometimes crossing fences

The polder marked in red needs 4 windmills, because in its deepest point it lies about 5 meter below sea level and one windmill can “lift” the water only about 1.5 meter. So they have to work together, like in the sketch below. The Dutch word for it is a Molen-viergang and it is the only viergang in the world that is still operating.

Mill no 4 uses an Archimedes’ screw, the other three have scoop wheels.

Here is windmill no 4, the Putmolen, built in 1801. later than the other three, because one more mill was needed to drain the lowest part of the polder. That explains the odd numbering..:-)

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Here is Mill no 1, when you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see no 2 and 3 in the background. This windmill discharges the water in the Rijn river.

Some details of this windmill. The right picture shows part of the scoop wheel.

Windmill 2 and 3

On the GE map you see that there is an (older) polder between the “red one”and the Rijn river. The easiest way to remove  the water from the new polder would be to discharge it in this old polder, which had its own windmills.But understandably the owners of the old polder refused this, so for  the new polder a separate drainage channel had to be created to the Rijn. Such a drainage channel is called a “wetering” in Dutch.

The problem is that the wetering of the new polder has to cross the wetering of the old polder. The left picture shows the location where this happens. The yellow line marks the wetering of the old polder, the red line is the wetering of the “red” polder. It passes UNDER the old wetering via a siphon (a duiker in Dutch). The right image shows how it works. This siphon was built in 1786.  Amazing.  I have marked the location of this siphon on the GE map

Not many birds in this time of the year. I noticed a heron and a cormorant. And of course many swans..:-)

A few more pictures.

It was a very interesting hike. A very informative website about the Molen-viergang (in Dutch can be found here.

De Nollen

It has become a tradition that we organise a reunion with my siblings and their partners during my visits to the Netherlands. This time my sister was the host and she had planned a visit to a museum in Den Helder, about 20 km north of where she lives.

A museum?  In Den Helder? Some of us were slightly skeptical, but it turned out to be a fascinating visit of De Nollen , the life work of a Dutch artist, Ruud van de Wint (1942-2006).

A nol is the Dutch word for a sand hill, a dune. In this Google Earth image you can still see these sand dunes. Once this was an island! From 1980 until his untimely death, van de Wint has been transforming this wasteland into a Land Art park.

Here is a view of the Nollen. Van de Wint not only put his artworks here, he also did a lot of landscaping.

A monumental gate forms the entrance of the park, a good location for a family picture..:-)

After paying an entrance fee, you can walk around in the park on your own, but to enter the structures, you need a guide. We had an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, a friend of my sister.

She took us on a 2-hour walk through the park. It was stormy autumn weather with an occasional shower, but we were lucky, during a rainy spell we were inside a structure…:-)

Visible from far away are three needle-like structures.

Notice the small “tunnel” in the foreground.

Created by the artist, so you could have a view of the needles, looking through this peeping hole.

 

 

Stormy weather, nice cloudscapes…:-)

The needles look solid, but on closer inspection it turns out that they have been made of wound copper wire!

Many of the artworks are made of corten steel

This structure which looks like an orange peel, was very suitable for a group picture, taken by our guide.

These green structures were slowly moving in the wind, but very sturdy.

The Nollen terrain contains many bunkers, some of them dating back to Napoleonic times, others to WWII. Some of them have been transformed in artworks, like this dome structure with an oculus at the top of the dome.

The interior of the dome has been painted and is lit by the light falling through the oculus. Fascinating

Here is another spectacular structure. On the Google Earth image a whitish lemniscate-like shape can be seen. This artwork is not based on a bunker but has been built by the artist. In the left picture we are walking to this construction.  A narrow passage leads to  the two entrances.We visited one of the halves

Here I am standing in one half of the lemniscate. No windows, the light enters  through a transparent roof. Beautiful, it made me think of Mark Rothko

Another structure. Two thatched domes, which can be entered through tunnels and spiral staircases

Here is the last structure we entered, constructed in corten steel and accessible through tunnels and again a spiral staircase.

 

The interior looks like a cathedral, with one single (tiny) painting behind a monumental grille.

The painting looks not accessible, but…

It can be opened 🙂

 

The grille was of course another good location for a family picture “in prison”

The most impressive work of art was this structure in corten steel.

It can actually rotate on a pivot! Unbelievable..:-)

You need quite a few people to bring it in motion. Fascinating.

