The evolution of high-rise apartments

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Malaysia's high-rise apartment story began in the post-independence era.

Malaysia's high-rise apartment story began in the post-independence era.

 

From the functional flats of the 1950s to the fancy condominiums of today, Malaysia has seen its fair share of roofs gracing its skyline. The architectural styles of Malaysia’s bygone era still exist today, many in shambles but still holding on nonetheless. As our generations shift and the old slowly fade from our memories, it is up to us to keep their memories alive. This also applies to properties, prompting an exploration into some of Malaysia’s very first flats to assess the legacy that has been constructed to this day.

Malaysia’s firsts

With a rapidly expanding urban population, Malaysia's high-rise apartment story began in the post-independence era and was motivated by the need for affordable housing solutions. The first high-rises, also known as flats, appeared in the 1950s, mostly as government-initiated projects. These ancient buildings, which were usually four or six stories high, were designed with functionality above all else. Built with simple materials like concrete, they had few amenities and catered primarily to the needs of the expanding middle class by offering necessary living space.

Back in time

Built before 1957, the Sulaiman Courts was Malaysia’s first-ever high-rise apartment. Tunku Abdul Rahman, the country's first prime minister, wanted the Courts to offer reasonably priced housing, so he ordered construction of the building. The Courts bear the name of Suleiman Abdul Rahman, the then-serving Minister of Justice and the Interior, who had overseen the Housing Trust's development for eight years from the trust's founding. Constructed in 1957, the Sulaiman Courts on Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman) marked the beginning of the Federation of Malaya's official independence from the United Kingdom.

In 1964, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government was established. The ministry launched the Housing Crash Programme to construct affordable, small-sized housing in response to the growing urbanisation and rural-urban migration. This program aligned with certain goals of the 1st Malaysia Plan, which aimed to offer better housing, community amenities, welfare and additional services to the expanding Malaysian populace.

Notable housing projects under the initiative included the Razak Mansion and Pekeliling Flats in Kuala Lumpur and the Rifle Range in Penang, all launched between 1967 and 1969. Within two years, the programme built 14,175 housing units.

Following the racial riots of 1969, the Malaysian government implemented the New Economic Policy (NEP), which sparked a wave of mass urban migration and an acute housing shortage, as well as squatter settlements in the urban area. The national housing policy underwent a shift towards the Housing for the Poor phase between 1970 and 1985 due to the scarcity of housing. The Perumahan Awam Kos Rendah (PAKR), which was first implemented in 1976, served as the flagship low-cost public housing program during this period.

It was during this period that the Malaysian government set the criteria for private developers to build low-cost housing, forcing a 30% allocation of their developments towards low-cost housing with a ceiling price of RM25,000 per unit.

The implementation of the Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) in 1998 was notable due to its ownership criterion. The flats consist of either 5 to 18-storey flats in the urban area or terrace houses in the suburban areas, with a minimum built-up area of 700 square feet consisting of three bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a toilet and a bath.

Fast forward

In Malaysia, there has been a significant increase in both urbanisation and economic growth since the year 2000. 2012 saw the introduction of more affordable housing programs following collaborations between the government and private sector. These include Rumah Mampu Milik Melaka, Rumah Mampu Milik Negeri Sembilan and Rumah Selangorku.

High-rise apartment construction was also on the rise, emphasising innovation and diversification. Developers started providing apartments in a variety of sizes and price ranges to appeal to a wider range of demographics. High-end, skyscraper condominiums with concierge services, infinity pools and sky lounges started to appear. 

The development of high-rise apartments was significantly influenced by technological breakthroughs as well. Energy-efficient materials and green roofs are two examples of sustainable design techniques that are growing in popularity. Improvements in building methods also made it possible to create more inventive and taller structures. Famous buildings from this era of inventive architecture include the Petronas Twin Towers, Merdeka 118 and the Exchange 106.

Sustainability and inclusiveness will probably have a major influence on the design of high-rise apartments as Malaysia develops. The use of renewable energy sources, green building techniques and the allocation of more ecologically friendly living areas are becoming more and more important to developers. 

However, it is nice to look at how Malaysian property blossomed in its own sentimental way. From humble beginnings as functional flats to the present-day sophisticated condominiums, these structures have played a significant role in shaping the country's urban landscape.

This article first appeared on StarBiz7.

 


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