Some are subtle, and you don’t notice it until you pay close attention. Others are more overt, and you catch it at first sight. Malay and Islamic aesthetics are not quite few and far between in the capital’s building collection, present on several iconic landmarks, and even within the outline of the city’s skyscrapers.
While mosques and certain heritage structures are more obvious proprietors of such elements, these edifices’ designs have nonetheless drawn from the same well of inspiration, and are all the better for it visually. We shine the spotlight on these symbols of KL!
One the most recognisable slices of the KL skyline, this 421m communications tower offers breath-taking 360-degree vistas of the
city, among other tourist-friendly pursuits.
Constructed in the early 1990s, its design includes Muslim motifs, specifically in the interior with Arabic scripts, Islamic floral patterns, glass domes featuring Muqarnas ornamentation by Iranian craftsmen, and more. Interestingly, the tower acts as a site from which the crescent moon is observed to mark Ramadhan and Hari Raya.
WHERE Jalan Punchak, Off Jalan P Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur
Petronas Twin Towers
At 452m tall, this iconic pair is still the world’s tallest twin towers, despite losing its six-year streak as the tallest building in the
world in 2004.
Though the imposing structure is best recognised by its side profile, which resemble minarets themselves, a bird’s eye view of it yields something remarkable. The footprint of each tower, essentially the floor plan, showcases a quintessential Arabic element, the eight-pointed star. The prolific use of geometric patterns on the façade is another visible Islamic design trend.
Petronas Twin Towers
WHERE Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Kuala Lumpur
The official residence of the Malaysian King was completed in 2011, replacing the old, smaller Istana at Jalan Syed Putra which has since been turned into a museum.
It features a total of 22 domes that light magnificently up at night, and is reminiscent of an imposing mosque overall. Although informal visitors are usually not allowed in, the inside of the complex and the palace itself sport references to Islam and the country’s royal history through holy scriptures, patterns, drawings, carvings and other means.
WHERE Jalan Tuanku Abdul Halim, Kuala Lumpur
As one of the country’s foremost venues of culture mainly in the form of theatre, Istana Budaya has quite the presence in the city.
Matching the arts it regularly houses is its striking exterior, with design cues taken from the sirih junjung, an arrangement used in Malay wedding ceremonies. Its roof, when seen from above, looks like the traditional kite from Kelantan, wau bulan. Elsewhere in the building, appearance parallels to Malay kampung houses can be drawn.
WHERE Jalan Tun Razak, Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur
When it was finished in 1984, it instantly became among the most prominent structures in KL. Today, the Dayabumi Complex remains a distinguished city landmark.
Much like the Petronas Twin Towers, it has the signature eight-pointed star layout, albeit in a manner that’s more apparent. Further Islamic aspects can be seen throughout the building, including the noticeably high arches and soaring intricate latticework, details more commonly found on mosques.
WHERE Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Kuala Lumpur
Formerly a dominating feature of the cityscape that over the years has only been slightly overshadowed by its newer, taller concrete neighbours, the completed-in-1987 Maybank Tower is another enduring sight in KL.
Deliberately penned to convey different looks depending on the perspective, its floorplan appears to be two interlocking squares that lend it its unique silhouette. The entire length of the building is meant to bring to mind the sheath of the keris, a historic Malay dagger, and the sloping multi-layered roof mimic bygone Malay houses.
WHERE Jalan Tun Perak, Kuala Lumpur