On our way back to the entrance we passed another artwork of the artist

Back in the entrance hall we had a look at scale versions of his artworks. Van de Wint has been a prolific artist. An exhibition hall for his paintings is under construction. And we had coffee and cake, another family picture…:-)

It was a very rewarding excursion, advisable to anyone who is interested in art!

Here is an article about the Nollen project in English: Project De Nollen  And an article in Dutch (pdf file): De Nollen: grote kunst in een klein kustlandschap

Grit & Grace

Grit & Grace is the title of a photography exhibition, running at the moment in the former OCBC building near Central Market in Kuala Lumpur. The photographer is  S.C. Shekar and the subtitle of the exhibition is “The Grandeur of Monochrome Malaysia”

Under the same title he has published a 330-page photobook (5 kg, RM 800!) with black and white photos, covering all aspects of Malaysia. The text accompanying the photos has been written by our friend Suet Fun and that was one more reason to visit the exhibition.

We decided to use public transport ..:-) The new MRT line connects the Curve shopping center with Central Market (near the OCBC building) and feeder bus 809 took us from near our condo to the MRT station. In less than 45 minutes we arrived at Central Market!

From the MRT station it is a short walk to the OCBC building. Beside Central Market a kind of up-market copy of Petaling Street has been created, full of tourists even on this Sunday morning. A big contrast with the austere beauty of the OCBC  building  (Art Deco, 1937, designed by Coltman) at the end of this gaudy street.

The exhibition is open daily from 10 am until 8 pm (until 16 October) and admission is free.

A selection of 50 photographs is shown in the exhibition. They are impressive and show many aspects of Malaysia, landscapes, people, culture.

It was pleasantly quiet on this Sunday morning.

Many of the nature photographs show aerial views. We were wondering if they were taken by a drone, but at the reception they told us that a helicopter was used.

This is a view from Georgetown

Here is a drone picture of the same region, recently taken by Aric. To remain in style, I have made it black and white..:-)

It is a very attractive exhibition, showing the power of monochrome photography in the hands of a gifted photographer. If you have a chance, visit the exhibition.

The exhibition will also go on a roadshow to different regions of the country in the first half of 2018.

On our way back to the MRT station, I could not resist the temptation to take a few  pictures  :-).  See my report KL Heritage for more.

 

 

 

 

Taiping September 2017

At the end of our Trip up North, Aric dropped me in Taiping, where I stayed two nights in my favourite hotel Furama. My last visit was in May (read the report here) and I was missing my “second hometown” :-).

After a shower and some rest, I had dinner with Tung Lay Chun and her family. Later that evening I met Wan Amril for a drink. Both are members of the Taiping Heritage Society and knowledgeable about Taiping heritage .

Four years ago I have written a blog post Shame on Taiping! about the pitiful condition of several historical buildings in a town that proudly presents itself as  Bandar Warisan (Heritage Town). In the meantime these buildings have deteriorated further, but recently there has been some activity and Lay Chun and Amril updated me about the present situation

The next morning I went out for breakfast. A bit early, because I wanted to try the “most famous” Chee Cheong Fun in town..:-). During my last visit I had also gone to stall 37 in the Taiping hawker center near to the Bomba, but the CCF was sold out early in the morning. This time I was lucky and just in time.

Delicious food. I chatted a bit with the friendly owner of the stall, his family had been operating this stall for many decades already. Will sure come back.

After my breakfast I walked to the Lake Gardens.  In January 2017 I published a blog report Taiping Old and New in which I compared old photographs and postcards with recent pictures taken from the same location.  One of those buildings was the Standard Chartered Bank, now the Public Library. The Lake Gardens are beautiful any time of the day. I passed the Peace monument, the THS has tried to beautify this monument by planting flowering plants around it, but that was not a success. Now it looks better, with new tilings around the  brick posts, each carrying a peace message in various languages

My first target was the ruined Casuarina Hotel on the hill where once the Residence stood. According to Amril there were (serious) plans to build a 4-star boutique hotel here. The hotel has no heritage value, it was built after Merdeka. No sign of any recent activity here yet.

I was not in a hurry, so I checked the number of pillars and their location, the only remains of the former Residency. In total there are 32 pillars, see the GE image below.  This imagery was obtained in 2007, when the Casuarina hotel was still operating!

Walking back I passed the (former) First Galleria. After a few successful years it was taken over by MPT because of mismanagement. Now it is called the Taiping Municipal Gallery. It was closed. Note the sloppy way they have kept the old sign, just removing “will” (and forgetting to add an “s” to function). My Taiping friends tell me there is nothing of interest inside. Pity.

