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The Resilience of Tradition: Malay Allusions in Contemporary Architecture

SHIREEN JAHN KASSIM, NORWINA MOHD NAWAWI and NOOR HANITA ABDUL MAJID, are academics at the International Islamic University of Malaysia and specialists in diverse fields such as sustainable design, bioclimatic technology, health planning, and Asian and vernacular architecture.

Areca Books (2017, First Edition)
296 pages


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In The Resilience of Tradition: Malay Allusions in Contemporary Architecture, the authors attempt to address rhetorical questions like how and to what extent contemporary Malaysian architecture is influenced by Malay culture, values and forms, and in what way is the Malay Modern situated within the discourse of contemporary tropical architecture? Can the evolution of Malay architecture answer the challenge of developing climatically appropriate eco-architecture?

Such questions are being asked in Malaysian universities, and in international conferences looking at modernism, postmodernism, regionalism, tropical architecture, green building and sustainability.

The Malay vernacular tradition is essentially a timber-based architectural tradition, and the transposition of such forms and principles onto modern construction and methods using modern materials such as steel, masonry and concrete is not straightforward. Past efforts and innovative strategies which have alluded to cultural traditions merely adopted abstract cultural expressions and remodeled them into modern structures. Malay vernacular architecture is also intrinsically environmentally-conscious, embodying sustainable principles, design ideas and tectonic solutions. Globally, there is growing awareness that culturally-responsive strategies in architecture can be aligned with advancing sustainability standards in buildings and contemporary urban development.

The Resilience of Tradition: Malay Allusions in Contemporary Architecture compiles attempts by architects and builders so far to respond to two critical agendas — the sustainability agenda and the cultural agenda. In the era of climate change, the challenge facing building professionals and designers in Malaysia and Southeast Asian cities is how to develop and expand sustainability strategies which are culturally rooted in local genius and regional identity.

Many studies have been published on Malay architecture, mostly preoccupied with recording, remembering and celebrating Malay vernacular structures, cultural heritage, and craftsmanship. The aim of The Resilience of Tradition: Malay Allusions in Contemporary Architecture is to review modern interpretations of Malay forms, values and cultural elements which are a critical response to the acute challenges of the modern world. Modern expressions of Malay forms may range from the most faithful reconstructions and authentic reproductions to exaggerated interpretations and the most avant-gardist abstractions. In doing so, our research hopes to unearth layers of theoretical fundamentals and underpinnings to realise a deeper relevance or significance regarding the evolution of a more ‘transformative’ position in Malay regionalism.

Weight0.8 kg
Dimensions24.2 × 17.3 × 1.6 cm




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