The land is a conspicuous presentation of folks and entities that had constructed their abodes following their ideologies, proficiencies, and wealth. For a country to be known by its citizens is a privilege that shows the influence in its development of various aspects. Malaysia is one of the southern Asian countries that imitate the architectural styles as a people’s aspirations and ways of livelihood. The country embarks on its journey in aesthetical and infrastructure sets according to historical, cultural, political, and economic availabilities. The most prominent feature of Malaysian architecture is it considers climatic conditions and passive techniques as a base of residential development in various regions.

An architectural review of a location: Malaysia - Sheet1
The aerial view of Malaysian city_Yongyuan Dai

The scenic view of Kuala Lumpur displays the two different phases of development in dwellings and skyscrapers, enhancing the way of living. 

Evolution – Impact of social, cultural, and historical aspects

As every captured moment depicts a back story, similarly, buildings are sculptures of historical impacts every country has gone through. The palaces, museums, and other monumental buildings are visionary examples of Portugal, Chinese and European rules over the country. In ancient times and the early 7th century, the influence of Chinese passive techniques evolved in various regions of Malaysia. Due to the availability of wood in the local areas, most of the construction was done with wood as a primary material without any adhesive and nails through joints and grooves techniques.

An architectural review of a location: Malaysia - Sheet2
Sri Menanti Palace in the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan_

Sri Menanti palace is one of the influential buildings of 1920, constructed in natural wood using mortise and tenon joints. Despite its rigidity, the structure can adapt to the environment, making architects believe that traditional techniques can be adaptable to modern buildings.

The tangible implication of Timber in Malaysian architecture – 

Through the ages, timber has been a significant construction material in both traditional and contemporary architecture. It has been observed in early shelters and dwellings in villages of Malaysia that the purpose of all the techniques and craftsmanship was to create rigid and stable structures. Early ingenious buildings comprise locally sourced materials such as battens and rattan to bind the roofs, and the dwellings impose short spans and temporary forms.

An architectural review of a location: Malaysia - Sheet3
A typical Orang Asli Hut in Perak_By Ksmuthukrishnan_Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Orang Asli is one of the habitat communities in Pahang, Malaysia, they evaluate the structure based on its function, and aesthetical appearance was not bothered. In early times they practiced with iron sheet roofs for the efficiency of the shelters. 

Various regions of Malaysia are known for architecture based on People’s aspirations, as we can say that- People’s beliefs, traditions, and skills were enhancing Malaysian architecture till the 19th century. While observing various ancient buildings, it is clear that each architectural style adapts the climate-responsive and environment-friendly strategies. 

The Traditional emphasis on Malaysia – 

In Malaysian architecture, the general aspects such as economical, environmental, and efficiency are considerable for every building. The Malay houses and mosques are famous buildings of the traditional architecture of Malaysia. The material selection occurs with so much intricacy to develop the structure by following actual construction processes and detailing with the help of local architects, artisans, and laborers. While considering the hot and humid climatic conditions of Malaysia, the most prominent hardwood type used for structures was – Merbau and Chengal, which are strong, hard, heavy, and termite resistant.

Malay Houses – 

Malay houses or mosques are designed based on orientation towards the Qibla in Mecca. The distinctive character of the house focuses on health, aesthetics, and comfort. The space was irregular in form but raised on stilts to provide humans with thermal comfort and prevent damage from floods, and some habitats use it to cater to their animals and for temporary storage. 

An architectural review of a location: Malaysia - Sheet4
Istana Kenangan, Perak_Kegunaan wajar,_

The construction of this royal house is an impression of traditional Malay architecture, which used wood as a base material for walls, roofs, foundations, and joints without nails. Malay carvings on the facade, elongated windows with projection to reduce the effect of climate, and vibrant colors to enhance the intricate values of the royal palace were some of the main features. The space was designed in 1925 for royals to reside in that turned into Museum in 1986.