Behind this Gallery is the soon to be opened Telegraph Museum. The first telegraph line in Malaysia line was built between Taiping and Kuala Kangsar, so it makes sense to have a museum about the history of the telegraph here. Hopefully it will be managed better.

I continued my walk to the biggest eyesores of Taiping, the Old Rest House and the former PWD building. During my last visit you could enter the PWD building through all doors, no fencing at all. Squatters were living there and trees were growing in the courtyard. Recently they have cleared the interior, removed the trees and bushes. They had to destroy one of the entrance doors, so a bulldozer could enter. After the cleanup the destroyed door was rebuilt, in itself a good sign.

Also the doors have been closed in a primitive way, and in Malaysia that means you can still enter..:-). The courtyard is clean now, which makes the ruined state of the building only more obvious. The same holds for the Rest House, it is fenced off, but you can still enter. Also here the undergrowth  around the building has been cleared. According to Amril this building is designed to become a boutique 3-star hotel.

My breakfast had been quite filling, so I decided for a light lunch with cendol and pasembor at Ansari, one of the two famous cendol stalls in Taiping.

Before I ordered my food, I got into a conversation with two gentlemen, who had just finished their meal. We came to talk about Taiping heritage and one of them was the owner of two beautiful heritage houses, in Barrack Road  around the corner. We had a look at these houses and will keep in touch with each other, because of our shared interest!

I had been walking quite a lot, so I took a long rest in the afternoon. I decided to have popiah for my dinner, so I walked again to the Taiping hawker center. No popiah there, but interesting preparations for the last day of the Hungry Ghost month. During the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, the ghosts of the ancestors are permitted to return to the world of the living. At the end of this month they have to go back and Taai Si Wong (his effigy is shown in the right picture), takes care that they do…:-)

When I reached the stall of the Famous Omar Popiah near the Central Market, they were just closing. So no popiah, I went to a nearby stall and ordered satay and ketupat, also nice…:-).

After my dinner walking back, I came across a Caucasian couple and we started chatting. Not very often I meet Mat Salleh’s  in Taiping…:-). They are from New Zealand, traveling in SEA, and were  pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere of Taiping. Of course I agreed and we decided to have a drink together. We walked back to the Taiping hawker center, where we had three big Heineken for RM 21 only. Just behind Taai Si Wong…:-)

A nice day. I don’t know why, but it is easy in Taiping to meet interesting, friendly people.
The next morning I met Yeap, the president of the THS. A few months ago the Malay Mail Online published an interview with him about the deplorable state of many heritage buildings in Taiping.

He was willing to show me some of these buildings. In the GE map I have indicated with letters the locations we have visited (click to enlarge)

In the center of the town, one block behind the Old Rest House (A in the map), a dilapidated facade, overgrown by trees and greenery. Decaying for how many years already?

Two examples of shoplots. This one (B) is located on Jalan Lim Tee Hooi. MPT has put a warning sign, AWAS (Be careful)

Here is the second one (C) opposite Central Market. Again a useful warning sign by MPT…:-)

Next we visited the area around Swettenham Road (now Jalan Istana Larut). In colonial times many sumptuous bungalows could be found here, and also more simple government and army quarters. Here is what is left of an impressive bungalow (D on the map). Note the pillar structure. No fence, you can just enter. I explored the ground floor, the upper floor is no longer accessible, look at what is left of the stairs.  No wonder that useful parts of the building will disappear. It would be interesting to find out more about the history of this building.

Here are a few more pictures of deserted government quarters (E, F, H). Not fenced off, you can just enter and explore.  G is special, a gate with two posts is all that remains of what once must have been a big bungalow on a huge plot of land.

Thanks to Yeap for an interesting excursion. Next time I will explore more.

KL Heritage

Kuala Lumpur, now a bustling metropolis, had a very modest start around the middle of the 19th century. It began as a small hamlet at the confluence of the Gombak and Klang rivers. In nearby Ampang rich tin mines were opened and Kuala Lumpur was the place from where the tin could be transported by boat to Klang.

Here is how Kuala Lumpur looked in 1884. The open field at the left (the padang) is what today is Dataran Merdeka !

The wooden houses with atap roofs were prone to fire, and several times the whole village was razed. Kuala Lumpur also got heavily involved in the Selangor Civil War (1867-1874).  After this war Selangor became a British protectorate and in 1880 Kuala Lumpur replaced Klang as the capital of Selangor.

