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Architecture of Malaysia

Early Malay architecture was primarily made of wood or bamboo, most particularly houses, so little of this early architecture has lasted. These buildings though were generally built on stilts to prevent flooding and had large windows or open spaces so a breeze could pass through. Although most housing today has been replaced by modern structures, many traditional houses in this style still exist and are built, primarily in rural areas with little money.

Over time Malaysia became a trading center as people from far distances arrived, including the Indians and Chinese. These two groups, along with many others strongly influenced the architecture in the region. Soon the architecture was taking on the feel of the country that each region was settled by as neighborhoods, especially in Malacca, arose in the Chinese style and Indian style; certain regions, such as the northern part of the Malay Peninsula took on outside influences as well, such as the Thailand style.

It was the Chinese who made arguably the greatest impact of these foreign groups at this time. They brought both traditional architecture to the region as well as a new style called Baba Nyonya, which consisted of colorful tile work.

In the 1500s Islam was introduced to the region and this created the building of mosques and other religious buildings. During this same time though trade continued to dominate the region from the city of Malacca so the Indian, Chinese, Arab, and other outside influences continued to dominate the region. The greatest impact the arrival of Islam had on the architecture came in what types of buildings were being constructed, such as mosques, not in style.

At about this same time numerous Europeans arrived to the region, bringing with them new architectural techniques, including nails, glass, and concrete. These Europeans used these materials to build numerous structures, including the A Famosa Fort in Malacca and the Dutch Stadthuys.

In the 1900s the Malaysians began to build more and more modern buildings with these new materials and today has become one of the world's leaders in modern architecture as the capital city of Kuala Lumpur is home to the Petronas Twin Towers, one of the world's most impressive modern buildings.

This page was last updated: July, 2012