In Kuala Lumpur an abandoned colonial structure becomes a center for the arts

In renovating an old colonial structure, Ling Hao’s Godown Arts Centre engages with the bustling streets of Kuala Lumpur and maintains the ficus grown in abandonment and opens up to street activities with an aerial extension, albeit of concrete and metal.

In Kuala Lumpur, between the confluence of the rivers Klang and Gombak, and Bukit Nanas – called locally “pineapple hill” – stands a new center for the arts. The Godown (this is its name) consists of a former colonial building dedicated to trading, and an extension. Ling Hao Architects designed the second one as a pavilion with an open and airy structure, although the materials used are concrete and 1.2 mm thick steel slabs.

The project stems from the owner’s attachment to the old Godown, that sits in the neighborhood where she grew up. The founder and owner of the studio Ling Hao, says that the client’s memory played a role in the design of the spaces, which thus became inclusive with the street and the life that takes place there: not only to humans but also to animal and vegetation.

The Godown in a sketch by Lim Eu Jin
The Godown in a sketch by Lim Eu Jin

Although Ling Hao Architects has previously designed equally open structures (e.g., Satay by the Bay), the context of The Godown is very dense and very special. Hao describes the area as follows: “Outside the train station, outdoors and in the alleys, street vendors serve breakfast as well as evening meals. There is a library of used books, where the fresh air has long since stopped to flow. This environment is the backdrop to the most satisfying dinner of pork guts soup from a stall on the street. This cycle of preparation, cooking, and disappearance, in the rain or the sun, takes place every evening for the last 30 years.”

Hao, therefore, chooses to leave the ground floor of the pavilion – a prelude to the pre-existing building – totally open, directly connecting the street and its multiplicity of activities. The same search for openness can be retraced in the metal roof of the old building, which covers an ample, unique space and has been replaced in some parts by transparent acrylic inserts.  

On the site, in the years of abandonment, the lush Malaysian nature broke into the structure, from the cracks in the asphalt that host plants or grasses, to the water that passed and dug the surfaces, to the roof housing a variety of creatures. Says Hao that The Godown wants to learn from existing human, plant and animal activities, but it also wants to represent growth, a development in the ways of behaving in the city “a place for other actions of the body and feelings in the city, going beyond work, trade, or consumption. (...) A place to breathe in a densifying Kuala Lumpur”.

The Godown
Lorong Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, Malesia
Ling Hao Architects
Project architects:
Ling Hao, Tay Yew, Lim Eu Jin
Architetto locale:
Malek Hassan Architect
ES Planners & Designers Sdn Bhd
Pro Jurutek Consultancy
Electrical and mechanical engineering:
EDP ( M&E) Consulting Group Sdn Bhd
Stable Unstable
Yap Kok Wai Contractors
Steel works:
W Sun Engineering
Godown KL Sdn Bhd
Site area:
870 sqm
Built area:
948 sqm

Latest on Architecture

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram