9 Malaysian Architects You Should Know

Eleena Jamil, who designed the Bamboo Playhouse in the Botanical Gardens, Kuala Lumpur, is rated one of the best Malaysian architects this century
Eleena Jamil, who designed the Bamboo Playhouse in the Botanical Gardens, Kuala Lumpur, is rated one of the best Malaysian architects this century | © Wai Yee Thang / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sam Bedford
26 April 2018

Malaysia combines traditional kampung-style houses and stilted villages with Islamic, colonial and Asian architecture. Because of the climate and geography, many of the best Malaysian architects cater to sustainability and climate control as well as encourage conservation and environmental protection. Here are our top nine Malaysian architects.

Ken Yeang

Ken Yeang is among the household names of Malaysian architects. Designing over 200 buildings and masterminding the concept of bioclimatic skyscrapers, where buildings use less energy and respond to the climate, Ken has an enviable portfolio. After training as an architect and having a passion for ecology, his best work incorporates eco-friendly designs to reduce energy consumption. An example is creating extra shade or taking advantage of wind flow to cool an interior. Because of this, The Guardian named Ken Yeang as one of the 50 people who could save the planet. His most notable projects include National Library of Singapore, Penang’s MBf Tower and Subang Jaya’s Mesiniaga Tower.

Kington Loo (1930–2003)

Post-World War Two Malaysia and Southeast Asia underwent a period of architectural modernism. Kington Loo, an early pioneer, is one of the best Malaysian architects of all time. Kington designed many of Malaysia’s early high-rise buildings, including the Police Cooperative Building, the country’s first high-rise office block. Other famous structures include Subang International Airport, as well as a variety of private residences. Apart from being among the first generation of architects in an independent Malaysia, Kington Loo was also a strong advocate of art and played an active role in national conservation efforts.

Eleena Jamil

Rated as one of the best Malaysian architects in the 21st century, Eleena has worked on several projects, including Kuala Lumpur’s Desa Mahkota secondary school. After starting her own company, Eleena Jamil Architecture (EJA) in 2005, she has since gone on to design bridges, houses and the Bamboo Playhouse in the Botanical Gardens. Trained in the UK and combining traditional and cultural elements into her designs, Eleena is a top architect to watch out for in 2018.

Hijjas Kasturi

Despite being born in Singapore, Hijjas Kasturi rates as one of the best Malaysian architects. With a career spanning over half a century and often referred to as the Father of Malaysian Architecture in independent Malaysia, Hijjas has a track record to be proud of. His most famous projects include Menara Maybank and Telekom Tower, both in Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya International Convention Centre.

Dr Tan Loke Mun

Born in Petaling Jaya and gaining a PhD in Australia, Dr Tan Loke Mun returned to Malaysia and founded the successful ArchiCentre Sdn. Bhd., based in Kuala Lumpur. After receiving several awards and working with the authorities to promote green housing and to help protect the environment, most of his projects incorporate sustainable designs. Tan Loke Mun participated in several urban projects in Australia, Argentina and Uruguay as well as many others in Malaysia. His best work is said to be the S11 House. The S11 House in Petaling Jaya, completed in 2012, was Malaysia’s first Green Building Index Platinum-rated house. The savvy design efficiently harvests rainwater, maximises natural cooling and increases natural light.

Lee Yoon Thim (1905–1977)

Immediately after Malaysia’s independence in 1963, Chinese Malaysian Lee Yoon Thim entered a prosperous phase of his career. As a good friend to many of the nation’s early leaders, including Tunku Abdul Rahman, Lee Yoon was celebrated for his designs in Islamic architecture as well as government buildings. In Kuala Lumpur today, the Chin Woo Stadium, Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and the UMNO building still stand.

Tan Pei Ing

Tan Pei Ing, known as the Iron Lady of Architecture in Malaysia, has battled against a tide of gender inequality to become one of the country’s leading architects. After gaining inspiration as a young child by watching Kuala Lumpur’s ever-changing skyline, she fought off early pressure and began studying architecture. Flash forward to the present, and Tan Pei Ing plays an influential role in a mostly male-dominant industry. She is also the first female head of Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (PAM), the professional institute representing Malaysian architects, in 90 years. Tan Pei Ing helped design Selangor’s IOI Puchong Mall in her early career too.

Dr Lim Teng Ngiom

Dr Lim Teng Ngiom from Kuala Lumpur combines an academic background with world-class architectural designs. With a PhD and highly skilled in his trade, Lim has won several awards and has a prominent position in scholarly publications. Most of his plans, working out of Ngiom Partnership, combine abstract and modernist designs with an emphasis on making the most of the available space as well as the context and function.

Kenneth Yeh

Ipoh-born Kenneth Yeh and his Argentinian wife Carolina Marra work together at Marra + Yeh, the couple’s firm. With a variety of environmentally-friendly buildings, inspired by participating in community and urban projects, the pair promises tailor-made and original designs. Kenneth and Carolina were the recipients of an award from Architecture Review for their project ‘Shelter @ Rainforest’. The project, a timber shelter using solar power in the forests of Sabah, came to light after they both travelled to local villages for inspiration.

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