In 1884 Frank Swettenham, at that time the British Resident of Selangor, decided that future buildings should be constructed of brick and tile, to reduce the risk of fire. Yap Ah Loy,  Capitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur, started a brick industry in what now is called Brickfields. He can be considered the founder of modern Kuala Lumpur.

When in 1895 the British government decided to establish the Federated Malay States (FMS), a federation of Selangor, Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Pahang, Kuala Lumpur became the capital in 1896.

Here is a map of Kuala Lumpur, as it was in 1895. Worthwhile to study it in detail!

Regular visitors of my blog know my interest in history and heritage (Taiping, Klang) and may have been wondering why I never posted about Kuala Lumpur. Well, here is the result of two heritage walks in Kuala Lumpur.

We will start at the padang (Dataran Merdeka) where many of the heritage buildings are located. Here is a fascinating aerial view of colonial KL, taken circa 1930. What a beautiful town KL was in those days, without all the modern high-rise buildings! I have numbered the heritage buildings.

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Selangor Club (1)

The Selangor Club was founded in 1884 as a meeting point for educated and high-ranking members of British colonial society. It started as a small wooden building with an atap roof, near the north eastern corner of the padang. In 1890 it was replaced by a two-storey structure,  designed by A.C.A. Norman in Mock Tudor style . Later, in 1910, it was enlarged by Arthur Benison Hubback

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Government Printing Office (2)

Built in 1899, designed by Norman in Moorish Revival (Neo-Mughal) style. In the 1895 city map an earlier building was still located west of the padang, where nowadays the Police HQ can be found. The building has been used for various purposes, at present the KL City Gallery has its premises there. There is a gallery about the history of Kuala Lumpur, a souvenir shop, a cafe and on the first floor a scale model of KL. Quite touristic, but worth a visit.

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Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China (3)

Designed by  Norman, built in 1909, replacing an older structure at the same location (see city map). Again in the Neo-Mughal style that was popular in those days. Originally there were two single-floor side wings, the left one was was removed when the road had to be widened. After being used as a bank, it became the Museum for National History and later a restaurant. At the moment it is closed for renovation and will house the Museum of Music.

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Federated Malay States Railways (FMSR) Headquarters (4)

After the Federated Malay States were formed in 1896,  Frank Swettenham,  the newly appointed Resident-General of the FMS, proposed a master plan to extend and connect railway networks within the FMS and Province Wellesley. In 1905 architect Arthur Benison Hubback designed the FMSR headquarters in Neo-Mughal style. A spectacular building, but it served as headquarters for a limited time only, because in 1917 they moved to the Railway Administration building, opposite the main Railway Station (we will visit it later in this blog). At the moment the Textile Museum is housed in this building.

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General Post Office (5)

The (Old) General Post Office is another Hubback creation, dating from 1896. It served as post office until 1984.

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Government Offices (6)

This impressive building dominates the east side of the padang. The first stone was laid in 1894 and it was officially opened in 1897. The building was originally designed by Norman in Neo-Classical style, but C. E. Spooner, since 1891 State Engineer of the Selangor Public Works Department (PWD), was unhappy with the design. It was then reworked by Bidwell and Hubback, young assistants of Norman in Neo-Mughal style.

It has housed the Federal Secretariat of the FMS and many other departments. After 1974 (when Kuala Lumpur became Federal Territory) it has been the seat of various Courts and got its present name: Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

Here a beautiful picture from 1902.

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(Old) Supreme Court (7)

A beautiful building, designed by Hubback in Neo-Mughal style and completed in 1915. More details can be found in an interesting blog by Zain Abdullah,  Heritage Buildings of Malaysia

There are plans to open a tourism gallery in the building. At the moment a lot of construction and renovation is taking place around the building.

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Former Town Hall (8)

The Municipal Offices and Town Hall of Kuala Lumpur were designed by A.B. Hubback in 1901 and built in 1904. It contained an auditorium and nowadays has become the KL City Theatre Hall.

Here is the monumental entrance and an old postcard of the Town Hall

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St. Mary’s Cathedral (9)

Built in 1894 and designed by A.C.A Norman in Neo-Gothic style. An unimpressive building, when compared with the exuberant creations of A.B. Hubback. You would at least expect a tower.

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FMS Survey Office (10)

Designed by A.B. Hubback, constructed in 1910.  (1904? 1914? See final note). A magnificent building with its long (120m!) colonnade. Later it housed the Sessions and Magistrate Court. At the moment it is abandoned. Not easy to take pictures of the building because the elevated LRT is obstructing a good view.