Chinese Styled the country in their modified ways – 

From the 16th-19th century, Chinese emperors built numerous temples, mosques, palaces, and houses under a timber framing structure system by extending the roofing in different patterns and their needs above the ground floor. The outstanding feature of monumental architecture is the curved roof with overhanging eaves, with distinct roof forms used according to the importance of the building. The higher-level buildings as temples have hipped roofs, and the residences and other low-level buildings with hipped and gable roofs. 

An architectural review of a location: Malaysia - Sheet5
The leaning/ Clock tower, Teluk Intan, Perak, Malaysia_By D.W. Fisher-Freberg_Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

 Clock Tower in Perak is a building influenced by Chinese architecture in Malaysia. It reflects the concept of Pagods through its circular structure of wood and brickwork. The functional purpose of the tower changed during every possession- once s a water tank, as a timekeeper, or even as a pinnacle of the town.

Colonial buildings reflecting Malaysia’s present – 

The possession of British, Portugal, and Dutch people influenced the colonial styles and forms in Malay architecture from 1511 to 1957. The west coast of Malaysia is under the British era, and the Malacca region envisions Portugal and dutch styled buildings. Most of the development in this phase includes railway stations, clubhouses, Government offices, Churches, Mansions, and Bungalows. In response to the hot and humid climate, architects designed colonial buildings according to the current needs. The public and private edifices of the region are composed of palladian and Indo-saracenic architectural designs.

An architectural review of a location: Malaysia - Sheet6
Government office Building in 1902, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia_By Internet Archive Book Images – book page:, No restrictions,

Sultan Abdul Smad Building is a 19th-century office building established under British influence to provide facilities for government officials. The Indo-Saracenic style of India was adopted in the design by Architect A.C. Norman to merge within the tropical environment. The building comprises Islamic and European elements with an open courtyard and balconies. The structure goes under various modifications to fulfill the needs and trends of society.

The Portuguese people established the tradition of churches in Malay regions by designing roman catholic churches in 1511. Further, the development of churches took place till the nineteenth century in the Anglo-Indian style. 

An architectural review of a location: Malaysia - Sheet7
The first Anglican Church, St. George Church, Penang, Malaysia_By Paweł ‘pbm’ Szubert (talk)_Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

In the nineteenth century, Kuala Lumpur was under colonial development of Church buildings to fulfill the religious needs of the immigrants. The holy church of Rosary in 1903 was to cater to Chinese tenants working in mines. The churches adapted Gothic architectural elements replacing timber ceilings with plaster vaulting. 

An architectural review of a location: Malaysia - Sheet8
The holy church of Rosry, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia_V Ladislav Travel photo

Administrative building and Modern architecture –

The British possession in the late 19th century creates a political impact in Malaysia to develop social and administrative buildings. The development phase mainly focused on learning, and recreational awareness emerged through schools, clubhouses, offices, and administrative spaces. During the pre-independence era, the British invasion developed the buildings under the Neo-Baroque style that showcase the arched openings, Corinthian and ionic columns, vaults, ornamentations, and exaggerated keystones.

An architectural review of a location: Malaysia - Sheet9
The City Hall, Penang, George town, Malaysia_ Supanut Arunoprayote.

21st-century Malaysia adopted new building techniques and materials and marked the presence of the high-rise structure in developing cities such as Kuala Lumpur. The traces of traditional concepts of Malay architecture make their presence in the planning of modern buildings by using fewer structural walls in the interior to allow natural light and ventilation.

The modern architecture of KLIA was inspired by traditional Malay architecture_By The Bangsawan_Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

External References – 

Wong, W.-S. (1995). Timber Structures in Malaysian Architecture and Buildings. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2022].

Wikipedia. (2022). Architecture of Malaysia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Mar. 2023].


‌Volunteers, A.M., and JMM (2022). Malay Architecture & Traditional Houses. [online] Museum Volunteers, JMM. Available at:


Nancy is professionally an architect and emotionally an artist who wants to depict human emotions and buildings through her words. Her sole purpose is to become a connection between people and buildings and to reflect their feelings in buildings through her ideas.