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Masjid Jamek (11)

This mosque is one of the oldest in Kuala Lumpur, designed again by Hubback. The foundation stone of the mosque was laid by the Sultan of Selangor in 1908 and the mosque was officially opened one year later. Compare it with St Mary’s Cathedral!

In the 1895 map there was still a Malay cemetery at the confluence of Klang and Gombak river. It was the main mosque of Kuala Lumpur until the Masjid Negara was built in 1965.

Dwarfed now by the surrounding skyscrapers, it is not easy to imagine its former splendour. You can enter the mosque, but it was Hari Raya during my visit and the mosque was closed. Here a collection of old pictures and postcards

We have completed a (wide) round of the old padang (now Dataran Merdeka) and I hope you will agree with me that there is a lot to see. . But there is more…:-). Let us first continue with A.B. Hubback. There are two more buildings in Kuala Lumpur, designed by him. The Old Railway station and the FMS Railway Head Administration Office. About 1 km south of Dataran Merdeka and opposite each other. In the background the modern Dayabumi Tower (1984)

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FMS Railway Head Administration Office (12)

As mentioned before, the FMSR Headquarters were originally in what is now the Textile Museum. But already in 1913 work started on new headquarters.  Delayed by WWI it was finally completed in 1917. It is a monumental building, in characteristic “Hubback” style.

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The Railway Station (13)

Finally, the Railway Station, in my opinion Hubback’s most impressive design. Completed in 1910, it served as Kuala Lumpur’s main railway station until 2001. Considered by many one of the world’s greatest railway stations.

Without exaggeration we can say that Hubback’s contributions dominate the heritage architecture of Kuala Lumpur. Of course that doesn’t mean that there were no other architects in the same period. We have mentioned already Norman and Bidwell.

Another architect in those days , less well known, was Abdul Kader Moosdeen. Here are two views of one of his works, a row of shop houses at Medan Pasar. Recently beautifully restored. Built c.1906.

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Shophouses Medan Pasar (14)

The Gian Singh Building, built in 1909, was probably also designed by Moosdeen. Two views of this building, hardly recognisable as heritage due to all the billboards.

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Gian Singh Building (15)

To view Moosdeen at his best, we must go back to the North side of Dataran Merdeka and from there cross under the Jalan Kuching to Jalan Tangsi.  Here in 1903 a sprawling mansion was built for the Chinese business tycoon Loke Chow Kit, designed by Moosdeen. Already after a few years Loke sold the property, which then was transformed into a hotel which later became another hotel until 1973, when the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM) took over. Below is the headquarters of PAM, a real gem.

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Loke Hall (16)

Next to it a large renovation/restoration is still going on. This building will become the Kuala Lumpur Tourism bureau. It will be a real beauty, when finished!

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Loke Hall (17)

On the corner of Jalan Tangsi  another interesting heritage building can be found. In a very different architectural style, Art Deco. This “modern” style started in Europe in the 1920s and spread all over the world in the following decade.

Kuala Lumpur has quite a large number of Art Deco buildings and almost all of them were designed by the same architect, Arthur Oakley Coltman, a British architect who worked in Malaysia between 1925 and 1957.

Here are a few examples of Coltman’s Art Deco designs. The building in Jalan Tangsi was built in 1937 as the headquarters of the Anglo-Oriental Mining Corporation, the general managers for a large number of tin mines in Malaya. In 1995 it was  acquired by  a property developer, Ekran Berhad, and renamed Wisma Ekran. More information can be found in Zain Abdullah’s blog

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Anglo-Oriental Building (18)

Anther creation of Coltman is the Oriental Building, completed in 1932. Headquarters of the Oriental Life Assurance Company Ltd and in those days the tallest building in Kuala Lumpur. Later it housed Radio Malaya until 1968. Not easy to take pictures of the imposing building, because the view is blocked by the LRT.

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Oriental  Building (19)

The OCBC building was designed by Coltman and built in 1937 to house the headquarters of the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation Limited in Malaysia. It is a masterpiece of the Art Deco style.

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OCBC Building (20)

The clock tower in Market Square, also designed by Coltman, was built in 1937  to commemorate the coronation of King George VI

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Clock tower  (21)

Coltman has been designing more buildings in Kuala Lumpur. And he was not the only Art Deco architect in those days. The most beautiful Art Deco gem of Kuala Lumpur, Central Market, was designed by another architect, T.Y. Lee

The Central Market of Kuala Lumpur started in 1888 as a wet market . The present building was built in 1937

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Central Market (22)

Near Merdeka Square a brightly coloured building with many Art Deco elements, houses the Children’s Library. I could not find information about architect and when it was built.

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Children’s Library (23)

Two more buildings near the Railway Station to end this long blog about KL Heritage.

The Majestic hotel was completed in 1932 and designed by the architectural firm Keyes and Dowdeswell in a mixture of classical and art deco style. In its heyday it was the largest and grandest hotel in Kuala Lumpur, but by the 1970s it got overshadowed by more modern and luxurious hotels. In 1983 it closed its doors and became home to the National Art Gallery from 1984 until 1998. Now it has been restored to its former grandeur.

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Majestic Hotel (24)

Finally the Sulaiman Building, built in 1933 and originally known as the New Railway Offices, as it belonged to the FMS Railways. It now houses the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA). Neo-Classsical style with Art Deco elements

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Sulaiman Building (25)

Here is a Google Earth map, where the location of the various heritage buildings is indicated. Click to enlarge.

Final remarks.  I have spent more time on this post than on any other in  my blog…:-). A lot of relevant material can be found on the Internet. Of course Wikipedia and the online editions of the STAR and NST newspapers. Also quite a number of blogs, for example:

  1.  Kuala Lumpur Heritage Trail
  2. Standing the test of time
  3. Lost Legacy-Disappearing Malaysian Architecture
  4. Heritage Buildings of Malaysia

However, comparing these various sources was sometimes confusing, especially about dates, sometimes also regarding architectural style. I had to make a choice and may have made mistakes…:-)

One of the choices I had to make was how to call the architectural style of the various Hubback buildings. Indo-Saracenic Revival,  Mughal, Moorish, Mughal-Gothic? Spooner himself used “Mahometan”  :-). I decided for Neo-Mughal.

Of course there are more heritage sites in Kuala Lumpur. That may become another post.

 

The Chaconne

A chaconne is a musical dance form in triple metre, popular during the Baroque and consisting of a theme with variations. Just to name a few composers, Telemann, Pachelbel, Couperin, Vivaldi have written chaconnes (the links refer to YouTube).

But when music lovers talk about  The Chaconne.  they mean the last movement of Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin.

Yehudi Menuhin called it “the greatest structure for solo violin that exists”

And Joshua Bell has said the Chaconne is “not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history”

Over the years I have heard Bach’s chaconne numerous times and still it affects me deeply. There has been a time that I thought it would be perfect music for my funeral, but later I decided that it might take too long.. :-).

Of course you can find numerous versions on YouTube.  Here is beautiful one, performed by talented violinist Hilary Hahn.

She plays the chaconne quite slowly (almost 18 minutes), most performers play it faster, in about 14 minutes. For example Yehudi Menuhin in a recording from 1956.

Not surprisingly, there are also plenty recordings where the chaconne is played on other instruments. An obvious choice is the guitar. In the opinion of some the chaconne sounds even better on a guitar. Personally I don’t agree, but I must admit that for example this performance by John Feely is brilliant and moving.

Here are a few other recordings I found on YouTube. First four recordings on single instruments: flute, clarinet, organ, accordioncello and marimba.

In my opinion woodwinds are not suitable for this work. The marimba recording is actually quite nice. Organ and accordion are too massive for me. The cello recording is not bad, but I find the range of the violin more suitable.

There are also recording for several instruments. Here are a few:  4 cellos, 9 saxophones, 4 violas, 4 double basses and 1 octobass. I will not comment on them…:-)

In 1930 the English conductor Leopold Stokowski wrote a transcription of the chaconne for symphony orchestra. More transcriptions exist, but this is probably the most famous one. Very romantic and dramatic, but emotionally it has no effect on me. Listen to this recording, put the volume on maximum and fasten your seat belts :-). The recording is from 1950 and conducted by Stokowski himself.

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the piano until now. That was on purpose. Of course there are many recordings for piano. Most pianists play the transcription of Ferrucio Busoni. He was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, etc, who has transcribed many of Back’s work in a romantic way. More a recreation than a transcription, that’s why it is often called the Bach-Busoni Chaconne.  Here is a brilliant recording by .Evgeny Kissin. You can follow the score.

An impressive performance of Kissin, but still I think something is missing.

There exists another transcription, created by Brahms. He wrote it for the left hand alone! A brilliant idea, listen to Daniil Trifonov.

De gustibus non est disputandum (tastes differ), but for me this is the recording that comes close to the original in transparency and emotional power.

The last week I have been listening to dozens of recordings of the chaconne, never boring. It remains for me one of the pinnacles of human culture.